The COVID-19 pandemic has up-ended many things in the community—jobs, businesses both large and small, schools. But, as a testament to our community’s can-do attitude, it has also spawned new ideas and new groups.
In fact, the pandemic was a wake-up call for Carol Chien, Program Operations Analyst in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area, and Janie Pinterits, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Program Manager, who learned about some Asian and Pacific Islanders who experienced xenophobia as the pandemic began to spread in the U.S.
As Carol said, “We wanted there to be a safe environment for Asian and Pacific Islanders at the Lab in the event that they experienced any troubling situations. We had discussed the creation of an Asian and Pacific Islander Employee Resource Group (API ERG) before, but the attacks in the community really got us moving forward.”
The first step was to connect with the Asian Employee Activity Associations (EAAs) at the Lab about the idea, and to see what questions they have about a potential API ERG. One question was what the difference was between an ERG and an EAA. Janie explained that while both EAAs and ERGs offer affinity and build community, ERGs are often organized around traits or characteristics of underrepresented groups, for example, ethnicity or race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or veteran status. ERGs partner with Executive Sponsors from senior leadership, establish annual charters, and incorporate personal and career development goals. Importantly, ERGs also serve as resources for the Lab by assisting in fully integrating IDEA into the Lab’s day-to-day business practices through strategic initiatives and policy-related goals.
It turned out that many had already been thinking about an API ERG, and thought it was a good idea. Carol and Janie started asking people, including the Asian EAA leaders, if they would be interested in working on the creation of the API ERG, and the idea began to grow.
“We wanted to help build an inclusive community at the Lab,” said Carol.
By early summer, Carol and seven other people—who eventually became the ERG’s initial steering committee members—had raised their hands to help get the API ERG going: Massie Ballon, Ruby Barcklay, Madelyn Bello, Aditi Chakravarty, Tina Clarke, Lida Gifford, and Alex Kim.
The group got together in July to draft a vision and mission statement, which was informed by the mission statements of the other ERGs at the Lab.
We visualize our Lab community as a place in which API members can bring their whole selves to work and be valued and receive support to reach their fullest potential; a diverse community that affirms the contributions of and supports each individual; a community that celebrates each other and stands up for each other.
The Asian and Pacific Islander Employee Resource Group is committed to:
- Ensuring API employees have access to the support and capacity building they need to reach their fullest potential,
- Sharing and raising awareness about issues facing API employees and the community at large,
- Educating the Lab community about rich and varied cultures encompassed by API heritage,
- Partnering with other ERGs to ensure equity of opportunity and recognition for all,
- Serving as a resource for the wider Lab community to further the IDEA effort,
- Standing in solidarity against racial inequity and discrimination in all forms within our Lab community and working to build an environment that provides equal respect and opportunity for all.
Once these were written, it was time to get input from the broader community. The committee planned a virtual kickoff event in mid-August to get feedback on the vision and mission and to brainstorm ways to implement the fledgling API ERG’s mission.
LAUNCHING A NEW ERG
On August 13, the steering committee members, along with Janie Pinterits and Kelly Perce from the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability (IDEA) Office, waited with bated breath to see if anyone would turn up. And turn up they did. Forty-seven people from 22 divisions attended the hour-long event. In an interactive session (buoyed by lively music by Bruno Mars, who is part Filipino, and Journey, whose new lead singer Arnel Pineda is Filipino), the Lab community contributed lots of ideas on activities for the fledgling group. View the presentation from the API ERG kickoff event.
The group also selected its first officers: Carol Chien and Madelyn Bello as Co-Chairs, Alex Kim and Tina Clarke as Chief Administrative Officers, and Lida Gifford and Ruby Barcklay as Chief Membership and Communications Officers. Aditi Chakravarty and Massie Ballon are Steering Committee Members-at-Large.
“Our next two steps are to find an Executive Sponsor and finalize our vision and mission Statements. We also want to continue the momentum from our kick-off meeting with community building activities,” said Madelyn.
To facilitate community building for the Lab’s socially-distanced, shelter-at-home workforce, the ERG has created a Google Chat room; participants have already been contributing to threads about movies, books, and cultural activities.
The ERG is also planning a Thanksgiving-themed event on November 17, at which members will share how different cultures give thanks. Additional activities being considered include virtual presentations by speakers from museums and the community, leadership development, Asian-themed movie and book clubs, and other social events.
“Many ERGs start with events and activities that strengthen the community,” said Madelyn. “We are off to a great start, and look forward to more members and exciting events in the next months.”
To join the API ERG and/or other ERGs, fill out the membership registration form on the Lab’s ERG website.