City Light Leads and Learns at Women in Energy Symposium

Women only comprise about 25 percent of the energy industry workforce, and under-representation is particularly acute in the skilled trades and leadership ranks. Seattle City Light is doing its part to fix this problem, and this year the utility had a strong showing at an annual meeting for women in energy.

The Western Energy Institute’s 2016 Women in Energy Symposium, held Nov. 2-4 in Las Vegas, NV, prepared the next generation of women leaders by enabling attendees to learn from some of the most innovative, successful women in the industry. Seattle City Light’s Carol Butler, Maura Brueger, Siriphan Clayton, Sarah Davis, Wanda Davis, Tauna Hood, Tamara Jenkins and Darlene Sakahara all attended on behalf of the utility.

A few of the women from Seattle City Light at the Women in Energy Symposium

The Women In Energy Symposium provides women in the industry an annual opportunity for professional development, education, mentorship and leadership training. City Light employees have previously attended, but this is the first year City Light sent a full cohort of employees from across its different divisions.

“The opportunity to meet other women in the industry and hear about their backgrounds, the paths they’re taken, and the various issues they’re grappling with is compelling, inspiring, and reassuring,” said Sarah Davis, a strategic advisor within Regional Affairs and Contracts. “I look to these women as a model as I think about the shape I want my own career to take.”

Tamara Jenkins, a senior project manager in the Engineering and Technological Innovation unit, returned to City Light inspired. “The most engaging part of the symposium was the breadth and depth of experience in the room, and amazing women that I had the privilege to meet,” she said. “It’s something I will take with me throughout my career and personal life.”

For Carol Butler and Siriphan Clayton, this year’s symposium was particularly meaningful. It marked the culmination of their participation in the Women in Energy Leadership + Mentoring Program, which pairs experienced leaders with talented employees who want to learn and advance in their careers. Butler, City Light’s director of corporate performance, mentored a young manager from the Salt River Project and helped her think through some workplace issues. Clayton, a Power Operations and Marketing supervisor, was matched with a mentor from another utility with whom she had a lot in common. “We shared so many issues and questions. It was amazing how ideas and ways to solve problems kept pouring out during our discussions,” Clayton said.

This year’s symposium sessions included topics such as sustainable energy, the evolution of the Western power grid and the future of electric utilities. Tauna Hood, City Light’s apprenticeship coordinator, particularly enjoyed a breakout session on working across generations and cultures. “It showed how each generation’s early motivations and influences, such as world events, upbringing, cultural beliefs and values affect workplace behaviors and how we communicate and relate to one another,” Hood said. “I took away a bunch of tips on how to motivate and communicate with different employees and colleagues.”

The Women in Energy program, and others like it across the country, provide crucial support to women establishing themselves or seeking to advance in the energy industry. The program also provides an opportunity to learn directly from the experiences of women who have already overcome many of the same challenges they will face. Wanda Davis, an electrical construction and maintenance supervisor, had this opportunity clearly in mind when she decided to attend the symposium. “I have worked in non-traditional roles for nearly 32 years at Seattle City Light,” she said. “I wanted to share the knowledge I have gained over my career.”

When asked to describe what it was like to attend the symposium, Davis replied “It was encouraging to see how far we have come.” Although women are half of the national workforce, there are still miles to go before the energy industry sees proportional representation. City Light wants the best and the brightest employees, and half of those employees should be women.

Arts are a strategy to build racial equity

Presented by Randy Engstrom, director Seattle Office of Arts & Culture at NY Community Trust, November 16, 2016

Today we are in the middle of an historic change moment in our country, our cities and our role in the field of the arts. Not since the 1950’s when highways connected and crisscrossed our land have we seen such a massive influx of population in our cities and immigration nationally and internationally. At a time when racial equity and social and environmental justice is being challenged at a national level we affirm our commitment to this work and stand in solidarity with our communities.

Seattle is a progressive utopia, but even here in a bastion of liberalism we have work to do to foster a creative community that benefits all people. Therefore the Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS) collectively created a Racial Equity Statement, affirming our commitment to anti-racist work practice and a mechanism to hold us accountable in all the work we do.

Racial equity is the defining issue of our time. How we deal with our past and our shared future will determine not only the health of our field, but of our communities. This is not a unique issue or conversation; every national cultural membership organization is also at the table and defining their commitment to racial equity and goals for the future.

