‘It’s All About the People’: Growing a Supportive Network At My Company as an Active DEI & ERG Lead

Sponsored by Aramark

Maria Constenla

Photo courtesy of Aramark.

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June 25, 2024 at 10:38PM UTC
Employee resource group (ERG) membership has many benefits. One key advantage, as many ERG members would tell you, is the empowerment to make a positive impact on themselves, other employees, clients, and communities. This is certainly true for Maria Constenla, the Hospitality Enablement Manager for the Southeast Region at Aramark. “Being involved in Aramark ERGs and being a DEI Champion has provided me with an additional sense of purpose in my role,” says Constenla. “I feel that I can make an impact, and that is a beautiful feeling.”
For Constenla, she is able to make a difference as: 
  • Part of the Membership Committee of EMPOWER
    • Which is a “great ERG that aims to empower and grow diverse leadership among women, promoting development, networking, and mentoring,” she says.
  • A member of the Impacto ERG
    • “Whose mission is to provide meaningful contributions that build a multicultural workforce and an inclusive workplace,” explains Constenla.
One of the ways she believes she is able to make powerful change is through her participation in exciting ERG initiatives at Aramark. Constenla shares how EMPOWER partners with other ERGs to create meaningful events and content. “One of our latest events was a workshop done in conjunction with the Pride ERG during the month of June to embrace and learn the art of bringing our full selves to work and how we can empower one another to be our true, authentic selves,” says Constenla. 
“These ERGs really embrace Aramark’s values,” Constenla tells us. “At Aramark, the people always come first.”
We recently spoke to Constenla about Aramark’s exceptional ERGs, allyship, and more. Here’s what she had to say!

To start, can you tell us about your job?

I provide support to Aramark’s Food Service Department Operators at colleges and universities throughout the Southeast Region. In this position, I have three areas of focus: training and developing our people, ensuring compliance with standards and procedures, and supporting our Operators to achieve their financial goals. I’ve been in this role since April 2022.

Please tell us more about Aramark’s DEI efforts and employee resource groups.

At Aramark, our people are our greatest asset. When you feel supported and inspired, you’re able to turn your creativity into innovation which allows you to better serve our customers and deliver exceptional experiences. Our diversity, equity, and inclusion leadership and our Executive Diversity Council are building a strategic focus to advance DEI among our workforce and surrounding communities.
At Aramark, ERGs are voluntary, employee-led groups made up of individuals who come together based on common interests, backgrounds, or demographic factors.

Each ERG is open to all salaried Aramark employees regardless of their background and provides opportunities for networking, outreach, professional development, and more. 

Beyond your job, you’re also involved in a few ERGs. How and why did you first get involved in these groups?

A coworker suggested I check out EMPOWER and told me they had great virtual events (due to COVID-19). She forwarded me the invite for an upcoming online symposium. The content discussed impostor syndrome, personal growth, and inclusivity. The message was so powerful and resonated with me. I knew I wanted to be part of this group moving forward
As a Latina, it was a no-brainer to join Aramark’s Impacto ERG. Representation matters. I know that people from a minority group can access leadership positions, so it’s very inspiring and motivating. 

How has Aramark and its ERGs engaged with or supported communities? Is this done on a global, national, or local level?

Through Aramark Building Community, we support community-based human services organizations whose work aligns closely with Aramark’s mission: because we’re rooted in service, we do great things for our people, our partners, our communities, and our planet. We work together to develop solutions that address challenges caused by lack of access to healthy food and proper nutrition, financial insecurity, and inequitable environments.  

Switching gears a bit, your ERGs also include allies. Can you share, in your own words, what an ally is and how they can support their colleagues without seeming performative?

Being an ally is more than being sympathetic and supportive of those that, for whatever reason, are marginalized — being an ally is about speaking out and being willing to act
Educating ourselves and educating others is the best way to be supportive allies. At times, people do or say hurtful things to others, sometimes without even realizing the intent. A supportive ally would call out the behavior and explain why their actions can be harmful 

Does Aramark have any ally-related programs? If so, can you explain more about them?

Aramark has an Ally Network where the DEI team shares resources and events. Recently, they launched “Pronouns Matter: Best Practice for Inclusivity” training and certification to provide education on the importance of respectful pronoun usage and why it matters. Resource like this are great in building allyship across our country. 

To conclude, what do you think other companies can learn from how Aramark strategizes and prioritizes ERGs, DEI initiatives and allyship?

We have a strong team behind all these initiatives. It’s all about the people

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