Commerce has PRIDE for LGBTQIA+ team members
In 2019, the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) leaders at Commerce Bank were interested in establishing a new employee resource group (ERG) for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, agender, asexual, and ally team members, but they hadn’t yet found people to lead the effort. As it happened, they didn’t have to look for long.
Lacy Haden-Peaches, a product manager at the time and now senior DEI program manager, was curious whether just such an ERG existed. She approached Derrick Nelson, then the Vice President, Manager Inclusion and Diversity, to inquire. “It was sort of a ‘funny you should ask’ moment,” Lacy Haden-Peaches says, “because they had a lot of things in place but needed someone to champion the creation of an official ERG. I said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
Haden-Peaches says it was an ideal fit for her to be a driving force in the new LGBTQIA+ ERG, which would ultimately be named PRIDE. “I’ve always gravitated toward leadership roles,” she says. “Helping people is a big passion of mine, and PRIDE does many great things in terms of giving to the community and helping people find ways to volunteer their time.”
Fortunately, and as Haden-Peaches soon learned, the ERG already had some momentum behind it. She was quickly connected with Matt Edman, an assistant vice president and Benefits Banking program manager who had organized Commerce’s support for Kansas City PrideFest for several years.
“I volunteered to lead our PrideFest sponsorship one year, and I ended up enjoying it so much that I did it for four,” Edman says. “When Lacy came on board and spearheaded the creation of an ERG, things just took off. We’ve been able to combine forces and brainpower and really make it happen.” PRIDE became an official ERG when it launched in Kansas City and St. Louis in January 2020, and its first year has been an active one. The group’s kickoff events were well attended and were followed in March with a networking event to give Kansas City-based team members an opportunity to meet and interact.
After the COVID-19 pandemic required much of Commerce’s workforce to do their jobs remotely, in-person events had to be reimagined. But it didn’t slow down the amount of activity the PRIDE team was creating. “We shifted to virtual events quickly,” says Edman. “In April we cohosted a financial roundtable with EMERGE, our ERG for young professionals, and shortly after that, we conducted a virtual AIDS walk.” Edman notes that PRIDE members raised more than $2,600 for AIDS research through the walk.
June 2020 was supposed to have included Commerce’s support for PrideFest events in both Kansas City and St. Louis, but both events were postponed, then cancelled. Instead, PRIDE created its own virtual event for Commerce team members, SummerFest, which included breakouts for people to learn about being a good ally and information about local-area resources. In the fall, the group sponsored a number of activities for team members, including a virtual book club, a speaker series, and a virtual art show and fundraiser. For the art show, team members were encouraged to submit their own original 6”x6” piece of artwork, all of which will be included in a virtual gallery. Team members voted for their favorite and participated in a silent auction to raise money for area HIV and LBGT community charities.
Jay Johnson, a senior video production specialist and one of PRIDE’s co-chairs in St. Louis, says Commerce’s support of the LGBTQIA+ community sends a great message.
“It means the world to me that Commerce supports its team members in this way”“I’ve worked for companies where LGBTQIA+ voices were held back and knowing that the bank encourages us from the top down really helps me feel like I belong.”, he says.
Edman agrees. “It makes me very proud to work for an organization that supports and promotes PRIDE,” he says. “It really demonstrates our core values and guiding behaviors. It’s just as rewarding to see Commerce champion our ERG efforts in our communities during events like National Coming Out Day and LGBT History Month.”
Like all the ERGs at Commerce, PRIDE is available for any team member to join – and as Haden-Peaches notes, most of the group’s members identify as allies. “That’s very important, because we need our allies’ actions and voices,” she says. “Silence doesn’t help our mission to achieve equity and inclusion. That’s why we’re working with our talent development team to create a workshop to help allies better understand how to actively support the community.”
Johnson finds himself grateful to have the support of so many people within Commerce. “It’s been a joyful surprise to find so many people identifying as allies for us,” he says. “I think it takes a certain amount of courage to openly say, ‘I’m here for you. I’ve got your back.’ At Commerce, we have a lot of people standing up and wanting to learn more about how they can be a better ally and support us even more.”
Johnson also says his participation in the ERGs helped him truly feel a part of the Commerce community. “It’s helped to really dial me into the culture here,” he says. “That’s what we promote at the bank, and it’s just been amazing.”
Haden-Peaches shares Johnson’s opinion. “I really felt fulfilled once I became a part of this ERG,” she says. “The camaraderie, the connections that I’ve made, being able to give back to the community – being a part of PRIDE takes my position at Commerce to another level.”
She also notes that groups like PRIDE are important because, while LGBTQIA+ people are able to feel fully welcomed at Commerce, that isn’t always the case in other aspects of their lives. “When I think of LGBT History Month, I’m grateful for a lot, but I also know our fight isn’t over,” she says. “It’s only been this year, for example, that it became federal law that employers can’t discriminate against LGBTQIA+ workers. The fight isn’t just in the past; it’s our present and our future. There’s still so much work to be done.”