Diversity Initiatives

ORNL has instituted numerous initiatives designed to build and maintain a welcoming and inclusive workplace. The initiatives include:

 Laboratory Director communications

The Laboratory Director regularly utilizes communication methods to discuss important topics including diversity and has hosted listening sessions with all directorates. The director offers open-door hours and an email for a 24/7 capability for staff to reach out with comments and questions.

Expanded diversity on the leadership team

Our recent Reimagining ORNL effort afforded the Laboratory the opportunity to build a top team with increased representation of women and minorities.

Diversity and Inclusion Council

ORNL’s newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Council (D&I Council) advises Laboratory leadership on institutional gaps, opportunities, issues, trends, and progress related to diversity and helps identify near-term actions and develop long-term strategies related to diversity. D&I Council membership includes executive-level leaders who consult with managers in departments across the Laboratory to address diversity in our workforce and in our contracts, small business, and technology transfer relationships.

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“Science and technology can help us overcome the many complex challenges we face as a nation and around the world in the 21st century. Therefore, it is imperative that ORNL have the best minds working on these challenges in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment.”

ORNL Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan – April 1, 2021

Regular surveys

ORNL collects data on recent staff experiences and views, ensuring that Laboratory initiatives align with actual and perceived institutional needs. Surveys allow for a five-stage process that includes discovery, gap analysis, action planning, communication and execution, and continuous improvement.

Mentor-Protégé Program initiative

Co-developed with the DOE Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, this initiative recently awarded a Mentor-Protégé Agreement to a mid-level small business. The ORNL Deputy for Operations is the Laboratory’s champion.

Professional Development Path program

ORNL’s new program spans the entire employment life cycle and builds a strong DEI culture into each phase with modules addressing DEI topics. The new program joins established employee development programs, including Management Boot Camp and Developing Leadership Potential. In addition, the Laboratory requires all managers and supervisors to take training on sexual harassment prevention and EEO, diversity, and discrimination so they understand their responsibility for creating respectful workplace behavior.

Outreach programs

ORNL has long sought to engage our region’s small businesses with subcontracting agreements and mentorship opportunities and technology firms interested in licensing our scientific advancements as new technology solutions. We have strong, thoughtfully developed programs through which we engage K–12 students to learn about science; for example, our Traveling Science Fair program gives students the opportunity to interact with carnival-style exhibits that showcase a range of scientific research fields and future job opportunities. We also nurture relationships with organizations that enable us to recruit diverse students such as Project GRAD, the National GEM Consortium, and minority- and Hispanic-serving institutions.

Spanish-speaking video series

Designed to connect directly with Spanish-speaking groups ranging from middle and high school students to postdocs and full-time researchers, this outreach effort aims to show Latinx individuals how they can make a difference at ORNL.

Return to work internships

Answering a national trend, ORNL is initiating an internship program designed to help individuals who have taken time off from work to return to full-time employment.

Remote recruitment of new employees

Hiring teams have stepped up to the challenge of interviewing via teleconferences.

Virtual employee training

ORNL has met the training and development needs of staff during work from home with access to LinkedIn Learning.

Virtual internships

ORNL has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with virtual internships, partnering with groups including the National GEM Consortium, Jump into STEM, and American Physical Society’s IGEN Bridge program.

Employee mental and behavioral health

ORNL’s Wellness staff have customized programs typically offered in person for all-virtual delivery, continuing the vital wellness support the Laboratory gives to employees. A check-in survey allowed staff to share how pandemic-related changes to their work and work environment were affecting them.