Under Gray’s leadership, A+E has supercharged its strategies with all-encompassing results—communication was the key. She advanced additional employee resource groups and established monthly internal-led town hall discussions as open, honest, educational forums for listening and feedback. Every step of the way, she collaborated with employees to ensure transparent participation. She also spearheaded the first-ever Diversity Advisory Council with employee subcommittees, setting DEI goals from talent recruitment and retention to vendor choices. And in 2020, Gray was instrumental in creating “Voices Magnified,” an ongoing A+E Networks multi-platform campaign highlighting changemakers who are uniting people and finding solutions to social justice issues. She did it all with empathy at the center. “No matter how thorny an issue may be, there is a trust that builds up when you know someone will always tell it like it is and be timely about it, while at the same time acknowledging you and how you may be feeling,” she says.
My best advice for fostering open, honest communication…
Lead with empathy, be clear and direct and remember that difficult conversations only get more difficult the longer they linger unaddressed. No matter how thorny an issue may be, there is a trust that builds up when you know someone will always tell it like it is and be timely about it, while at the same time acknowledging you and how you may be feeling. While it helps to have built a relationship beforehand, I am always amazed how a relationship can build, even with people you may not often be in contact with, just through knowing that they will always speak truth respectfully and be open to hearing what you have to say in return.
Best initiative to come out of one of your company’s Employee Resource Groups?
In the past year and a half, we have really leaned into establishing our Employee Resource Groups. They are all doing some really great work, and one that really stands out is our Open Minds group. This group was formed early in the pandemic by one of our employees, Andrew Cannizzaro, to create a culture of stigma-free support for A+E employees managing mental health challenges. The group holds focused bi-weekly sessions for employees which may range from topics such as the rise of anti-Asian violence and the effects of Anti-Semitism on mental health to sessions with our health care provider on mental health support resources. Open Minds also has hosted a town hall for all of A+E on breaking through the stigma that can surround mental health in the workplace. I am incredibly impressed by the work of this group as it leads in this key area of importance.
How have you been a champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion?
Let me begin by saying I had the good fortune of walking into an organization with a history of supporting issues around DEI – one great example being the work of our Lifetime brand in ensuring greater representation of women behind the camera. I also work for a President and Chairman, Paul Buccieri, for whom a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace is a must have – not just a nice idea. I think what I bring to the table is a fierce determination to make change and support those who also have a passion for making change. We have a passionate group of employees who have been working hard behind the scenes to continue to grow our DEI efforts in all areas — from ensuring we have diversity in whom we do business with as a company — to how we treat each other within the company. I make sure that we are giving these employees the space to help us grow while working with Paul to set our overall DEI strategy and, at the same time, ensuring that we have the KPIs in place that will allow us to truly measure how we are doing.