Making sure that everyone feels safe and welcome, regardless of their cultural background, race, sexual orientation, disabilities, age or physical characteristics. Such is the mission of Amy Keller, PPG senior diversity, equity, and inclusion partner. Amy will reveal to us the world of Employee Resource Networks, communities where employees with diverse backgrounds can feel connected and understood.
All Roads Lead to DE&I
Prior to joining us in 2019, Amy had already dedicated more than twenty years to employee development programs and advocating for underrepresented employees in her previous roles. For the past two years in PPG, she has held the position of senior diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) partner and works in our DE&I team.
In this role, she leads and develops the 8 currently existing Employee Resource Networks (ERNs).
According to Amy, a team is considered diverse when it comprises individuals from different backgrounds. Equity takes into consideration that a person’s unique circumstances requires different treament so that the end result is equal. Lastly, inclusion refers to creating an environment where all team members feel comfortable, welcome, and empowered to contribute.
Amy aligns her efforts with those of Marvin Mendoza, global head of DE&I, her colleague and leader who initiated the development of various DE&I strategies shortly after joining our company. We consistently take positive steps towards fostering an inclusive and diverse workplace, but recognize the need for continuous growth and improvement.
Amy further reveals that the current focus is on enhancing global female representation, while simultaneously working to improve Black, Latino, and Asian representation across the United States. Additionally, efforts are being made to foster a culture of inclusion that benefits all employees on a global scale.
Amy during Mama's Boys exhibit with the Black Employee Network (BEN) members and with Emmy Award winner, Emmai Alaquiva, at the August Wilson Cultural Center
Employee Resource Networks: The Extended Families
The primary means to achieve all these goals are the aforementioned ERNs: communities that offer our employees from diverse backgrounds an environment where they can express their opinions, feel connected, and be understood.
"Our aim is to empower our employees to make a difference, not only in terms of their careers but also in representing their unique identities."
Joining an ERN does not entail any commitments. Members are free to express themselves or simply choose to listen. During the meetups, whether held in person or online, the focus is on specific individuals or leaders sharing their stories.
This is when the magic happens! You can see the spark in their eyes as they listen, and you feel the emotions and connections people forge with one another.
ERNs have hosted numerous inspiring and well-known speakers who have shared their stories with local leaders and employees. Amy has also played a role in establishing partnerships between the ERNs and organizations that focus on different activities supportive of minorities, such as bringing veterans to the workplace, helping people of all races build careers and relationships and more.
Listening to stories and having the opportunity to share their own experiences helps individuals who have felt marginalized. In such cases, "there's a sense of not being able to afford mistakes. There's this pressure to always perform at your best." This can lead to situations where employees feel uncomfortable revealing their true selves or contributing their ideas.
ERNs are designed to minimize such situations. However, according to Amy, what is one step any employee, but especially leaders can take to create an inclusive workspace?
Be courageous. By this, I mean being comfortable with not knowing everything, being willing to learn, and reflect on your own personal biases.
Balancing Between Two Worlds
Amy's own diverse background and history are what brought her to the topics of inclusion and equality in the first place. Being the first generation of her Vietnamese family to be born in America, she has stood on the border between two different cultures from the very beginning.
"On one hand, I was pressured to assimilate quickly. On the other, Asians are perceived as a model minority. Everyone expects you to excel in math. There are all these positive, yet misleading clichés that people tend to adhere to."
Amy's beliefs regarding inclusivity and diversity also extend to her family life, as she is a wife and a mother of two daughters. She emphasizes the importance of challenging stereotypes to her daughters, encouraging them to express their ideas while respecting the opinions of others.
I don't want them to feel like they have to fit a mold. Not every girl has to grow up to be a princess!
Staying true to her words, Amy actively encourages and supports her daughters in their individual hobbies of softball and theater, because "appreciating everyone's uniqueness is what really makes the world a better place."