In celebration of Women's History Month, Brunel's Nathália Starck - Regional Driver and Strategic Manager, Renewable Energy, Americas - will be doing a series of interviews spotlighting inspiring, powerful women within the Renewable Energy industry. Nathália has spent her career advocating for diversity and equity in the industry and was very excited to get to highlight the women blazing trails in the industry today.
This is her first interview of the series, featuring Shadé Ladipo - Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Manager for Capital Power - an innovative company with a growing Renewable Energy portfolio.
Meet Shadé Ladipo
Shadé Ladipo is a remarkable woman born and raised in Nigeria. She recently immigrated to Canada after years of working on TV and Radio, as an entrepreneur and as part of the World Economic Forum and United Nations. Her work today is focused on using her unique experience and powerful voice to open the door for women and other underrepresented groups in the Renewables sector.
How do you define your story and tell your story to others?
OK, so I'm Nigerian, born and bred. All my life in Nigeria. I didn’t leave Nigeria for a long time, mainly because I was born in a very middle-class home. Traveling was a luxury for us. I never had the experience of traveling when I was a kid. But I've always loved it.
I just always knew that my voice was different. Growing up, I hated my voice. I thought my voice was mass killing. People made fun of me growing up: my eyes, my voice. I was made fun of a lot.
Since university, I started on the radio; I couldn't get a job on the radio because I had no experience. So, I decided to volunteer.
I realized early enough that I could influence people, and I had a great voice after accepting it. So I started to use my voice for people and speak on behalf of underrepresented groups. So I did that a lot, and I began to structure my life around it. I started raising money for charities when I was in my first-year university, 2000 and for kids who needed surgery. That was my first way of giving back.
And then I started to do more and more. I've worked with the World Economic Forum; this is when the new opportunities began for me, allowing me to travel out of the country.
I've represented Nigeria on different levels and platforms. So at this point, part of my life allowed me to go out and see the world and meet many people, especially other Africans, which I loved; it was one of the best times in my life, meeting so many other Africans.
Then I had the opportunity to move to Canada 2 years ago, in the middle of the COVID pandemic. And it was tough. I built a wonderful life, and I had to give that up to Canada. It was a hard decision.
So that's, I guess that's why my voice is strong.
Every day I'm looking for new ways to speak for others, and I think that's why I'm on this path of diversity and inclusion.
Your passion for Diversity, Inclusion is fascinating. Why did you decide to pursue your career in the Renewable Energy industry sector?
I've worked in different sectors, and one of the sectors that have always intrigued me is the oil and gas and renewable sector because they are very male-dominated. That's the reality.
When I was working with a nonprofit in Washington DC, many of the organizations we worked with were part of the oil and gas industry. My job was basically to get more women in the supply chain. So, my work and purpose were always in this direction, working in male-dominated industries. How can I contribute to getting more women in the door?
I’m aware I have the mind of a strategist. It's something I have built over the years. So, when I decided to go into full-time diversity, inclusion, strategy, I knew I wanted to be part of this industry.
Not many people look like me, speak like me, or have lived experience. I knew I was adding value to this organization. Sometimes you have to be the one to open the door; I want to push the door open for others. So I wanted to be that person. This industry needs people like me because representation matters.Shadé Ladipo - Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Manager - Capital Power
Like most industries, Renewable Energy has challenges with gender biases and institutional barriers to Women’s Career Advancement. What do you believe it's the importance of women’s representation in the workplace?
I think it’s the mindset breakdown.
Growing up as a woman, the expectations about our possibilities are limited, framed, and put in a box. That’s why for me, representation is so important.
Not just for the industries but the individuals. All you need to see is someone doing something, and then you know what’s possible. It just shows you what can be done.
We have been told a sure thing for a long time in our lives, and we are not even conscious about it. We carry these mindsets with us, so we also have to break that barrier. It's not just for men; it’s also for women. We must be part of breaking that barrier.
As a woman, you must never forget that you are representing something because someone else is going to look at you and be inspired.
So the bias isn't just meant when we, so it's vital that we represent individuals, but also need to recognize when representation is happening and find ways to lift that.
