API Voices: Cultural Vibrancy, Equity and Allyship in Clean Energy

API Voices: Cultural Vibrancy, Equity and Allyship in Clean Energy

The Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community in the US and Canada comprises a vast array of cultures, ethnities and identities. Four Enel North America employees reflect on their personal heritage, the need for an inclusive and equitable energy transition, and why it’s critical that API employees feel safe and supported at work.

Valuing, Supporting and Celebrating Cultural Power

Foreword by Lisa Tran, Senior Specialist of Commercial Operations, Distributed Energy Resources at Enel X North America and Co-lead of Enel North America’s Culture Power Employee Resource Group (ERG).

The diverse Asian and Pacific Islander community has shaped and contributed so much to the history and culture of the US and Canada, which we celebrate through AAPI Heritage Month in the US and API Heritage Month in Canada (both happening in May). As deep and vibrant as our cultures are, our history and realities have been and can still be painful, as seen in the rise of hate against members of the API community from the pandemic. The mission of the Cultural Power ERG is to drive Enel to have a diverse, inclusive, and antiracist environment. Through the Cultural Power ERG, I am proud that Enel is taking the initial steps to more intentionally supporting our API colleagues by shining a light on our community and continuing to learn how to be in allyship and solidarity.

Q&A: Asian and Pacific Islander Experiences in Clean Energy

At Enel North America, we’re continuously working to create an inclusive workplace, foster cultural conversations and build safe and supportive communities through our ERGs. In recognition of AAPIHeritage Month, three US members of the Cultural Power ERG graciously shared their perspectives on their personal heritage; diversity, equity and inclusion in clean energy; the work they’re most proud of; and how Enel and other clean energy companies can better support Asian and Pacific Islander employees and communities.

  • Janea Magallanes – Senior Solutions Engineer, Global Customers at Enel X North America
  • Cathy Wang – Product Marketing Manager at Enel X North America
  • Alistair Ono – Sales Director, West at Enel X North America

How does your heritage influence your daily life?

Janea: I find it difficult to articulate how my heritage influences my daily life because it is integrated into so many aspects of my life and the person that I am. I can see the influences of both my Filipino American and my husband’s Mexican American heritages in the food we eat, the décor in our home, and the values we teach to our two young sons. We identify and celebrate both the similarities and differences in our heritages, and embrace the opportunity we have as parents to raise our biracial children to appreciate and respect all cultures.

Cathy: I grew up as a third culture kid, having spent my formative years in a culture that’s different from my parents. While we spoke Chinese and followed Chinese customs at home, the world beyond our doorstep was undeniably American– from the language to the foods and values. (I also lived in Canada for a few years, but that’s a different story). Growing up was a constant exercise of juggling and reconciliating these cultural differences – a survival skill that’s now enabled me to relate something of myself to nearly everyone I meet.

Alistair: My heritage influences every aspect of my daily life, from the food I eat, to the religion I practice, to the values that I try to pass on as a parent. As a person of multiple ethnicities, living in the Bay Area, married to someone from a different cultural background, to say that MY heritage, or even "heritage" in general is the primary influence in my daily life would be an overstatement. But nonetheless, my cultural identity informs everything that I do.

What does diversity, equity, and inclusion in the clean energy transition look like to you?

Janea: Equity in the clean energy transition means that all people, including under-served and under-represented communities, would have access to affordable clean energy, not just the wealthy and big corporations. In the US, a disproportionate number of people from the BIPOC community face a higher energy burden than the national average, and although clean energy is increasingly available, it is not always accessible. Additionally, there is much work to be done to increase diversity within the clean energy industry by employing a more diverse workforce at all levels, all the way up through business ownership and leadership.   

Cathy: The clean energy transition is not just replacing fossil fuels for clean energy, but a fundamental dismantling of systemic inequities and the way we understand energy (access and security). To succeed in those objectives, we need all voices and perspectives at the table, particularly those who have been historically oppressed and silenced. That means women, non-binary people, people of color, people from disadvantaged communities, young people, and more! We need more inclusive hiring practices, but also more thoughtful practices around promotion and merit recognition – acknowledging biases around our tendency to prefer people who look and think like us.

Alistair: Diversity, equity, and inclusion in the clean energy transition goes far beyond the scope of cultural diversity to me. The most impactful impediment to inclusivity in the clean energy transition, from my perspective, continues to be socio-economical. As the socio-economical divisions in society often cut across cultural lines, this presents itself in the situation where particular ethnic groups have less opportunity to participate in the same way. Providing energy and services at the grid level (ex. higher % of renewable energy on the grid) can benefit everyone. On the other hand, purchasing on site renewables, EVs, smart thermostats, etc., may require subsidization to allow a more diverse and inclusive opportunity for all.

What work in the energy industry are you proud of?

Janea: I was fortunate enough to have been a part of the team that developed the two solar plus storage microgrid projects in Puerto Rico for Eaton, in response to the long outages during Hurricane Maria. The microgrids will reduce demand on the local utility system, allow Eaton to generate, store, and consume renewable energy, and help Puerto Rico reach its decarbonization goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050.

Cathy: As a product marketer, I’m most proud of the informational and thought leadership work we’re doing on distributed energy resources (DERs). Combatting fossil fuel interests is hard – and DERs are a way to democratize the sector. Putting power back in the hands of the energy users, letting them choose how they use and pay for energy.

Alistair: I have been proud of every aspect of the work that I do in the energy industry. When I first started, it was hard to explain sometimes what or why Demand Response was necessary. Ten years later, as the need and impact of the work we do has become more critical and more widely understood (especially in California, where I live), I do enjoy seeing a head nod when I explain (as opposed to a blank stare). In the work we have been doing over the past 5 years with DERs, I am proud to be able to point out projects or customers to my children as we travel across California....and even more proud to see the questions that this raises from them.

How can Enel best support our Asian and Pacific Islander community?

Janea: As a working member of the Cultural Power ERG, I see a huge opportunity for Enel to support the AAPI community by supporting the initiatives already in motion by the group. Our efforts to increase diverse hiring and supplier diversity will be so much more impactful and efficient if we are aligned with the goals of the business, then are able to develop a plan and implement processes to execute toward our goals. 

Cathy: The AAPI community has long been thought of as the model minority – with our whiz kids, tiger moms, and nerdy dads in STEM. But as with all stereotypes, the model minority myth is harmful­ ­– erasing our individuality and the reality that the AAPI community consists of more than 50 ethnic groups with different cultures and histories in the US. This erasure of self gives rise to anti-Asian hate, leading to senseless attacks on and violence in our communities (almost 11k hate incidents were reported between March 2020 and December 2021 to Stop AAPI Hate). Enel has a key role to play in condemning anti-Asian hate, violence, and discrimination – and in ensuring that its AAPI employees are and feel safe at work. 

Alistair: Let's face it...the energy industry is global, but many companies in the clean energy industry in the US still see the same lack of ethnic diversity that are present across corporate America. At Enel, over my 10+ year tenure, I am happy to say that I have consistently worked with colleagues from the AAPI community, across all levels within the company. Presently I have direct reports and business unit colleagues of AAPI descent that I work with every day. I also report to a VP who is a Pacific Islander and that fact is not lost on my family, in-laws, or children who are also of Filipino descent. Enel needs to continue to attract, hire, and support high quality individuals of all backgrounds, and be conscious of creating opportunities for upward mobility and visibility.