As a member of all six of Piedmont’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), Human Resources Manager Tracey Byrns believes the more she learns about the differences in others, the more she evolves into the best version of herself. “I joined all the ERGs to be an active ally and show my support from a personal and professional perspective,” shares Tracey. “As a human resources leader, I take what I learn from the ERGs and apply it to my everyday work; and share what I learn about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) with my young daughter at home.”
Growing up in a suburb of Buffalo, New York, Tracey admits she saw very little diversity. After moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she experienced a more diverse environment, which encouraged her to embrace and celebrate it.
As part of her role, Tracey develops monthly HR Briefings and encourages and highlights the importance of DEI at every opportunity. She believes that in order to maintain our company culture, we need more people involved in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, which includes our ERGs. “To help foster a truly inclusive and diverse culture, we must have buy-in from all team members, not just ERG members,” says Tracey. “ERGs are a vehicle to get important conversations going.”
She says personally it feels good to be included at Piedmont. “From a professional perspective, the company can better retain our workforce when people feel appreciated and included and don’t feel like their differences separate them, but instead bring them together.” To be an effective leader, Tracey is inspired by the ERGs to amplify those voices around her to help promote understanding and decrease bias.
Tracey’s daughter was five years old when she learned about the death of George Floyd from a news program. “It was difficult to talk to her about it and I had to find a resource to explain to her what happened,” said Tracey. “I felt unprepared because growing up, my family didn’t talk about systemic racism. I bought a children’s book about racism which helped me shape the conversation. As a parent, I’m no longer going to be responsive; I want to take a proactive approach with my children on conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Earlier this year, Tracey also learned that her child’s school wasn’t actively celebrating Black History Month which was disappointing yet inspired her to be creative, so her daughter still had to opportunity to learn about it. She took it upon herself to create a YouTube playlist of videos where children’s books about black history were read aloud. Every Friday during Black History Month, she sat down with her daughter to watch the videos together and talk about what they learned. “My daughter expressed wanting to support her friends who were different than her and her diverse community. She chose to support the Black Lives Matter movement and used her allowance to donate to the cause. I matched her donation and we donated together.”
In June, one of her daughter’s friend’s mothers approached Tracey and told her that her daughter had taught her family about the importance of Juneteenth and was surprised that her seven-year-old daughter knew what it was. Tracey says that having her daughter share what she learns with others about diversity, equity and inclusion is an amazing feeling.
Tracey shares that to be part of an ERG, you don’t have to fit what the ERG group title is. “For example, to be part of the Black Professionals Network, you don’t have to be a black professional to join and I want our team members to understand that. Allies who want to learn and be part of the conversation are encouraged to join. I’ve learned so much about myself and others by being engaged in ERGs. I want to be an advocate for people as an HR leader, raise children that I’m proud of, and also feel that I’m doing the right thing by working toward positive change and understanding for all.”
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