It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed our world, impacting health and safety, financial well-being and even how we live and work. As an active member of the communities where PGE works, lives and serves, we responded rapidly with options to help customers and communities navigate and ease the brunt of the pandemic – all while continuing to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy.
These efforts build on PGE’s longstanding commitment to the communities where it works, lives and serves. Our efforts to help communities adapt to the impacts of COVID build on the $4.7 million given by PGE employees, retirees and the PGE Foundation in 2019 to support local schools and non-profits. Our employees and retirees went even further, with 1,102 of them also contributing their time to strengthen 736 different nonprofits around Oregon. To make sure that future generations are aware of opportunities in the electric field, PGE facilitated 60 scholarships and 55 summer internships for Oregon students. PGE employees and retirees also educated nearly 72,000 students about electric safety and energy in classrooms and at safety fairs in 2019.
We immediately responded to the COVID-19 crisis to assist customers facing hardship, suspending service disconnections and late fees and committed $250,000 in energy assistance to impacted customers. PGE worked locally with the Oregon Citizens Utility Board and others to secure $30 million in emergency energy assistance funds and collaborated with peer utilities across the country on a $1.4 billion request for federal energy assistance.
PGE and the PGE Foundation also committed more than $1 million to community partners serving Oregonians in need, including grants to regional education programs; partners addressing food insecurity in Oregon; local nonprofits in our service area providing resources such as energy assistance and emergency food aid; the Oregon Community Foundation’s Community Recovery Fund; and, to help stabilize small businesses through the Oregon Community Foundation’s Small Business Stabilization Funds.
Additionally, through a special COVID-19 Response Giving page, PGE employees and retirees raised $44,800, including the company match. These funds went to over 13 organizations in support of our region’s recovery efforts in the areas of health and disaster, food insecurity, economy and culture, family services and energy assistance.
Part of our commitment to the local community is raising awareness around climate change and empowering people to take action. Project Zero is a program we’ve launched, designed for young adults and students, engaging them to learn about climate change science, clean energy and other solutions to create cleaner, greener and more equitable communities. One aspect of PGE Project Zero is a partnership we launched with the Portland Public Schools for a first-of-its-kind open source climate change curriculum that will enable K-12 school districts in Oregon and across the nation to collaborate and engage in a dialogue with students.
PGE is committed to equity, diversity and inclusivity in all aspects of our operations, including customers, employees, the communities we service and the people with whom we do business. It’s vital to make sure that our workforce mirrors the diversity of the communities we serve. We are committed to improving the diversity of our organization at all levels and in all roles.
To ensure a robust, diverse talent pool, PGE is exploring opportunities for a career pathways program in partnership with local job training organizations to increase the diversity of applicants for our apprenticeship program. Through relationships with educational, workforce and industry stakeholders, we’re committed to cultivating an increasingly diverse talent pipeline. We are making forward strides and have partnered with the Emerging Leaders Internship Program to match underrepresented college students with internships at PGE. Additionally, we are implementing creative strategies such as career pathing, rotation programs, strategic staffing models, upskilling and research and development for a diverse workforce able to meet all business needs.
At the executive level, our team utilizes information about the diversity of their respective organizations, which allow comparison with employment data collected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for Oregon and national utility data. And, as we continue increasing the diversity of our executive leadership and Board of Directors, we are committed to search strategies that cast an even wider net in support of our commitment.
We conduct an annual employee engagement survey to give every employee the opportunity to share their perspectives. In 2019, we acted on learnings from our 2018 employee engagement to strengthen our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts specifically. We took the following actions:
Examining workforce equity and sharing our findings. At PGE, employees in the same role, with comparable work experience at the same work location, earn a near-perfect dollar for dollar pay. In 2018, people of color and/or women accounted for 45.8% of promotions and 51.2% of new hires.
Launching unconscious bias training for all managers, training 95% to help recognize and acknowledge underlying biases that may impact their decision-making at the individual level, and at the organizational level.
Ensuring that interview panels reflect racial and gender diversity.
Also in 2019, we published PGE’s Equity Statement, pledging to take a number of steps to ensure focused action and accountability. For example, we are implementing a supplier diversity program that ensures all qualified minority-, women- and disabled veteran-owned and emerging small business suppliers have an opportunity to participate in competitive bids.
We are also working to build a more inclusive PGE. For the seventh year in a row, we achieved a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index. For a second year running, Bloomberg’s Gender-Equality Index included PGE for our companywide commitment to transparency and advancing women’s equity in policies, workforce demographics and community engagement and support. PGE’s inclusion was based on areas including women in leadership and the talent pipeline, equal pay and gender parity, inclusive culture and policies against sexual harassment. While we are making strides, there is much more work to do.
At PGE, we believe people are our greatest asset. Engaged employees who feel passionate about their work and pride for their company are not only happier, but more productive and better able to serve customers.
Already in 2020, we have undertaken a series of listening sessions hosted by senior leadership including Maria Pope, president and CEO of PGE. Engaging employees will continue to inform and inspire our ongoing work toward equity, diversity and inclusivity.