How Emily Lam Advocates and Champions Equity in the Workplace

Last month, the Association of Women in Water, Energy & Environment hosted “Lessons from Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Leaders.” Among the featured panelists was Emily Lam, Deputy Assistant General Manager of External Affairs. We caught up with Emily to find out more about the work being done to advocate for racial equity at the SFPUC and beyond.

Throughout the pandemic, Emily has helped the agency develop strategies and policies around COVID-19 and telecommuting.

Emily Lam was a featured panelist at AWWEE’s “Lessons from Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Leaders.”

“I have an official role to evaluate both COVID policies and procedures and return to work from an equity perspective,” Lam states. “Given a person’s circumstance, it may be more difficult for them to come back into work because of child and eldercare issues or because they are immunocompromised or live with someone immunocompromised — or because they do not have a car and/or are not going to be able to drive in and will need to take public transportation or cannot afford anything other than to take public transportation to work.”

The webinar focused on how companies and the industry can systematically address the needs of a diverse workforce. Emily highlighted the SFPUC’s approach towards racial equity, which includes gathering valuable feedback from employees across the agency.

Alongside fellow women leaders in the industry selected for the AWWEE panel, Emily also shared her experiences in helping to publish the SFPUC’s Racial Equity Action Plan (REAP) and how it provides an actionable framework for fostering equity in the workplace. During the panel, Emily even described how the REAP has become a model for other organizations looking to create workplaces where people of all different dimensions of identity feel welcome, included, and safe to be their authentic selves. The REAP is a comprehensive action plan that can be used by other organizations to help them get started on their racial equity work.

Emily Lam was a featured panelist at AWWEE’s “Lessons from Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Leaders.”

“For example, when we say we survey our employees — in the past, I’ve had to think about, ‘Let me send you this survey’ or ‘Let me talk to you about some of the questions we’ve asked to get a sense of where our folks are at.’ And now, you can access [the REAP] and in the appendix, it actually shows you the survey we asked people and you can tailor it to your own organization or your own situation,” Lam explained. “We want to hear from folks to make sure that we can set policies and procedures and distribute resources in a way that addresses everyone’s needs, especially those that have circumstances that need to be taken to account.”

Beyond the REAP, the SFPUC is also committed to building a workplace culture centered on equity, but achieving this continues to be a collaborative and collective effort.

“It took a lot of somebodies to get me to where I am, and so I want to embed that into [our] culture. That everybody, from the electric engineer in Power to the finance person, is thinking about and cognizant about who they hire, who their pool was, how they bring folks up. Who’s had the resources and who doesn’t? And then for those that don’t: how do we get them there? The REAP is a common place for everybody to start.”