What are the main challenges you have faced in your career, and what were the strategies to overcome them?
I think that none of my challenges are unique to me. I feel like everybody has faced something similar in my life and career.
Once you first get that out of your head, you'll find it easier to move on.
When I discovered that, it became my ultimate superpower. It’s all about acceptance, accepting who I was.
We grow up with a certain mindset of who we are supposed to be. What we're supposed to do, how we're supposed to speak…when you get to realize that, then you can decide what room you should be in. You decide how loud your voice should be. You choose where and what table you want to sit on.
Understanding that was my biggest superpower.
Acceptance, accepting who I was, who I am. No matter what comes my way, I'm OK 'because this is who I am. It’s important to understand that I'm not in my situation. I've never allowed something that happened to me to become my story. It's just something that happened to me. That's not who I am.
And that's what I've done through my life, but my biggest superpower is saying this is who I am, and I'm not going to change it for anyone. I will be a better version of myself, but I'm not going to change it. I'm not going to change my accent. I'm not going to change my name. I'm not going to try to blend in. This is it. Take it or leave it, and I'm very confident that if you leave it, I'm OK. I will find it.
What are the most effective strategies when we are thinking about gender parity in the workplace?
First, it’s going through the acceptance process. Then you start to identify your allies, identify people who resonate with your story, resonate with your work. People who understand what you're trying to achieve. Once you place those people because no man is an island, you cannot do the job alone; you must humanize the work.
I humanized every single part of my job. It sounds straightforward, but it's one of the most challenging tasks I had. It means that I have to be vulnerable. I must show my human side to get the other person to show me their human side. And it's very challenging to be vulnerable in the workplace, but it’s one of the most effective ways to get people to listen to you and not just listen but hear what you have to say.Shadé Ladipo - Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Manager - Capital Power
What do you think it's your most significant contribution to your organization today?
My most significant contribution is me. I know I don’t fit in; I never have, and it’s ok. But I know I’m a great addition to the company because I wear my heart on my sleeve. And that means that I probably will make mistakes, and you will see those mistakes.
But for me, that is part of the journey. I'm not trying to be perfect. I'm interested in you seeing a human being just trying to connect the dots. Every organization has to start taking a holistic look and understand their employees beyond their skillset to get the job done. This is gold. When people have to divide themselves and leave certain parts at home, we are missing out.
How do you leverage your strengths, embrace your flaws and use continual learning to be the best version of yourself?
Two things have helped me:
First, build your community. You have to find a community or build your community. It would help if you connected with people who have been in the industry for longer than you.
We go through a lot like women, but chances are there's someone else who's been through that same challenge or situation before you. They can show you what the next level could look like. So it's a journey. It must be intentional.
You must understand where you're going. Where do you want to go? What is your plan? Where do you see yourself in five years? Have a clear goal in your head. Then it's easier for you to identify who you need to speak with? What conversation do I need to be having? Could you write it down?
When I started in the Renewables industry, I didn’t know a lot about renewables, but I knew I needed to be in rooms with people in the industry for longer than I did. Now, I'm part of groups that.
What’s your advice to immigrant women in Canada that are currently starting a career within the Renewable Energy sector?
I'm very passionate about this topic because this is me, that's my experience. What I can say is:
-Don't doubt yourself.
-You can get the job done
-Remember what you went through to get here
- Don't let anyone or don't let anyone experience, you know, dissuade you. You tell yourself you can do it. Speak with yourself!
-Focus on yourself. Take back the narrative. You decide who you are.
-Speak to yourself every time you feel you get a rejection letter; you get a refusal letter.
-Take those emotions, put them to the side, and then ask yourself: What do I deserve?
You create your life with your words. I have magic on my inside, so you do. Practice makes perfect; don’t give up.Shadé Ladipo - Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Manager - Capital Power
Thank You to Shadé Ladipo
Thank you to Shadé Ladipo for sitting down with our Nathália Starck to discuss her life and her career as part of our Women's History Month Spotlight Series.
Nathália will be continuing her interview series throughout this month and into the months to come because fostering female representation in the industry is an important part of Brunel's Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging strategy year-round.