Dissecting diversity in CleanTech

Written By:

Gareth Brown

Clir Renewables was founded with our values and mission top of mind: We wanted to reduce humankind’s impact on the world. And we wanted to do that by creating a diverse, innovative team of renewable energy and technology experts. Unfortunately, when it was founded, the pool for diverse candidates was slim. 

Technology, renewable energy and — by extension — Cleantech are historically male-dominated professions. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have always struggled to diversify the talent pool, with colleges and universities strategically searching out diverse candidates for programs and creating a better gender balance. Specifically, when Clir was founded in 2017, the technology industry was struggling with a ‘bro culture’ that hindered the ability for women to excel within these companies, even with experience and ability. We knew that if we wanted to create diverse and creative teams, we needed to set goals and develop hiring initiatives that focused on these issues. And we needed to do it from the start — diversity attracts diversity, afterall. 

A Clir mission

Coming from a renewable energy consultancy background, we were all aware that the space was dominated by white male. But we also knew that we needed the best and brightest talent if we wanted to have the software. Since none of us came specifically from the technology side, that became a priority. We would proactively search out candidates who may not typically apply to a Cleantech company, enticing them (as we still do) with a purpose to help make energy more sustainable. 

Investors were more concerned with us building the company to survive, not to be diverse. Luckily, diversity breeds success. A 2018 survey showed that “increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance.” Diverse companies were also said to have up to 19 per cent higher revenue. It even impacts innovation — a core value at Clir — with diverse companies 70 per cent more likely to capture new markets. These figures show clear alignment between company goals and investor goals, and further helped Clir on our mission to become a more diverse company. 

Clir progress

Although we’ve struggled, over the years, with the legacy issues of not having diversity in renewable energy and technology before, we’re made huge strides. With immense talent coming out of STEM programs in Vancouver and across the globe, we have talented junior and intermediate staff joining our team both in co-op positions and permanent roles. 

As the tech scene in Vancouver grows, and the city starts to attract major technology companies, Clir has benefitted from this new pool of senior talent. Many individuals are looking for their why, and Clir provides that opportunity. With a focus on sustainability, diversity and living our values, Clir gives employees a mission and a purpose — reducing their impact on the environment.

In the past five years we’ve grown to over 125 employees and have managed to continue creating a balance in talent from gender and visible minorities. After committing to Equal by 30, we made commitments to report on our diversity statistics and improve recruitment and retention for minorities. As of February 2022, 37.9 per cent of all employees identify as a gender minority and 40 per cent identity as a visible minority. We still have work to do, but we’re working towards it every day.

The importance of diversity

When we were starting out, it was hard to justify why diversity was a focus and a pillar at the company. People questioned whether that would drive results or if it would help us grow. But over the years, our focus has never wavered and we’re more committed today than ever. The why is simple — diversity makes for better companies. Although I enjoy coming to work in a diverse environment, it’s more important than that. Diversity allows for new ideas, ideas that homogeneous environments may not think of. Diversity allows for a greater pool of candidates and allows us to attract the top talent because everyone fits at the company. Finally, diversity allows us to have the biggest impact on the marketplace. With a diverse team behind us, we can be more successful going forward.

If you’re interested in learning more about diversity at Clir, check out our values and diversity statistics. This piece was influenced by an Business in Vancouver interview with Gareth Brown. 

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