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QWEENS and Pride 2022

Publish Date: June 23rd, 2022

As Namaste Solar continues to grow our equity efforts, we want to build a culture at our cooperative where people can bring their full and unique selves. One way to support this goal is through employee resource groups (ERGs) where people can connect and come together to create change.

First things first: what’s an employee resource group?

ERGs are groups formed by employees based on shared demographics and life experiences. The goal is to help foster diversity and inclusion in the workplace, provide supportive environments for marginalized groups to connect, and improve work conditions by building trusting relationships within companies.

At Namaste Solar, we currently have three ERGs and are in the process of developing formal policies and support at the company level to encourage more participation and potentially more ERGs. These groups are one of the ways that we honor our core values and take steps toward creating an environment where everyone feels supported and successful, regardless of role or demographic.

Introducing QWEENS

Queer Workplace Empowerment and Expression at Namaste Solar (QWEENS) is a LGBTQ+ employee resource group. It was started in 2021 by Alyssa Soares, co-owner and residential training coordinator, to bring visibility to LGBTQ+ identities in the workplace. Since it was created, QWEENS has held monthly meetings, hosted learning sessions for allies, and participated in Pride events over the last two years.

“I think part of why QWEENS is so significant is the visibility it brings to these identities in our organization,” said Alyssa. “For LGBTQ+ people in solar, sometimes those identities can be invisible. Often that invisibility stems from a need for those employees to protect themselves and their jobs (over half of US states do not offer employment discrimination protection for LGBTQ+ workers), but it also means they have to show up as less than who they are when those same protections are never questioned for cis-gender, straight folks.”

Paige_Alyssa_OBCPrideLeft to right: Paige Cofrin, Alyssa Soares

A survey by Deloitte, an international professional services network that works with many well-known companies, found that the majority of the 3,000 survey participants admitted to hiding their authentic selves in some way, and 83% of LGBTQ+ identifying participants said they covered their identity in the workplace. ERGs like QWEENS encourage employees to show up and be true to themselves and therefore allow for a more creative, talented, and authentic workplace.

“This is the first workplace I’ve felt comfortable enough to be my genuine self... It’s done a lot for my mental health and general wellbeing, and it makes me care more about the work that I do knowing that I don’t have to put on a fake persona every time I clock in.”

“It’s really validating knowing that I’m accepted here for who I am” said Derek Stevenson, residential PV designer and QWEENS member. “This is the first workplace I’ve felt comfortable enough to be my genuine self, and much of that feeling has come from open acknowledgment and acceptance within our organization. It’s done a lot for my mental health and general wellbeing, and it makes me care more about the work that I do knowing that I don’t have to put on a fake persona every time I clock in. I can grow and thrive here in a way that hasn't been possible for me before.”

Pride 2022

For the past two years, QWEENS has participated in Boulder County’s Pride events. Boulder County Pride is hosted by Out Boulder County, an organization that ensures that LGBTQ+ people and communities thrive through programming, advocacy, education, connection and research. Namaste Solar felt it was important to be a sponsor at these events, primarily to support QWEENS and their goals but also to show up as a business and member of the community.

“I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to represent Namaste Solar at both the Longmont and Boulder Pride events” said Derek. “I feel that our company has a lot to offer the queer community, not only with our services but also our employment opportunities in the electrical trade. I really appreciate that Namaste Solar doesn’t rainbow-ify the logo, just to take it back at the end of June. Pride isn’t just a month, it’s all the time. We don’t stop existing when the first of July rolls around. Having pride in our people year-round and supporting us through hosting our QWEENS ERG is walking the walk that so many other companies won’t even come close to.”

Check out the pictures below to relive the weekend with us!