3Degrees found ways to support different levels of engagement with International Women’s Day, including a protest element. As a result, the company has opened up new channels of communication, examined data about its diversity accomplishments and challenges, and deepened its mission to tackle climate change across the globe.

3Degrees employees on International Women’s Day.

“We recognize that the people and countries most impacted by climate change are disproportionately poor, populations of color, and women. It adds a different level of importance to our work.” — Amanda Mortlock

Last year at the B Corp Champions Retreat, B Corp announced a new challenge for its members: The Inclusion Challenge, designed to invite every B Corp to set goals and improve on three or more inclusion metrics in the B Impact Assessment by September 2017. 3Degrees, a provider of renewable energy and carbon mitigation strategies, products and programs, decided to take on the challenge. Through a series of internal conversations, actions and training, 3Degrees has opened up new channels of communication, made new discoveries about its organization, and taken strides toward a more fair and equitable workplace. Part of that work led to the company’s supporting its female employees, both full- and part-time workers, to participate in this year’s International Women’s Day in multiple ways — including inviting employees to participate in a day of protest.

B the Change spoke with Amanda Mortlock, 3Degrees’ vice president of utility partnerships, as well as Karen Healey, marketing director, and Kim Bowen, outreach coordinator and assistant chair of 3Degrees’ Diversity & Inclusion committee, to learn more about how 3Degrees selected their plan of action, the conversations surrounding the Challenge, and what they’ve learned as a result.

Why did 3Degrees get involved with the Inclusion Challenge?

Karen Healey: For a long time, we have had an employee-led program focused on volunteership and giving. Several employees pitched to our company’s leadership the idea to expand the group to other initiatives, including diversity and inclusion. That happened at about the same time B Lab was announcing its Inclusion Challenge. I had attended the Champions Retreat where the challenge was launched, so the timing was really good for us.

Kim Bowen: We also had a number of people in senior leadership who have a personal interest in diversity and inclusion, so it worked well for us to incorporate the Challenge into our business. Currently, we have nine members on our Diversity and Inclusion committee.

Healey: Our Inclusion Challenge goals focused on providing staff with diversity and inclusion training and tools, conducting an equity audit, and looking for opportunities to improve our recruitment practices.

How does inclusion fit in with 3Degrees’ climate-driven mission?

Mortlock: We recognize that the people and countries most impacted by climate change are disproportionately poor, minority populations compared with the populations in the U.S., and women. It adds a different level of importance to our work. We take our personal and collective impact on the world very seriously.

Bowen: Our mission is to connect people with renewable energy on a massive scale. And our vision is to create a world where it is universally more valuable to solve environmental problems than it is to create them. When you pair those two together, what we’re really trying to do is connect people to create change, specifically with the environment and with how we are interacting with it. We can’t achieve that mission and vision if we don’t include individuals from all communities and allow people to use their skills and their genius to create the solutions that are going to save the world. That is something we are continuing to work on — and never is our work done.

How did you come up with the idea to recognize International Women’s Day as a company?

Amanda Mortlock: There were a lot of things happening concurrently. We had employees asking us to be involved, there was the B Corp challenge, and I had a personal desire to participate in International Women’s Day (IWD) and live my values. We wanted to be as powerful advocates as we could be for women’s rights, women’s leadership. And we see a mission tie-in as well, because women are disproportionately impacted by climate change. That confluence led to us deciding to celebrate IWD together.

This was a process that started really organically, where we had a lot of conversations going about diversity and inclusion alongside really powerful things happening in society that were bringing these issues to the forefront for us.

I emailed a couple of female leaders at 3Degrees and asked how they thought we should celebrate IWD. They recommended that I email all the women at 3Degrees for their ideas. Not surprisingly, I got a lot of different ideas back. It was daunting to figure out how to come up with the right collective action. Some people wanted to do education but not “rock the boat,” while other people really wanted a protest element to be in solidarity with the protest movement behind International Women’s Day and Day Without a Woman.

So what did you end up doing to recognize the day?

There were four main components: a strike, a pledge, a donation to ensure our part-time employees were included, and education. We held a one-hour symbolic strike, where all women from our offices across the country were encouraged to leave the office an hour before our monthly company-wide meeting already planned for that day. The women in each location used the strike time to support a local women-owned business. For example, in Portland, we went to a woman-owned bakery for coffee and pastries. We also gave employees permission to strike the full day. We recognized that for full time employees there was no real personal cost to striking because we have a flex PTO policy. But, we also have a lot of part-time employees who work fewer than 20 hours a week and don’t qualify for the flex PTO policy. While they were also invited to take the day off, we knew that because they would have to forgo pay it was unlikely they could embrace this element without real personal cost. So we decided to match the wages of all female employees who work fewer than 20 hours a week with a donation to WEDO, an organization that works at the intersection of women’s issues and the environment with a focus on climate change. This was our approach to broadening participation in a thoughtful way. We know it’s not perfect, but we were trying to be intentional about our inclusivity. We ended up donating over $800 to WEDO.

