EmPower Provides Opportunities for Networking and Community Outreach

Editor’s Note: This post is written by Michael Dantzler, Chairperson, MISO EmPower

While the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent demonstrations last summer sparked many important and necessary conversations related to race relations, MISO employees also engaged in our workplace through conversations about race and equity between the Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and MISO leadership.

The EmPower ERG is an organization where employees can network and have conversations about the challenges faced by Black MISO colleagues. EmPower was formally introduced in 2018 to help inform MISO leadership in the areas of hiring and retaining Black employees. Another area of focus was how best to prepare employees to excel at MISO. I am honored to be the chairperson of EmPower and would like you to know more about EmPower and consider joining this valuable MISO ERG.

The mission of EmPower is to support the MISO Diversity and Inclusion Council’s goal of creating a more culturally aware organization by providing insight, advice and recommendations on the Black workplace, workforce and community. EmPower seeks to help cultivate a workplace that is more inclusive and a workforce that has a solid pipeline of Black talent. EmPower also forms strategic partnerships with organizations whose goal is to provide enrichment opportunities for Black employees and a community where diversity and inclusion are not an after-thought. While we are making progress, we also have opportunities, such as identifying and dealing with topics like unconscious bias. The members of EmPower strive to help their MISO colleagues better understand the impact of issues affecting the Black community, and work together to develop solutions to mitigate these issues.

One of the benefits of being a member of EmPower is the opportunity to get involved in areas where we can improve the experience for employees here at MISO.  To help focus our efforts, EmPower created four committees: Recruitment and Retention (getting a more diverse pool of employees through the doors at MISO and ensuring they feel comfortable and confident);  Professional Development (helping employees define a path to success); Community Outreach (understanding and working within the communities MISO serves); and Communication (delivering awareness of activities to EmPower members and to all employees).

EmPower is a good steward of developing and leveraging strategic partnerships—this is one of our goals in 2021. We want to engage students earlier than college, and one way we’ve done that in the past is by bringing in local area minority high school students to introduce them to MISO and the industry. In doing this, we hope to create interest and provide exposure to the fulfilling jobs they could one day perform at MISO.

During Black History Month (February), MISO offered several opportunities for employees to learn more about overcoming adversity and the importance of diversity and inclusion. The second Courageous Conversations forum led off Black History Month with a dynamic speaker: Kwame Christian, director of the American Negotiation Institute. A panel of MISO Black employees shared their experiences with overcoming adversity at the February All Hands event. EmPower and the Women’s Resource Group co-sponsored an invigorating speaker: Akilah Darden, president of Darden Construction Management Group who spoke on “Figuring It Out and Exceeding Amidst Adversity”.

EVERYONE is welcome and encouraged to join EmPower. It is an inclusive employee resource group, and we want to grow our membership to accomplish even more.

I close by saying a special “thank you” to our current and former EmPower board members, our general body EmPower members, members of the other MISO ERGs who have been supportive of our efforts and our EmPower executive sponsors Andre Porter, who has been very instrumental in the development and success of the group and Daryl Brown, who recently joined us as the new executive sponsor for the EmPower resource group.