At Extra Space Storage, we’re continuing our commitment to diversity and inclusion. To us, that means a workplace where each individual is valued for their unique backgrounds. Beyond the categories of race and religion, we recognize diversity in education, geographic location, sexual orientation, military service, and other life experiences.
In September 2020, the Diversity & Inclusion Committee at Extra Space Storage launched an internal listening campaign called “Ask – Listen – Act.” This campaign provided an outlet for employees to share their thoughts and ideas on ways in which we could continue to improve as a diverse and inclusive company.
As the committee reviewed the submissions, several key themes emerged. Volunteers from across the company were asked to join three new subcommittees focused on these themes.
- Education Committee, which will focus on providing professional development resources for employees, as well as company communication and open dialogue forums
- Employee Resource Groups Committee, which will help create a system for voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace while developing future leaders and increasing employee engagement
- Social Involvement Committee, which will create more opportunities for employees to make a difference in their communities by partnering with regional and national organizations for mentorship, internship, and volunteering
Extra Space Storage CEO Joe Margolis recently spoke with committee members about their experiences with diversity and inclusion in the workplace and the launch of these new subcommittees. Participating in the discussion were:
- Rashede Peoples, Senior Vice President of Operations West
- Karen Pierce, Division Vice President
- Monica Ruedas, Director of the National Sales Center
Below are video clips and highlights from the discussion.
Q: Earlier this fall, we launched a listening campaign called “Ask – Listen – Act.” As you read through employee responses, what stood out to you?
Pierce: What stood out to me by reading all of the answers was how many people wanted more information and more training resources. That is exciting to me—coming from a learning and development background—that there is so much interest in just knowing more. So you will see a lot of focus coming out of our Diversity & Inclusion Committee in that regard.
Peoples: I was encouraged by the diversity of thought from the team. We had so many perspectives and opinions. Perspectives in agreement, perspectives in disagreement, and it’s really because of this diversity that we aim to make such an inclusive environment for all of our people here at Extra Space Storage.
Ruedas: The range of ideas was amazing, and the volume of feedback we received was also good to see. People are interested in this topic and want to contribute and share their passions and interests. There are some very simple things that people want us to do. As simple as maternity sizing for uniforms or recognizing more things like Hispanic Heritage Month, for example. Then, there are also things that are more complex and going to take more time. We’re excited to get this started and keep moving forward with this initiative.
Q: It’s probably early to give concrete actions you’ll be implementing and specific examples, but is there anything you can share about the approach moving forward?
Pierce: Based on all the feedback we got, we grouped it all into common themes and formed three subcommittees for diversity and inclusion. Those three subcommittees are Education, Employee Resource Groups, and Social Involvement. We also had great outreach from employees across the company, expressing interest in participating. Each of the three committees has five representatives from all across the company—the field, the call center, and the store support center.
Peoples: I’m equally as excited. The best part about these committees is that it’s truly a collaborative and inclusive group from all over the organization. I think that’s where the power of these groups is going to come from.
Ruedas: It’s exciting to see that these are all volunteers. They all reached out through the campaign that we rolled out and shared that they wanted to be involved. With the passion they have, I think great things are going to happen.
Q: What made you decide to become part of the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives?
Ruedas: My passion is my background. I’m from a Latin family. I was born in the United States but raised in Mexico. English is my second language, and I have things that I’m self-conscious about because I wasn’t raised in the U.S. Nobody made me feel different. Still, I did, and these were internal biases that I had with myself. “You’re Hispanic, so you have to work harder and prove yourself more.” Even though they weren’t true, I thought that they were. I hope I can be an inspiration for somebody that wants to grow but maybe has doubts and says they can’t. I’m a testament that it can happen.
Pierce: For a lot of my career, I was often the only female leader in the room. For the rest of the female leaders out there, I’m sure you can attest to this, that can be intimidating. I was lucky enough to have a great mentor that pushed me. I remember one instance after a particular meeting where he took me aside and said, “What are you doing? Why are you holding back? What you have to say is equally important as everybody else, and your perspective is one that’s missing in this room.” That was a real moment for me and changed my perspective on what a female’s role should be in leadership. It’s so gratifying to see how many more women are in leadership positions in our organization. When I got into storage 24 years ago, we barely had a female District Manager, and now look at us. I think our ratio is about 50%.
Peoples: I felt a strong sense of responsibility to share my unique perspective. Being a person of color has a lot to do with that. There’s so much power in the diversity of thought, and I believe that every single employee’s perspective is unique. What originated as a sense of responsibility to be part of the committee quickly turned into a passion as I’ve seen how it positively impacted teams to keep diversity and inclusion moving forward. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this group.
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