We returned from our symbolic strike in unison to attend our companywide meeting. We spent a large part of the meeting agenda on International Women’s Day, including history about the day. We also created and shared a report on gender equity at 3Degrees at the companywide meeting.

The report included how many women as a whole we have at 3Degrees, and then broke it down by leadership level. We included commitments we could make as an organization for continuing to move forward on this issue. That included a broader HR compensation review, which would look at compensation, job titles and responsibilities through many lenses, including gender equity. That’s happening now. We also talked about all the various initiatives of the diversity and inclusion committee, which is going to include a focus on gender along with their other focus areas.

We also wanted to explicitly provide a role for all employees. So, in advance of International Women’s Day, we invited all employees to submit a “Be Bold for Change” pledge. I am proud to say we had 100 percent participation from the executive team. Commitments included everything from questioning all-male speaking panels at industry events, to listening to and amplifying voices of women of color, to being an active bystander when witnessing inequality, to raising their son to be a feminist.

And of course, we encouraged all employees to wear red to show support for women’s issues.

How did you get buy-in for your proposal from your CEO and executive team?

Mortlock: We took our proposal to our CEO.

The challenging part was striking a balance between getting buy-in without asking permission. We had already solidified around our ideas, and there was a protest element. You don’t get permission to protest, right?

I didn’t personally have a framework for how to have this conversation, but it is one of the things that we gained: an understanding, internally, of how our roles at 3Degrees differ from our roles as citizens and people trying to advocate outside of work.

We had a supportive executive team, a third of whom are women. Steve McDougal, our CEO, took time with the idea and came back to us fully supportive of all the components. One of the pieces I really pushed was that, if we were going to invite people to take the day off to strike, then we all had to be really bought in. We couldn’t support it in name only. We made sure that when we told people they can strike that they weren’t going to be judged for it in any way.

Tell us more about the report about gender equity at 3Degrees. Was anything surprising?

Bowen: I don’t know if anything was surprising, because it was pretty visible to me, at least. We have some departments that are pretty dominated in numbers by women. But when you look at the breakdown in leadership and number of people of different genders at different levels, the men are typically much higher up than the women.

The biggest overall message that I got was that we are doing better than the national average, but we still have a ways to go.

One thing in particular that was very clear was that we don’t have any women of color at the director level or above.

Mortlock: We did show the percentage of women across different levels in the organization and overall, and we compared that to the S&P 500 so we could look at how we performed against a benchmark. Fifty-nine percent of our employees are women, and 44 percent of those at the director-level or above were women. It’s good to look those numbers in the face as an organization, together.

What are next steps for 3Degrees?

Bowen: During our first-ever, full-company retreat, we held an in-person training on unconscious bias. While there are lots of aspects of unconscious bias, one is gender and women in the workplace.This training has helped us build a community focused around equity.

As Amanda mentioned, we have a compensation review that is currently underway. We are also working on improvements in anti-discrimination policies and inclusion for nonbinary and transgender people. We have started by making some language non-gender-specific in the way that we talk with customers, so we don’t project a gender onto them. I think it’s helping people think about things in a different way than they may have previously.

What feedback have you gotten on these efforts?

Mortlock: One of the great things about inviting our male colleagues to wear red on March 8 was that their support was so visible. It was really inspiring to all show up together for our meeting, and you could see almost everybody wearing red. It was a visual indication of some level of buy-in and it was a wonderful way to kick off all of these efforts, which are a lot harder than wearing red. It was great that people could see it wasn’t supported only by the women of the organization.

Bowen: After the unconscious bias training, we sent out a staff-wide survey for all those who participated. For 70 percent of the people who participated, this was the first experience they ever had with any sort of social justice or equity training. Of the survey respondents, 80 percent thought that it was very or extremely valuable. And I know from speaking to many people that this three-hour training was a highlight of the three-day retreat.

It was a deeply emotional training, where we became really vulnerable.

In that vulnerability, we found the power to start those discussions we had been afraid of starting, because we were uncomfortable and didn’t know how people would react.

Because we didn’t have the language to bring up these issues that are affecting not only our workplace, but workplaces across the nation and around the globe.

We asked people, “What are your commitments?” Some really common themes were “I’m going to find more ways to educate myself,” “I’m going to find more ways to engage in conversations,” “I’m going to find more ways to be an ally and an advocate for people, and to recognize my privilege, wherever that privilege may lie.”

Mortlock: We don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but I feel good about working at a company that is actively working on equity issues — not only related to gender but also other dimensions including race and sexual orientation.

A version of this article originally appeared on B the Change. 3Degrees is part of the community of Certified B Corporations. Read more stories of people using business as a force for good in B the Change, or sign up to receive the B the Change Weekly newsletter for more stories like the one above, delivered straight to your inbox.