“My job is to make sure every employee knows they matter, and that they belong here,” says Adrienne Lawson, PRIDE’s Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Compliance. Adrienne joined PRIDE in November, and already she has led several initiatives to help employees connect with others across departments and geographic locations. In this brief interview, we asked Adrienne to tell us about PRIDE’s new programs for employees.
PRIDE: You’ve been at PRIDE for about three months now. How has it gone for you?
Adrienne: Wonderful. I knew I was going to like it here—the mission is so important—but the warm welcome I’ve gotten from everyone I’ve encountered here has exceeded my expectations. PRIDE employees really are special. And because everyone I’ve worked with has been so forthcoming, I’ve been able to assess PRIDE’s needs relatively quickly and come up with a game plan for promoting diversity and inclusion here at PRIDE.
PRIDE: And what is your game plan? What are your top three priorities right now?
Adrienne: Right now, I’m launching our Diversity Advisory Council, as well as supporting the current Employee Resource Groups and working to create new ones. PRIDE’s senior leadership has also made mentoring a priority, and that’s driving the development of what we’re currently calling the Mentoring Academy.
PRIDE: Let’s take those one at a time. What’s a Diversity Advisory Council? And how does it help PRIDE and its employees?
Adrienne: PRIDE’s Diversity Advisory Council (DAC) is an interprofessional team of 15 people from across the various PRIDE locations. The DAC will play an important role at PRIDE, providing feedback and support to the executive team on potential policies and initiatives that support PRIDE’s inclusive culture. The DAC gives a voice to women and underrepresented groups. Its members will work together to publicize initiatives and promote programs that create a safe and welcoming workplace for everyone at PRIDE.
PRIDE: Some might say that’s a tall order.
Adrienne: It is. And it’s important. In the same way that societies must resolve their underlying structural issues, companies do too. Sixty percent of PRIDE’s employees have a disability, so inclusion is part of our DNA. We have a long history of supporting individuals; we know how to do that. Now we need to increase our efforts to truly make progress in supporting all types of diversity. The Diversity Advisory Council must push diversity on all fronts: gender, race, age, nationality, sexual orientation and—of course—ability. The fact is, progress for one will lift everybody, creating a more inclusive mindset and removing obstacles.
Addressing these issues directly benefits PRIDE, because the success of our teammates drives the success of our business. When our teams feel supported and inspired, they turn that creativity into innovation to support the mission and meet our goals. PRIDE is at its best when every member of our team feels respected, included, and heard—when everyone can show up as themselves and do their best work every day.
PRIDE: Another one of your initiatives is the expansion of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). What are those?
Adrienne: ERGs are employee-led groups that serve several purposes vital to PRIDE’s success. These groups offer employees an opportunity to network, address common issues and concerns, and receive support from those who share similar backgrounds, experiences, or interests. They’re a great forum for exchanging ideas and for mentoring. This makes ERGs an important tool for retaining employees, and as any business knows, employee retention is vital to success.
PRIDE: What if someone would like to join an ERG, but doesn’t see one that represents their group?
Adrienne: There are two answers to this question. First, I’m always available and interested in helping employees start a new ERG when there’s interest. Second, an employee can join a group with which they have an affinity, even if that group doesn’t describe them directly. They may have family members who belong to those groups, for example, or may simply want to expand their horizons and learn more about others.
PRIDE: What ERGs are currently available?
Adrienne: We have ERGs for veterans and women, and the people with disabilities ERG just opted to change their name to People of Possibilities (POP), as it more accurately reflects their lived reality. Right now, I’m also helping to launch a Millennial ERG and an African American one. I’m also hopeful that there will be interest in a LatinX ERG and one for LGBTQ+ people. If anyone is interested in an ERG or would like to know where they fit, please do not hesitate to contact me.
PRIDE: You mentioned that ERGs—in addition to many other objectives—will also serve a mentoring role. So, then what is the role of the Mentoring Academy?
Adrienne: The Mentoring Academy will have a more specific mission than the ERGs. The Academy’s goal is to support a culture of mentoring here at PRIDE, so that staff can reach their full potential, and we can foster interconnectedness across the company. Studies have shown that mentoring has a positive impact on both employee retention and career progression, and that of course helps advance PRIDE’s mission.
The company has made a great start with its NextGEN program. Now we’d like to expand mentoring to people throughout the company, in as inclusive a way as possible. The Mentoring Academy is still taking shape, and I’ll be looking to the Diversity Advisory Council for their input on this, since I want to make sure that we reach out to everyone who feels they could benefit from having a mentor.
PRIDE: Are there any new policies you think PRIDE employees should know about?
Adrienne: There are no new policies at this time, but I’d like folks to know that the Equal Employment Opportunity policy has been updated with more inclusive language. Additionally, PRIDE has a Trans policy and a Disability and Accommodations policy that will be reviewed by the Diversity Advisory Council, so there could be some updates there as well.
PRIDE: Your work here at PRIDE was recognized recently in an article in HR Daily. How did it feel to realize that the work you’re doing here has gained recognition beyond the company?
Adrienne: It was gratifying, of course. I’m like everyone else—I appreciate the pat on the back. But more importantly, I was glad that I got to share some of what we’re doing here at PRIDE. I’d like to think that I’ve helped inspire another company to give one of our approaches a try and help their employees too.