This is the first full year McClain-Hill has been in her seat of power as board president; she made every day count. McClain-Hill is leading the LADWP’s Racial Equity Plan and credits part of her dedication to the rise in consciousness that was showcased during the George Floyd uprisings happening across Los Angeles and beyond. She stated, “The departments work around racial equity over the course of the last year has been nothing short of breathtaking and it’s something that I am very proud of.
McClain-Hill continued, “I have to though, give full credit for this effort to both the hundreds and thousands of people who took to the streets all over the country and the social justice protests of 2020. It really lit a fire under everyone, and it lit a fire under me.”
The fundamental mission of LADWP is to “Providing clean, reliable water and power and excellent customer service in a safe, environmentally responsible and cost-effective manner.” In the setting of evolution, the company looks to add the necessity of racial awareness within the workforce.
The LADWP is the largest public utility facility in the U.S.; the department serves over four million residents. That sizable reach causes the LADWP to employ over 10,000 staff members reflecting the diversity found within the city. This department provides all of the water and power for the City of Los Angeles.
McClain-Hill applied pressure towards the change that needed to happen internally in the LADWP; she provided a platform and support for people to talk authentically about the treatment and experience working in this department, the response rate was overwhelming.
This work is physical evidence of the LADWP responding to the Los Angeles City Mayor’s call to action; a directive that brought awareness to the racial environment in all sectors. This triggered the LADWP to take a “substantive review” of the department and creative a safe space for staff and members to speak honestly about the department.
As the “molding of the economic regeneration” for Los Angeles, the LADWP is prepared to invest in their growth and hold themselves accountable for their internal climate of equity and awareness of racial balance.
The LADWP recently released news about their Racial Equity Action Plan; it revealed a substantial amount of evidence to warrant further investigation into their work environment. Research and studies revealed a severe imbalance in the racial environment of LADWP.
The impetus that accelerated the question of inequality within public service was highlighted by the call of action under an executive directive (No.27) issued by Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti. During a peak season of social awareness in the Summer of 2020, Garcetti created a space for all the sectors in Los Angeles to review their blueprint and add the focus of racial balance to its core.
McClain-Hill has worn the colors for equity in a number of battles for justice as a lawyer and as National President of the National Association of the Women Business Owners, McClain-Hill has built a stronger sense for justice and passion for balanced voice. The press release that accompanied, outlined the racial equity plan stated, “Without the tenacity and courage of Cynthia McClain-Hill, the deep dive analysis on issues of racial equity at DWP would likely not have occurred.”
The former president of the National Association of the Women Business Owners, is now the first African American woman to sit as the Board President of the LADWP, leading the first ever all-female board of LADWP.
In reflection to the milestone, McClain-Hill stated, “What’s crazy about it is that I recall when we became an all-female board—both celebrating the moment, but also noting that it [had] taken more than a hundred years. I look forward to the day when we’re no longer counting ‘firsts.’” Another first for the LADWP includes another African American woman who is currently leading the retirement board that controls the LADWP pension and managing assets valued over $17 billion.
McClain-Hill called upon her board colleagues, general managers, and all senior leadership within the water and power department to discuss the examination of the LADWP work environment.
Extensive field research was conducted by minority consultant from Dakota Communications and Cordoba Cordoba ran a top to bottom analysis. Staff members were invited to participate in focus groups, interviews, and employee surveys. The board president confirmed the process by stating, “The first thing was to have executive management to open their minds to the possibility that what was happening in the world could actually be happening within DWP.”
The results revealed a gap in enforcement policies to reprimand members from all levels who may step out of the boundary of professional conduct. There is a history of harassment and “retaliation of whistle blowers, the focus groups revealed over half the staff and supervisors feel “DWP management did not take appropriate action in response to incidents of discrimination.”
McClain-Hill wanted to address the heavy air that surrounded people of color who worked for the LADWP. One of the physical molds that took shape in the department includes the establishment of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. McClain-Hill commented on its utilization by stating, “It’s a pretty large and powerful office and under that office will be recruitment, procurement, equity management, among other things—among other things, it’s a fully staffed office that will be led by someone who reports directly to the general manager.”
There numbers were transparent and revealed a true discourse happening among staff members who were people of color. 59 percent of Black survey participants witnessed discrimination, compared to only 36 percent of total survey participants witnessing discrimination, and as of May 2021, there are no Black executives in management. To learn more about the LADWP organization, head to their official website.
Board President Cynthia McClain-Hill applied pressure towards the change that needed to happen internally in the LADWP. (courtesy of LADWP)