The Avery Dennison Black Employee Resource Group (BERG), launched in 2018, was founded by employees with a mission to promote Avery Dennison’s value of diversity by driving greater inclusion of self-identified African American/Black employees across the organization. The group’s primary focus is on building a strong support network, bridging cultural gaps and creating allies with all employees.
We spoke with BERG co-chairs Jennifer Hairston, Corporate Environmental, Health & Safety Engineer, and Miguel Solivan, Global Product Manager, to understand the value the group brings to the company and to our employees.
What is the importance of this Employee Resource Group (ERG) to you?
Miguel: BERG is important to me because it gives us an opportunity to openly discuss issues we face unique to our race. Our ability to have an open dialogue in a safe space is how we will make a difference in our company and in our communities. I’ve learned more about myself and my heritage from these dialogues, and I’ve been told by other members of the resource group how much of an impact these conversations have had on them.
Jennifer: BERG has given me a chance to celebrate our culture. Last year, we celebrated Juneteenth, a holiday that recognizes the end of slavery in the United States—which occured two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Being able to share my culture and what my family celebrates with my colleagues and friends has been rewarding and allowed them to get to know our community better.
What key topics and activities do the members of this ERG discuss and advocate for?
Miguel: BERG advocates for racial equality and for ERG inclusion at every Avery Dennison site –be it an office, manufacturing plant, or distribution center. We champion being comfortable with identifying what makes us different so we can discuss the other factors that make us similar. We want our members and allies to be stewards of bringing diversity and inclusion to Avery Dennison.
How does this ERG help further Avery Dennison’s values of diversity and inclusion?
Jennifer: BERG supports business initiatives related to the recruitment, engagement and retention of African American/Black employees. Our Recruitment Committee has worked with the Talent Acquisition group to help recruit at several career fairs, reviewed Avery Dennsion’s referral program during general member meetings, and is planning to mentor interns in the fall.
Our program teams create awareness around issues that impact engagement or inclusion of African American/Black employees. Programs like our Color Brave Series, held as a virtual lunch-and-learn format, provide participants with an opportunity to interact and learn about the experiences and perspectives of individuals with various backgrounds and experiences.
Miguel: We have also hosted activities for members, both African American and allies, to learn from each other, teach each other and offer a safe place to have open and honest dialog. These sessions and conversations are helping to create a sense of belonging and an increased level of engagement and are inspiring our members to leverage their creative energy to collaborate across functions, businesses and regions to drive results within our company, and ultimately our nation.
What is the main goal for this ERG in 2021?
Miguel: BERG plans to increase our membership engagement. With most of our office-based organization working remotely right now, it’s easy to lose sight of networking opportunities within our ERG.
We especially want to increase our engagement with the shop floor employees. We can see the impact that diversity has on this part of our employee base and they are eager to learn and drive change. I had the opportunity to host a session with two employees from our operations team who had very different mindsets going into our conversation than when they left. Our ability to talk and understand each others’ backgrounds made me appreciate how far Avery Dennison has come on our diversity journey in a relatively short period of time.
What is a memorable success story you can share about how this ERG is making a difference in our employees’ personal or professional lives?
Jennifer: BERG sponsored a series of educational sessions on a variety of topics from the black community. We called it the “Color Brave” series and each session was led by a different BERG member and was open to anyone within Avery Dennison. Our sessions ranged from a discussion on the meaning and importance of natural hair in the workplace to the topic of privilege. The energy and the commitment to engaging with us from our colleagues was uplifting, and we were very excited to see how these sessions challenged people to look at these topics in a different light.
Miguel: As I said earlier, the opportunities to share our stories and experiences with our colleagues has made the biggest impact on others and myself. I am truly grateful for the honor and ability to share with my colleagues and I can’t wait for our new members to join us on this journey.