Diversity is America’s—and UTC’s–Strength

 

–Sheryl Riggs, UTC President & CEO

As we sit on the cusp of the July Fourth holiday, I wanted to take some time and take stock as to where we are as an association, as a country, and indeed as a world.

With so much happening at one time, it can be hard to process it all at once. We are still in a pandemic that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and shuttered our economy. We are seeing the sins of our nation’s past coming back to haunt us vividly. Many of our members are still unable to travel and may not be able to work from their offices for months.

It almost feels overwhelming, but we can’t let it be.

This is our moment in time.

What I love most about UTC is how much we embrace diversity. We are a small but mighty team! But it goes beyond our staff. Our membership is diverse, not just in human resources, but in the kinds of companies and entities we represent. Most trade associations in our field represent one type of utility—electric, water, natural gas, etc. Additionally, these organizations tend to represent just one kind of business model as well, whether it be investor-owned, public power, or cooperative.

At UTC, we represent them all—IOU, cooperative, public power. We also represent a few water and gas utilities as well. We work closely with our other trade-association counterparts and I am grateful for our ongoing coordination and relationship. I am incredibly thankful that we not only represent each of the different ownership structures, but different kinds of utilities as well. That’s because the telecommunications issues that we specialize in impact all of these different utilities and businesses.

In a sense, UTC is a microcosm of America. Our staff and members come from different places with different life experiences. Our utilities use different tools to power our country; indeed, the diversity of our utility infrastructure, from the fuels we use to electrify our nation to the communications networks we use to underpin our services, is absolutely essential to our strength.

This is what I have been thinking about as the July Fourth holiday draws near. At UTC, diversity is our strength. Even amongst our diverse membership, our members face many of the same challenges. At our regional events, we see IOUs, cooperatives, and public-power utilities learning from each other, sharing best practices about the challenges they are facing. And our associate technology members are always there as well, ready to assist when they might have the right solution.

None of this is to trivialize what’s going on in our country these days. But it is meant to inspire a bit of hope. Our members’ mission, at its core, is to save lives. Our members provide lifesaving and life-sustaining utility services to every person in this country. It doesn’t matter where you live or who you are. If you plug your phone or computer into the outlet, it will work.

And as we enter the beginning of severe storm season for our coastal utilities, this commitment to service is even more apparent. How many times have I read stories in the UTC Journal or heard straight from our members themselves about the number of crews they sent to their utilities in need? This is truly an inspirational and inclusive industry.

As our country begins to recover from the pandemic and starts addressing critical issues about race, I hold up the utility industry as a model. I am honored to represent this industry and be able to put in place actions that back up our claims.