Arts are how we can achieve Racial Equity in our institutions, and in our lives. They hold the power to capture, nourish and move us. They serve as a vehicle for radical social change, and are an effective strategy to address the pressing issues of our time. We believe that we need to center the arts in our strategy, but look beyond our field to affect change structurally, in partnership with the community, City departments, other institutions and jurisdictions, so we can help build racial equity in housing, criminal justice, education, jobs, the environment and more.

We approach equity and justice for all people through the lens of race because we know that across all measures and all of our complex social positions, one’s race is a salient and consistent indicator of life outcomes. For example, lived experience and research have shown that when it comes to jobs, housing, arts education and many other areas, women of color fare worse than white women, LGBTQ folks of color fare worse than LGBTQ white folks, and poor people of color fare worse than poor white people.

Rev. Starsky Wilson has said that we need to address not just funding and philanthropy, but policy as well. Racial Equity policies combined with practice will shape and define the future of local arts agencies and we are already seeing some of those changes. We must ask ourselves:

How will we as local funders be accountable to communities past and present?

How will be accountable to each other as funders and in our field?

Our programs centering racial equity and social justice began in 2004 when the City also adopted the first ever Race and Social Justice Initiative in government. In conjunction with Office for Civil Rights (OCR), ARTS has increased our resources and commitment to centering race in all our work practice. From commissioning racial equity trainings (White Fragility with Robin DiAngelo and Centering People of Color in the Racial Equity Movement by Carmen Morgan), equitable access to arts education in public schools (The Creative Advantage) a shared staff position with OCR, focus groups specifically for artists of color (Artists Up) to a learning cohort for arts organizations to expand their own understanding and commitment to racial equity (Turning Commitment into Action), we have consistently sough to increase our capacity and that of our community.

Creating a racial equity statement is a result of this work and provides a path into our future; holding our office and our field accountable to our community.

“Turning Commitment into Action” with Racial Equity Learning Cohorts for Seattle’s Arts and Culture Organizations

Seattle enjoys a high standard of living and is a hub for innovation and creativity; yet racial disparities persist in our region. According to 2010 Census data, Seattle’s population is predominantly white (69.5%), with people of color accounting for just under a third of the total population. The City of Seattle has worked for years to eliminate overt racist policies and practices in housing, employment, and other areas; however people of color in our community continue to be impacted by systemic race-based inequities.

This is why the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, in conjunction with the Office for Civil Rights (SOCR), is offering arts and cultural organizations the tools they need to begin to eliminate institutional racism and build racial equity through the learning cohorts Turning Commitment into Action. Part of the Community Institute for Racial Equity, these learning cohorts – there will be three of the same curriculum offered in 2015 – include intensive training on skills to address perceived and actual barriers to racial equity within arts and cultural organizations and the sector as a whole. The goal of these cohorts is to help arts and cultural organizations create realistic racial equity action plans.

“Our Office works hard to ensure that Seattle’s arts and culture sector thrives, but that is only possible if the arts scene represents, is relevant to, and includes all those who live, work, and visit the city,” says Kathy Hsieh, Cultural Partnerships and Funding Manager. “While none of us created the structural racism that exists, we can all play a role in dismantling it, but first, we need to understand what’s holding it in place and learn how we can be change agents in this work.”

The first Turning Commitment into Action cohort began in May and included 35 participants from 12 organizations: Artist Trust, Cornish College of the Arts, Densho, EMP Museum, Frye Art Museum, Office of Arts & Culture, On the Boards, Pratt Fine Arts Center, The Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas, Youth in Focus, Seattle Opera and Intiman.

“Since racial inequity is woven into many aspects of our society, we all need to make conscious efforts to overcome it in our own lives, including in the work we do,” says Natasha Varner at Densho. “This training is giving me and my organization concrete tools for identifying racial inequity, working to move beyond it in constructive ways, and being better allies for communities of color.”

“As the director of my organization I believe it is necessary for me to better understand racial equity, the barriers that currently exist in my organization, and how I can best lead us through a process of change,” states Sarah Wilke, Director of On the Boards “I believe this is important enough that it requires me to step out of my day-to-day responsibilities and personally explore the issue.”

Registration for the first cohort filled quickly, demonstrating the desire of so many arts and culture organizations to actively work toward racial equity. To meet demand, this will become an ongoing program: a second cohort will begin this summer and a third this fall. For more information or to register visit Turning Commitment into Action. {Insert Link}

To create change, institutions and groups in our community – government, businesses, non-profits, schools, faith-based, parent, youth and neighborhood groups and more – need to work together and share a similar sense of urgency. The arts and cultural community has key roles to play in advancing racial equity within its organizations, and through partnerships, programs, and works of art. Only by joining together in a broad partnership with common goals and strategies can we hope to realize racial equity in arts and culture, as well as in jobs, education, health, development, housing, criminal justice, the environment and philanthropy.


