Atlas: valuing diversity, building cohesion

Atlas: valuing diversity, building cohesion Image

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Established in 2017, after Actis acquired the business through a restructuring process, Atlas Renewable Energy´s (Atlas) leadership team knew that they wanted to create an inclusive culture that valued employees for what they could bring to the business. With operations across Chile, Mexico and Brazil, the company already benefited from a diversity of nationalities across its staff, but the team recognised this needed to be built on. Enter Marcela Pizzi, one of Atlas’ first hires following the restructuring. Brought in as Head of Human Resources, Marcela explains: “The business was already working across different countries but we wanted to define a core set of values, among which we identified the importance of creating an inclusive and open environment that could provide resilience and diverse point of views, no matter people’s gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, political view, religion, nationality – at the time, we quickly realised that diversity and inclusion in our company will be an all-encompassing and integral part of our culture.”

Underlying this is a belief that this creates a better business. “We are convinced that creating a team that embraces richness and diversity in opinions and experiences is extremely valuable,” says Marcela. “Including this diverse group of people and opinions in our conversation and strategy not only empowers individuals; it translates into a solid competitive advantage for the company.”

Building such a culture is not just about soft skills; it requires a highly systematic and considered approach. Starting with creating basic items such as policies, procedures and manuals to ensure that language is neutral – Atlas does not have “man” hours, for example, but work hours – the business now provides staff with unconscious bias training, focused particularly on gender distinctions and, in a bid to attract more women to the company, insists that there is at least one female candidate in every recruitment shortlist.

Through these kinds of initiatives, Atlas has made progress in building a more gender-balanced team. From just 11% of employees in 2017, women now make up 35%. However, Marcela notes that this is only the first stage of development. “We started out by ensuring women had access to jobs in our company,” she says. “The next phase is working on ensuring there are more women in leadership and mid-level management positions – these are roles not often held by women.”

Atlas already has three women in senior leadership positions – Marcela, Maria Jose Cortes Loreto, Head of ESG and the company’s General Counsel – and it is working to develop and support female employees through promotion, with examples including a personal assistant becoming head of Marketing and Communications in the US, an Office Manager in Brazil becoming a Social Innovation Coordinator, and in Chile a Procurement Assistant moving up to becoming responsible for O&M Health and Safety. The company will also be launching soon a talent and mentoring programme for female employees to support their personal and professional growth.

Yet Atlas is keen to ensure that all employees feel valued and to this end, it has created a standard compensation and benefits structure that guarantees access at all levels, including paternity as well as maternity leave and health insurance at all levels and for all employees and their partners. The company is also working to promote employing people with disabilities and across age groups. Underpinning this work is a cycle of workshops for employees covering a range of diversity and inclusion topics. “A recent workshop we had was quite unusual but important,” says Marcela. “It was on new masculinity and addressed how the ‘me too’ era is impacting men. It explored what men needed to navigate and thrive in the workplace today.”

With a culture embracing inclusiveness and diversity, Atlas is in a good position to work with local communities to promote similar values in the wider community. Together with the Interamerican Development Bank, Atlas is in the process of establishing programmes to improve local women’s access to employment, entrepreneurial opportunities, and leadership positions. Yet this is about more than promoting female economic empowerment, explains Atlas Head of ESG, María José Cortés. “Several studies have shown that where financing projects have focused on developing and supporting women, communities as a whole are lifted  and these projects become the enablers of a stronger bond with locals, since this is often seen as a game changer in the communities.” she says. “The money tends to go on education, for example, or better food. Our idea is that, by supporting women to access better jobs, we are supporting wider local economic development as well.”

The programme has three main aims – to bolster skills among local women, create employment vacancies for them, and to boost the economic development potential in areas where Atlas has completed construction. “When we have completed construction of a solar photovoltaic plant, for example, the women we have brought in to help build them need employment prospects,” says María. “We will be their neighbours for the next 30 years and so if we can train women to, for example, help maintain the plants, clean them or maintain the ground around them – all of which require specialist technical knowledge – we build skills that are both useful for Atlas and help promote local economic development.”

The initiative, fully funded by Atlas, will be rolled out across four projects in three countries, yet will take account of local contexts. “You have to tailor what you’re offering to what’s needed in different countries and to ensure local cultural norms are respected,” explains María.  “We have invested a great deal of human and economic resources into baseline studies that allow us to design a Women Workforce Program that fits the needs, concerns and aspirations of the target beneficiaries in a way that is also sustainable in time”.

Indeed, it is the details that will determine the success of the programme. “We have a big responsibility to actually achieve something, not just to look good,” says María. “We are hiring women in an environment historically dominated by male labour, and that requires having the right structures to ensure that women have true equal access to professional development. These initiatives include a harassment complaint mechanism; constant sensibilisation within the project; manufacturing of adequate uniforms; sufficient bathrooms, as well as safe accommodation and transportation.

If we are training and hiring women in engineering, electricity, mechanics and environmental management, we also have the responsibility to investigate the potential areas of development of these women, and to the extent possible, include them in our supply chain in the operation stage, or facilitate their link with other industries in our area of influence."

And ultimately, the commitment to continue and fund such programmes comes down to the commitment and enthusiasm from our leadership team. “The idea that we want to make the world a fairer place for everyone comes from management and is a sentiment shared by all of us at Atlas. It has been extremely fulfilling to see how we can bring to life programmes that reflect our core values and shared beliefs. Being part of a company that promotes and encourages us to make the world a fairer place, enables us to really make a difference.” says María.

Atlas Renewable Energy: su clave para llegar a 38% en representatividad femenina