Cultivating a culture of belonging and connection is a prime focus at Alaska Airlines. Whether it’s safely connecting people across the world or within our company through employee-led Business Resource Groups (BRGs), we are committed to creating an equitable workplace for all.
BRGs offer a haven for employees to champion the diverse workforce we have within our wings while engaging, educating and uplifting us as a whole, making our business, culture and communities better. Groups dedicate their free time to share similar interests, give back to communities and provide professional development and support. They also help inform important business decisions where relevant and deliver on our goals.
Air Group Black Employees, Allies and Advocates, or ABEA, is a space for Black employees—and all people of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, our regional airline—to be themselves, lead and thrive and educate others on critical issues that can drive diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
DeMarco Best, one of the founding members of ABEA and duty manager of simulator operations in Seattle, says in the 25 years he’s been with the company, Alaska has made enormous strides when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. However, he admits, there’s still a lot of work needed to advance racial equity within our organization and the airline industry as a whole.
Recently Air Group announced its commitment to advance racial equity with goals for representation, inclusive culture and public leadership.
“People ask, ‘what does success look like?’ It’s so hard to quantify success when you know this is a journey we’re always going to be on,” said Best. “If we can get to a place of mutual understanding that we need to move beyond just tolerating each other and see the goodness our differences make, this company will be successful—in so many ways we’re better because we’re different.”
Holding space for hard conversations.
Black employees have been navigating systemic racism their entire lives and, in the past year, the disproportionate effects of COVID-19. Immediately following the tragic death of George Floyd, ABEA organized listening sessions for employees and leaders to come together across the company—prioritizing recovery and resilience, both from an organizational and personal perspective.
“There was so much energy from our employees and allies to take action and do more, so we harnessed that as an opportunity to have open and critical dialogue with peers and leaders to listen to understand and respond in a meaningful way,” said Sarah Keimig, ABEA leader and Seattle lounge manager.
From these sessions came a lot of hard conversations, incredible moments and realizations.
“Just in the past year, we have learned so much together and created more resounding change, so employees feel empowered, supported, and heard,” Keimig said. “We will continue being the driving force and voice among our leaders when we say that this is what our people need right now.”
Today, about 10% of Alaska and Horizon employees belong to one or more of our BRGs, which include Air Group Black Employees, Allies and Advocates, Accessibility Group, Air Group Pan-Asian, AAG Military Group, GLOBE (Alaska’s LGBTQ+ Group), Green Team, Latin Culture Resource Group, Native Employee Network Group, Pacific Islander Alliance, Women’s Interactive Networking Group, AAG Women in Tech. Our goal is to continue to increase the membership of our BRGs as a way to drive connection, foster inclusion and support employees.