Carlos Lara walked into Aera’s rainbow-colored halls as it hosted a professional networking event for the LGBT+ Allies community, and he thought it was “amazing.”
As a family counselor for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, and a member of the LGBT+ community, Lara was encouraged to see Aera offering practical and fiscal support.
“[Aera is] not just caring about the money–they also want to support their people,” Lara said.
Leading the way in fostering an inclusive and diverse work environment, Aera’s LGBT+ Allies Employee Resource Group (ERG) partnered with The Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity to create a safe and exciting environment for people to exchange best practices and connect. With a live band, hors d’oeuvres, and drinks, the ERG opened Aera’s doors to the public to show how it is paving the way for employees to bring their whole selves to work.
Co-chairs of California State University, Bakersfield’s LGBTQ+ Faculty and Staff Affinity Group, Kris Grappendorf and Bre Evans-Santiago said they were excited to see a company passionate about thinking forward.
Grappendorf said the event fostered connections between community organizations, allowing people “to collaborate and share ideas about events and resources available.”
Evans-Santiago said, “The effort made for us to connect and hang out is awesome, and it’s needed. It feels comfortable, safe, and exciting. It’s a fun environment.”
Lara said, from what he saw at the event, that, “[Aera] probably has very good employees who are not distracted. [Being empowered to bring one’s whole self to work] allows the worker to do his best without distraction.”
While hosting an annual event makes an impact, Aera’s LGBT+ Allies ERG works throughout the year to ensure the company lives up to its values.
Emily Fisher, instruction coordinator of Aera’s LGBT+ Allies ERG and The Center’s president of the board of directors, shared that the ERG created a LGBT 101 course for managers and employees to appropriately address homophobic comments in the workplace, for instance.
Clayton Montgomery, a longtime Aera employee and the ERG associate chair, said that, “the inclusion and diversity messaging that used to just be an annual focus, is now written into our purpose, vision and values.”
Involving all employees, not just those identifying with the LGBT+ community, is a goal of Aera’s. Montgomery said 76 percent of LGBT 101 participants are allies.
Surveys submitted by Aera employees revealed that the ERG is making a positive impact and creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for all.
Evans-Santiago said, “[Before coming to this event] I didn’t know what Aera was, but I think it’s a bold statement…because if I were to choose a job, I would choose the one I knew had my back.”
“This is a wonderful story for Aera’s dedication to inclusion and diversity and empowering people to be able to be themselves,” Fisher said.
A friend of Fisher’s, Dani Munoz is glad to see Fisher be herself in a professional setting. Munoz added, “It gives us…a point of reference on ways to encourage other corporations to do the same thing.”
Apart from the LGBT 101 course–which 180 Aera employees and managers have voluntarily taken–the ERG attends Pride events, offers other training sessions for those in the oil industry, encourages employees to become allies, and supports The Center’s work financially and through spreading the word about community events.
As Montgomery said, “…it’s something we live.”