For AIG’s Ellen Robles, her role as Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is more than a job – it’s a passion she discovered early in her 16-year tenure at AIG that her 6-year-old son now inspires.
Born with autism, Ellen’s son faces many challenges, including communication difficulties and support for day-to-day needs. But where some see limitations, Ellen sees potential in her son’s neurodiversity – particularly, his tremendous attention to detail and uncanny memory. Ellen recognizes that neurodiverse individuals can offer distinct skills and perspectives to organizations like AIG.
“My son is a constant reminder of why I’m doing the work that I’m doing,” Ellen says. “If I’m having a rough day, I keep going, knowing I’m an advocate for people like him. That’s a big part of DEI – being an ally, in the good times as well as the hard times.”
Ellen channels her passion into helping build a culture of belonging at AIG. A key way she’s doing that is through her work with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), where colleagues from diverse backgrounds can connect with senior leaders and develop relationships to support long-term careers at AIG.
ERGs are a real-world example of AIG’s dedication to providing an inclusive environment for colleagues of all dimensions of diversity. These networks offer an atmosphere of understanding, where colleagues of all levels and business areas can have challenging conversations and pursue common interests.
“When people don’t have to hide who they are, they’re better performers,” Ellen notes. “Letting go of that emotional and mental baggage allows colleagues to focus on their jobs.”
ERGs focus on several key areas, including allyship and education. They also provide mentoring opportunities and allow colleagues to expand their network across different business areas.
This exposure can be a gamechanger: Through ERGs, colleagues can demonstrate their abilities and expand their skill sets, guided by leaders and mentors, which can lead to career growth at AIG.
“Many colleagues have built their careers at AIG, in part due to their involvement with ERGs,” Ellen says. “They appreciate that inclusion is something AIG prioritizes from the top down and benefit from the career advice and networking opportunities.”
Clara Elliott, Senior Risk Management Specialist in AIG’s Private Client Group, agrees:
As a transgender woman, she interacts with people facing similar challenges through the New York LGBTQ+ & Allies ERG – sharing advice, support, and empathy. She also sees career benefits from her allyship with high-level AIG colleagues, who provide guidance and broaden her network.
“It lets you know that there are others like you – that you can be yourself and don’t have to worry.” Clara notes. “You know the company has your back.”
Clara’s active leadership role in her ERG gives her the opportunity to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community on a wide scale – speaking to large groups worldwide about her journey as a transgender woman, both personally and professionally.
“Being in an ERG gave my career at AIG a greater sense of purpose,” Clara says. “It allowed me to share my story and connect to a network of colleagues I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”
In recent years, these networks have also played key roles in keeping AIG colleagues connected and supporting wellness during the global pandemic. Virtual social events – such as cooking and fitness classes – not only helped colleagues feel less isolated, but also created a forum for them to discuss new challenges, such as homeschooling and remote work. Additionally, ERGs provide an opportunity for new hires to get to know their colleagues and learn more about the organization.
“In the years ahead, continuing to develop a workplace culture of belonging remains top of mind,” Ellen adds. “We still have work to do; however, we are making steady progress.”