DTE Energy is moving the needle to create an environment where its’ employees feel safe enough to be themselves and proud to be who they are. In 2017, the company created eight employee-led ‘Energy Groups’, which provide environments, platforms and forums for affiliate diversity groups within the company.
For Raquel Howard, a field substation maintenance supervisor in Distribution Operations (DO) at DTE’s Caniff Service Center, this is what sets DTE apart and makes it an awesome place to work. Howard, known as Rocky to her co-workers, family and friends, is a female leader of a male-dominated team, has worked at DTE for 16 years and happens to be openly gay.
“Our company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion shows that we genuinely care about people and our communities,” said Howard. “That makes me very proud.”
Howard first learned about DTE’s Power of Pride energy group – created for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community – last year at a new leader training. After that, Howard made sure she attended POP’s launch party.
“A weight lifted… it was such a relief,” Howard explained. “Finally there was a group available for me.”
Howard said she was also impressed and comforted to see at least 15 senior leaders at the launch party, including Heather Rivard, the senior vice president of DO – her own business unit.
“This spoke to me on so many levels,” said Howard. “DTE’s top leaders are supporting this effort and are serious about diversity and inclusion.”
Howard went on to explain that not all of DTE’s POP members are LGBT. Several members are family, friends or allies of the LGBTQ community. “It’s great to see this kind of support in action. It’s what makes POP a truly diverse, inclusive and caring group.”
Jeremy Cappello, principal marketing analyst in Energy Waste reduction at DTE, is also a member of POP and a passionate ally.
“To think that someone comes to work every day but can’t be themselves or share information about their personal life because they’re fearful it may impact their livelihood, is really sad.” said Cappello. “I’m really proud to work for a company that values employees’ differences and understands the synergy that happens when different types of people bring different perspectives to the table.”
Cappello, who is the also co-chair of DTE’s SURGE energy group for young professionals, says his involvement in POP and SURGE has improved his experience at the company and opened the door to important conversations with other co-workers.
“I display the POP logo in my cubicle and sometimes co-workers ask me about it,” explained Cappello. “It gives me a chance to explain why equality and pride are important to me. I’ve found that we can learn so much from each other and grow personally and professionally when we have conversations like this with people who may have different viewpoints.”
June is Pride Month
Every June, the LGBT community and allies around the world come together for a month-long celebration of diversity, acceptance and pride. The month of June was chosen for LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall riots, which occurred at the end of June 1969. As a result, many pride events are held in June to recognize the impact that LGBT individuals, advocates and allies have on history in our country and around the globe.
DTE’s POP and the SURGE energy groups celebrated Pride Month by supporting Affirmations, a nonprofit organization that provides a welcoming and safe space for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, expressions and cultures. The teams facilitated a successful food and art supply drive and then volunteered for the organization.
“Our goal is for our company to be a place where all employees feel safe and welcome,” said Diane Antishin, vice president, Human Resources Operations and chief diversity and inclusion officer. “We are proud to celebrate Pride Month and encourage all of our employees to have pride in themselves and their coworkers.”
Howard hopes that employees who may be feeling isolated and alone make the step to reach out to another co-worker, get involved in a group like DTE’s POP, or look for other supportive resources at their company.
“I can say I have never had any negative comments from others at DTE, even when I was coming out,” explained Howard. “Because of POP I am more engaged, able to be myself and can focus my energy on getting my work done.”