Barb Keenan receives national recognition for initiating OPG’s First Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Barb Keenan receives national recognition for initiating OPG’s First Diversity and Inclusion Strategy

barb keenan


On April 26, 2018, Barb Keenan, Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Senior Vice President of People and Culture, and long-time SCNetwork member was awarded the Dentons Senior Executive of the Year award from the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI). This award recognizes Barb’s unwavering dedication towards diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and her work in developing OPG’s first Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.

We at SCNetwork congratulate Barb for this significant achievement bestowed upon her by CCDI, a national charitable organization that advocates for inclusive organizations, free of prejudice and discrimination.

We recently caught up with Barb and asked her about her experience of making diversity and inclusion part of OPG’s leadership agenda. Here are the valuable D&I insights she shared with us:

Barb, what are some of the achievements of OPG’s Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Strategy that you’ve gotten approved?

One of our long-term goals as a company is to build a diverse, healthy, engaged workforce.

The thing that I think is most important is the accountability piece. It’s not only in our strategy, but the executive leadership team has an item around diversity and inclusion as part of our performance contract, and so do all People leaders. We’re building accountability at the leadership level. The board just approved our diversity and inclusion policy for our board. Back in 2016-17, our board struggled for representation. But they’ve made progress on that. For 2019, their goal is to have 40 per cent women and 50 per cent visible minority on the board. For succession planning we have improved the number of diversity candidates, year over year, from the four designated groups – the executive leadership level, the next level down, the successor pool, and the emerging talent pool.

What steps did you take to get diversity and inclusion onto the leadership agenda?

For a while now I’ve been working on ensuring that diversity and inclusion finds a place in the agenda. When we got our corporate strategy approved in 2016, I was able to include the goal of building a diverse, healthy, engaged workforce. And then I was able to have that specifically as a leaders’ goal. However, in 2016-17 I really drove D&I into the executive team and leadership level. I was very blessed to have a CEO and peer group who are very visible supporters of diversity and inclusion. Because it is baked into our performance contract, they are demonstrating how they support their commitment to diversity and inclusion. So, I went from being an invisible hand on it, to a very visible and vocal advocate. And people surprised me in a meaningful way, in terms of their support for us.

Did you face any challenges along the way and how did you deal with it?

It was not hard for us to find champions of diversity within OPG. But, when we displayed the pride flag last year during pride week at majority of our sites, we got pushback for that. Before I even got the chance to respond to the pushback, my CEO set the record straight by emphasising that we have a respectful workplace here at OPG, and when you work for us, everyone should be expected to be treated with respect and dignity. So, the tone of support for diversity and inclusion was set at the very top.

Can you give us some tips on how organizations can do more for diversity and inclusion?

It’s important to put diversity and inclusion into the agenda and integrate it into a number of facets of what we do as People and Culture leaders. An important thing for me is to help people understand what the business case was. It’s not just a nice thing to do. Also engaging the shop floor in it too. OPG is highly unionized. We have a few diversity and inclusion committees. So, we started to engage our union partners in our D&I efforts. As a result of that, more and more of our plants and locations have started to develop D&I committees. We brought them together to share best practices. Parallel to that, we conducted purposeful outreach for our recruiting practices to ensure that the pool of candidates we’re getting is diverse. Another step that made a big difference was that we trained our hiring manager on unconscious bias. We set the expectation that with all else being equal, the diverse candidate gets the job.

We are proud to have Barb as a member of our community of leaders at SCNetwork. She is an inspiration to those of us who are working to make diversity and inclusion a defined corporate objective and an organizational priority.

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