Gail Perez is the Sr. Director of Human Resources for Peoples Gas. As a leader who inspires our team, she shares her thoughts on inclusion and diversity initiatives, people who inspire her, and career advice.
Let’s get to know her!
Q: What contribution(s) are you the proudest of in your career?
There are many proud moments in my career that have contributed to my professional and personal growth. Times where I have championed and influenced workplace culture to create change and foster a work environment that is welcoming, authentic and encouraging are the moments that still resonate with me and inspire me today.
I influenced a leadership team and global organization to shift their culture to ensure that the voices of employees were heard. While there were difficult moments, the leaders, employees and organization were better because of it.
Working my way up to leading Human Resources in several organizations while completing two degrees and raising two children with the help of my family was challenging, and there were many moments of self-doubt and sacrifice. This was not a solo effort, and I can’t express enough my appreciation for my family and the organization that supported my goals.
Q: Who were some of your role models/mentors especially in the earlier stages of your career?
I’ve had many role models and mentors and I’m grateful that several leaders took interest in my growth and development, providing me advice, resources and opportunities to learn and grow.
One who inspired me was a Black female Vice President of HR. She was personable, down-to-earth, graceful and stylish. I had never met or seen a Black female at this level in any organization that I’d worked for. She was brilliant, extremely aware and challenged the status quo. She helped those around her broaden their perspectives and encouraged innovative ways of leadership. She was well-liked and respected by her peers.
I felt my perspectives were valued and she made me feel comfortable in sharing my views –even those that may be viewed as controversial. She supported my goals and aspirations and inspired me when, at times, I doubted myself.
Q: What advice do you give for women who are beginning their careers?
Own your career and have a vision, then tap into people and resources that can help the journey.
Make the hard sacrifices that it takes in reaching your goals. Who better to invest in than yourself?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially of mentors and sponsors. This can be challenging because you want to show your talents and not appear that you don’t know everything or have it all under control. Please understand, none of us have everything under control and all of us need help.
Q: What future developments in our business do you feel are essential for our organization’s growth when it comes to Inclusion & Diversity?
We are in the beginning stages of our I&D efforts and we have a lot of work to do. Learning to identify unconscious biases, developing and encouraging a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and incorporate I&D into our business practices, processes and decisions are important to our business and our community.
As we develop metrics and review processes, we must make changes and decisions that support our I&D goals and objectives. I believe that fostering an open and authentic work environment where people are comfortable sharing and bringing their true selves to work and feeling comfortable to respectfully express their thoughts and opinions is important.
I’m excited that this year we’ll have Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that will provide valuable insight into the thoughts and opinions of a diverse group of team members and leaders. In my opinion, all these actions will help us learn, grow and become better.
Q: Is there a woman in history or present who inspires you?
Michelle Obama – she is extremely intelligent, caring, graceful, fashionable, strong and fun. She works as an advocate for poverty awareness, nutrition and physical education (Let’s Move) relative to childhood obesity and giving parents support to make healthier choices. She helped launch the Joining Forces movement focused on service members, veterans and their families. She launched the Reach Higher initiative inspiring your people to take charge of their futures by completing education past high school including training programs. She’s a Harvard Law graduate, mother, wife and author. But at the same time, she seems to be a down-to-earth person who relates to people from all walks of life. She stays true to herself, and I completely admire and respect her for that.
Q: What brings you joy?
My family: I have seven brothers, six sisters, two daughters and two grandchildren. My daughters are constantly teaching me new and different ways of viewing situations, people, music and society. They are brutally honest and still think I’m pretty cool most days. As for my brothers and sisters, we are all so different. We are very competitive and will debate almost anything. We laugh together, make fun and embarrass each other at the best and worst times. We are there for each other whether we’ve made the right or wrong decisions. We love each other regardless and I wouldn’t trade any of them, except maybe one sister if I could replace her with Michelle Obama. Joking :)