Photo credit: Youth Space Summit, courtesy the Office of Arts & Culture

Racial Equity Learning Cohort – Turning Commitment into Action

Registration opens April 13 at 9 a.m.; closes April 21 at 5 p.m.

The Office of Arts & Culture in conjunction with the Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) is offering arts and cultural organizations the tools they need to turn their commitments to building racial equity – both within their organizations and through their work in and with community – into actions for tangible change. Part of the Community Institute for Racial Equity, this  cohort will include intensive training on  skills to address perceived and actual barriers to racial equity within arts and cultural organizations and the sector as a whole.

“One of the priorities of our Office is to ensure that the arts and culture sector thrives in Seattle,” says Kathy Hsieh, Cultural Partnerships & Funding Manager. “This vision is only possible if the arts and cultural scene is relevant and meaningful and inclusive of all the people who live and work and visit the City. But currently, because of the structural racism that exists, arts leaders, artists and arts and cultural organizations aren’t even aware of how we’re all holding this inequity in place. The workshops we’re offering are in direct response to the desire of many in our community to learn how we can all work together to create racial equity. Talking about it isn’t enough. We need to act upon our talk in order to make change happen.”

Pre-registration Checklist

  1. Read the registration requirements carefully.
  2. Share the cohort description and registration requirements with your executive director or group leader. Make sure the executive director or person with that level of authority signs the Organizational Commitment Form. (For groups with a horizontal leadership structure, please designate someone to sign the form on behalf of the group.)
  3. Select and confirm which two – three individuals from your group will participate before completing the registration form. Make sure each person is able to attend all hours of each of the first two training dates and the follow-up session six weeks later. If someone is not able to attend all the sessions, we ask that you select another person or wait to participate in a future cohort. Additional cohort dates will be announced soon.

Who: Representatives of arts and cultural organizations. No previous training is required. Groups must meet all of the registration requirements. Each participant must complete their own registration form. Only 12 – 15 organizations will be able to participate. For a full list of requirements visit Turning Commitment into Action.

  • Each organization must send 2-3 people who work in different parts of the organization, and are able to participate in the entire training and work together for up to 3 hours in-between the sessions. These people will need to be able to support each other’s work as change agents within the organization. These people must include:
    • At least one organizational decision-maker in a leadership position who is able to authorize implementation of planned changes and hold accountable all levels of the organization.
    • One-to-two others who are situated in different areas of the organization with access to complementary resources and levers to make change.
  • Organizations must complete an Organizational Commitment Form. This states that the organization will fully participate in the training sessions and develop, implement and track progress on the racial equity plan created through this learning cohort.
  • Participants must be able to meet together for a total of 3 – 4 hours (not necessarily consecutive) during the two weeks between the first and second training sessions.

What: During the training participants will build their analysis of racism and racial equity, learn how to use a racial equity assessment to identify personal and organizational power, and develop targeted strategies to achieve racial equity. They will then create a plan to build racial equity within their organizations and through their work with artists, audiences, partners and communities.

Dates: The cohort includes these required sessions:

  • Two full-day training sessions with 3 – 4 hours of work in-between, the bulk of which will be done with the other people from your group: Friday, May 15, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Friday, May 29, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., at El Centro de la Raza
  • A check-in session to explore tools and learn from peers’ successes and challenges: Wednesday, July 15, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
  • A final session to assess progress and plan adjustments to strategies and tactics: 4 hours, fall 2015, TBD.

El Centro de la Raza
2524 16th Ave S.
Seattle, WA 98144

Register: Register and read all registration requirements at:


Between April 7 – 15th at 12 pm Diana Falchuk – 206.684.5282

Between April 15th at noon and April 21st at 5pm Kathy Hsieh – 206.733.9926

Photo by Jenny Crooks

Help us create the next RSJI Three-Year Plan!

Join the Race and Social Justice Initiative for a public meeting to kick off our strategic planning process.

Saturday, May 17
10:00 am—1:00 pm
Eritrean Association Center
1954 S. Massachusetts St.
Seattle, WA 98144

Light refreshments will be served.

Come share your ideas on how to end racial inequities in education, criminal justice, housing, and jobs.

RSVP by May 14 and let us know if you will need translation, childcare, accommodation or alternative format for a disability (facility is accessible):


Contact Maria Rodriguez: or (206) 684-0548