Opening doors: a conversation with Kelly Thompson
During Pride Month, we sat down with PrideMatters employee resource group (ERG) member and compliance associate, Kelly Thompson, to learn about her personal journey at AlixPartners, her work externally with the LGBTQ community, and how other organizations can further develop their own LGBTQ programs.
What measures does AlixPartners take to support its LGBTQ employees?
AlixPartners supports its LGBTQ community in many ways, which has been exciting to watch over the past couple of years. Implementing the employee resource groups (ERGs) was an incredible first step, as it let the AlixPartners’ LGBTQ community know that they are being heard and supported. Having a say in policies, procedures and community events local to the cause is really empowering for employees. Achieving a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index was also a huge step. I was able to see what went into that application process, and it wasn’t simple. They asked for a lot of detail and a great deal of work went into that application. As a result, not only did we achieve a perfect score the first time out, we also made significant LGBTQ-friendly updates to policies and procedures.
Lastly, the visit and donation to the onePULSE foundation as a result of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida was such a moving experience and I was so grateful to be a part of that.
Kelly and colleagues participate in the "Harvey Milk & Cookies" event in AlixPartners' Detroit office.
How did AlixPartners celebrate Pride Month in your local office?
We celebrated Pride Month in Detroit by hosting the Harvey Milk & Cookies event Harvey Milk was a fascinating figure in US politics and while helping with this event, I learned a lot about him. His spirit and drive as the first openly gay person to hold office in the US really helped pave the way for more inclusive policies and practices to be adopted by this country. Sharing that information with others in our office (in addition to having an excuse to have yummy cookies and chocolate milk!) was very moving and thoughtful.
What has been your personal journey within AlixPartners?
I’ve been here 10 years this August, all as part of the Legal/Compliance/Risk Management group. I may be biased but I truly believe the Legal team has the most fun! From potlucks, crazy pictures, popcorn burning, trivia games, and holiday gift exchanges, we have so much fun that folks often ask to be named honorary members of the team. The mantra ‘work hard, play hard” is very true for us.
I got involved with PrideMatters right from the start, as this cause is very special to me. My daughter and I both identify as bisexual and I have many close friends who fall under the LGBTQ spectrum. Bringing your “whole authentic self” to work is such a crucial part of one’s journey and knowing that AlixPartners supports that for us is really important. I am a member of all the ERGs, even those I don’t technically identify as. I helped plan an Asian ERG Lunar New Year lunch in the Detroit office, even though I have no Asian ancestry, and it was a great learning experience! It’s important to support other groups, be their ally, and educate yourself on the issues they face so you can help them and learn from them. Our ERGs are set up so that you can participate at whatever level you want, whether that’s just reading emails, attending events, or helping to plan them. Participation = education and that’s key.
In addition to your role within AlixPartners, how else are you working on behalf of the LGBTQ community externally?
I have volunteered at Affirmations, the local LGBTQ community center in Ferndale, and am looking for more opportunities with them. They are very close to my home and they do such fantastic work. Last year, AlixPartners sent a few of the PrideMatters leaders to Out & Equal Summit, an annual conference exploring and promoting the best ways to make businesses more LGBTQ-friendly. I learned so much and deeply connected with others in the LGBTQ community. I connected with a woman from Bank of America and we have been approved to present a panel at this year’s Out & Equal Summit in October. I’m so excited and honored to be able to present and am grateful to AlixPartners for that opportunity.
Kelly and colleagues attend the Out & Equal Summit in Philadelphia.
What do you enjoy the most about working at AlixPartners?
The people. Hands down, they are the best part of this job. I’ve never laughed so hard at a job before. This job is not easy but having people you trust and can laugh with makes it so much better. I have met some incredible people at AlixPartners, many of whom I regularly stay connected with outside of work, and even travel to visit them for fun!
What advice would you offer organizations that are in earlier stages of building their own LGBTQ programs?
Ask other companies! We had a call with one of the folks from GM’s LGBTQ ERG when we first started, and it proved to be so helpful. We didn’t know what we didn’t know, and we got a lot of resources out of that call. Also, ask your employees. They are the ones you are doing this for – find out what they’ve done at other places, or what they want to see. And, get management involved from the beginning. Executive sponsorship of your program is key.