Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Sharene Pierce


Sharene Pierce pictures

Sharene Pierce joined Duke Energy as an engineering intern while  in college, marking the best summer work experience she ever had. “I love to tell people I started with the company as a college kid in 2002 and I have been here ever since.”  

In December, the Winston-Salem native was named chief diversity and inclusion officer. While serving in various operating roles, Pierce says she also was fully engaged in diversity and inclusion for the past 17 years as a trainer, mentor and champion of various groups.

“We pursue a strategy that integrates diversity and inclusion into everything we do,” according to the company’s most recent sustainability report. “This goes beyond gender. It includes diversity of thought, work and life experiences, perspectives and cultures.” 

The Charlotte-based utility says it is making greater outreach to historically Black colleges and universities, while committing more than $8 million to social justice and racial equity causes since 2020.  

In 2021, the company said 34% of its new hires were people of color, while 35% were female. That reflected the company’s most diverse recruiting year to date. The company had about 27,600 employees at the end of 2021, about 1,040 fewer than two years earlier.

About 21% of Duke’s leadership jobs were held by women as of 2021, while nearly 14% of those jobs are racially and ethnically diverse staffers. Among vice presidents or above, women held 28% of the posts while people of color had 17%.

Pierce earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at N.C. State University and is working on an MBA from Wake Forest University. 

She cites a five-year stint as account executive for the city of Raleigh, Wake County government and public schools,  and other key employers as her most impactful, life-changing role. “The opportunity to combine my technical engineering knowledge with my love for people and communication was a golden opportunity,” she says. 

In another job as general manager of grid management, she was responsible for about 60 engineers and technicians who monitor substations and power lines in seven states. And she served as vice president of engineering for the distribution grid in the western Carolinas. She was the top engineer for a department of more than 400 employees.

Pierce gives particular credit to her mentor, former Duke executive Hilda Pinnix-Ragland. “She was generous with her time and our relationship evolved over the years into something I will always cherish.” The mentoring relationship  is cited in Pinnix-Ragland’s book, The Energy Within Us: An Illuminating Perspective from Five Trailblazers.

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