By Tammy Young, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of human resources
Over the last several years, conversations about race relations, educational and pay equity, marriage equality, income inequality and social justice have dominated the headlines.
These important themes have made their way from the airwaves to corporate boardrooms to dinner conversations and into our culture. Seattle musicians Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have attracted attention—both support and criticism—with their release of White Privilege II earlier this year. At the center of these topics is the concept of inclusion, whether all people “truly belong,” and if we’re each given an equal chance to succeed.
This month in particular, as we join our customers, our employees and our communities in celebrating Pride Month, it’s important for us to continue these conversations and remember why they started. We celebrate pride each year to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots – a tipping point in the gay liberation movement, and an event that set the course for the ongoing fight for LGBT rights here in the United States.
We’ve come a long way – I’m proud to live in a country that recognizes marriage for ALL couples. I’m also proud to work for a CEO who has been on the record time and again about his support for LGBT rights, from speaking out for marriage equality to urging the Boy Scouts to reverse its policy on gay scouts and scout leaders. But, there is still more work to be done. Even today, only 22 states protect against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and only 19 on the basis of gender identity.
As a company, we’ve worked hard to create a culture of inclusion for our employees and customers alike. This year we received – for the fifth year in a row – a perfect score of 100 percent on the 2016 Corporate Equality Index, a national report on LGBT workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. We’re a proud supporter of LGBT equality both in the workplace and in our communities.
This is why we’re committed to showing our pride this month, and every month. Beginning June 6, and throughout the summer pride season, we’re partnering with Uber to each donate $1 to the It Gets Better Project for every tweet, Facebook post or Instagram post tagged with #LoveMovesUs, up to a total of $28,000. We’re also participating in pride celebrations up and down the West Coast. Look for Alaska Airlines street teams at pride events in Anchorage, Alaska, Portland, Oregon, Honolulu, San Diego and Palm Springs, California.
In our home town of Seattle, we’ll be celebrating with our employees, customers and friends at events around the city throughout the month of June. Look for us at the Seattle Pride Parade, pride parties at Sun Liquor and the Baltic Room, GSBA events and Seattle Men’s Chorus performances.
We have a long history of supporting the LGBT community and regularly participate in events such as the Business Journals’ “Business of Pride,” celebrating business leaders who are also leaders in equality in San Francisco and Seattle, and HRC events here in Seattle.
To show our continued support we are encouraging the LGBT community to travel, not only to Seattle, but to pride events and gay-friendly destinations all over the country.
With that aim, we have put together a section of our site to highlight destinations that support marriage equality, pride celebrations, and other events of interest to the LGBT community. Learn more at alaskaair.com/gaytravel.
But we’re not stopping with pride. We’re committed to continuing the conversation about inclusion in the workplace, and we’ve started with our leaders.
Earlier this year, more than 1,000 leaders of our front-line and back-office workforce participated in an intensive session titled “Inclusive Leadership—Lead It, Own It, Drive It.” They participated in groups of 100 at a time. And, as I can personally attest, they were fully engaged throughout the seven-hour experience.
This was not an easy undertaking for those who participated. Through conversation, self-reflection and experiential learning, our leaders challenged their own, and each other’s, core beliefs and assumptions about race, gender, sexual orientation, social status and more.
We invested time exploring the concept of bias— specifically that we see and judge the world and others through our own unique lenses, and that our biases are shaped by personal histories, including where and how we grew up, and the advantages or disadvantages we’ve each faced.
“We need our leaders to be truly leading, owning and driving a culture in which every member of our team can speak up. … ”
Another focus of this session was a discussion on the importance of positive intent. As we advance on our inclusion journey together, we may misstep or say the wrong thing. For some, that’s a scary thing and can keep them from even starting the conversation. It’s important that we grant each other some grace along the way. Macklemore put it perfectly in a recent NPR interview: “I’m stepping into the conversation, I’m learning, I’m trying to read, I’m trying to engage. I’m going to make mistakes along the way. …”
Why do we spend time on inclusion? Because we need our leaders to be truly leading, owning and driving a culture in which every member of our team can speak up, fully participate and succeed. And in turn, we need every employee engaging with you, our customers, in a way that you feel valued, too.
Learn more about Alaska’s commitment to an inclusive workplace in our most recent corporate sustainability report.