Top legal brain bets on diversity in Peru
Statkraft Peru’s Head of Legal and External Communications, Veronica Arbulu, believes that greater diversity and inclusion are necessary for success in Peru’s energy sector.
More often than not, over the course of her legal career, Veronica Arbulu was the only woman in the room. She had chosen a path that not many women in Latin America were following, even in the early 2000s. It was a reality in the region that she was determined to change.
“I have had to work harder to get on the same playing field as men. This has been my motivation to work on diversity and gender equality issues,” she says.
It perhaps wasn’t a coincidence that in 2013, Arbulu came into the fold of a Norwegian-based company, called SN Power at the time. It was a joint venture between Statkraft and Norfund, who had gone together to purchase Cahua, a hydropower company in Peru. She was excited by the Nordic ideals of equality, diversity and high ethical standards. SN Power later became Statkraft in Peru in 2014, when majority ownership changed hands.
“In late 2018, we formed a Diversity Committee in Statkraft Peru, because we believe that diversity and inclusion are essential building blocks for culture.”
In August 2020, she assumed the role of Chief Diversity Officer of Statkraft Peru, a role that she eagerly took on in addition to her responsibilities as Head of Legal and External Communications for the company, because Arbulu knew she had a role to play in transforming this sector into a more inclusive one.
Risking falling behind in bringing more women to the workforce
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), there is strong evidence linking gender diverse Boards of Directors, for instance, to improved company performance. The World Bank simply calls gender equality “smart economics”, a message they’ve been repeating in their World Development Reports since 2012. They state in a report on “Getting to Gender Equality in Energy Infrastructure” that greater gender equality can “enhance productivity, make institutions’ decision-making more representative of society, and improve development outcomes for the next generation.” And yet, they say, gender inequalities persist in many sectors, including energy.
Today women make up 48 percent of the global workforce, and in the renewable energy sector, to which Statkraft Peru belongs, women account for 32 percent of the workforce globally. It’s simply not good enough, according to Arbulu.
“I would love to contribute in making our society inclusive and tolerant, respecting women and really achieving gender equality. Companies have a key role in this; they can be change agents.”
It’s about people
When speaking to Arbulu, you instantly feel her passion; but that passion isn’t necessarily a single-minded focus on women’s roles in the workplace. It’s bigger than that. It’s about people. Over the years, Statkraft Peru has garnered a reputation in the country for its innovative approach, its focus on community, and its strong people-based culture where ethics and equality are the pillars upon which everything stands. This unique culture is a clear offspring of the Statkraft mother company, founded in Norway and built on a belief that people are the most valuable asset a company has, and a healthy work-life balance is essential for success.
“Even innovation in Statkraft is about people, which is why we innovate ways to keep people safe and fairly treated,” states Arbulu.
Innovation key to diversity and inclusion in the workplace
In her role as Statkraft Peru’s Chief Diversity Officer, Arbulu leads the diversity committee to create awareness and essentially move the company in a new direction on topic. This committee has members from different business areas and people outside it, can take part in its activities.
One of the committee’s first actions was a campaign to create awareness about how comments and language affect people in the workplace. They called it “Not Any More”, in which they bid farewell to all the remarks that were no longer welcome in the workplace. They also host a Men’s Day, in parallel to International Women’s Day, holding lively discussions on topics such as how machismo simply doesn’t match in today’s world.
Ensuring more women in the energy sector starts in school
Arbulu does not shy around the fact that the energy sector suffers from a lack of women in her region. The talent pool is heavily male, which means that their work to be more inclusive needs to start in the schools, when courses of study are being selected.
Statkraft Peru has launched a scholarship to women in university who are pursuing the energy sector for the future and has already awarded university support and traineeship opportunities in the future to two women. The company also focuses on training and empowering the women who join their ranks, including the establishment of Women’s Circles for women to meet, share and learn from each other. In addition, the company implemented a "blind CV" process, to avoid bias or discrimination in their recruitment processes.
It’s an ambitious approach to diversity and inclusion in the region, which seems to be well in line with Statkraft Peru’s way of doing things. Over the last few years, the company has been building a position around its unique culture, aiming to be known for more than simply megawatts produced.
“Covid-19 was challenging in Peru and gave us an opportunity to test our culture.”
The Peru team has actively explored better ways of doing their jobs in order to keep employees out of harm’s way, which has certainly paid off in the pandemic-ridden world. From remote monitoring of transmission lines to virtual reality in power plants to make remote fixes, Statkraft Peru was as well-positioned as it could be for what 2020 would bring.
“Our first focus is to keep people safe and secure. To keep our operations running as usual has no doubt been challenging, but all our investments in innovation are really helping us now. Most of our plants can be operated remotely out of Lima, which means that most of our people don’t need to be moving around the country during Covid-19.”
“People first,” Arbulu adds with a smile. It’s clear that she’s proud of what they have achieved together in Peru. Statkraft is doing something unique in the country, and not just because they are 100% renewable.
“It’s about diversity and inclusion. It’s about values and ethics. And most importantly, it’s about people. It is of course important that we are responsible for lighting up 1.8 million Peruvian households using only renewable energy, but it’s just as important that we are doing things in the right way and ultimately adds value to our brand.”
Times are changing, and Peru is no exception. Arbulu is no longer the only woman in the room, and she hasn’t been for a while. She knows there’s still work to be done to get to the point, when diversity and inclusion are broadly recognized as a nation-wide business essential rather than a sustainability side-project. But have no doubt, Arbulu and the team won’t stop until they get there.