Julia Klingenberg joined AEP in 2005 in Supply Chain and Procurement and has been chair of AEP’s Pride Partnership employee resource group for just a few short months. Already, she has seen why groups like this are so important — and the impact they can have advocating for vulnerable populations.
“Within days senior leaders had met with us and discussed our concerns. We immediately put together an action plan outlining how to make sure people were informed and where to turn if they needed help,” Klingenberg said. “It was an example of how our company really cares and is doing the right thing.”In March, the Arkansas Senate voted to pass Senate Bill 289, which would have allowed health care institutions and providers to refuse medical care to patients. If the bill was signed into law, it would have had negative consequences to the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community. Concerned, the Pride Partnership rallied to speak out to advocate on behalf of our employees and customers.
Indeed, the Human Rights ampaign Foundation named AEP one of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality in its annual Corporate Equality Index.
While Klingenberg is looking forward to the Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival and March, she’s disappointed it will be virtual for the second year in a row. Klingenberg – who has two gay sons – says it’s another blow to the effort to keep LGBTQ advocates, activists and allies connected and engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also been a reminder that their advocacy is a 365-day mission in the communities we serve. Pride Partnership threw its support behind AIDS Walk Ohio – which supports HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment – and employees raised more than $6,000 for Equitas Health.
Klingenberg is focused on casting a wider net both inside and outside the company. She’s been reaching out to leaders in AEP’s six other employee resource groups to increase their collaboration and join forces when necessary. She established a regular “Common Grounds” informal chat as a digital safe space for employees to candidly talk about issues, volunteer opportunities and ways to continually improve. It’s that spirit of openness that she finds critical to building trust and becoming more compassionate friends, co-workers and neighbors.
“I’m able to openly talk about issues I might not have mentioned ten years ago,” Klingenberg said. “Our company and community has evolved into being very accepting and responsible and involved in our communities. It’s the right thing to do, and I’m just thrilled with our progress.”