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Oldest and newest employee networks celebrate anniversaries

Celebrating at the BEN 30th Anniversary Gala (from left) Curtis Smith (retired), Cassandra Corley, Curtis Franklin (P66), Vickie Holmes (retired), Ron Julun, Ruthie White (retired), Bruce Flowers (P66) and Karen Bowles (retired)

BY RAY SCIPPA

The Founders:

Black Employee Network created the model 30 years ago

BEN logo

The Black Employee Network (BEN), traces its roots back 30 years to when it began as The Network Group (TNG). Laying the foundation for all affinity groups to come, the Black Employee Network has constructed an enduring legacy of providing opportunities for personal and professional development and giving back to the community.

John Kemp standing at conference
John Kemp (retired) served as Conoco’s vice president of exploration and production for South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East from 1993 to 1998.

“There’s a certain culture about corporate America. When you’re first generation, you don’t know the norms, the rituals, the taboos to watch out for,” said Craig Ellis, a ConocoPhillips finance manager and former network president. “These affinity groups provide a way to interact and for people to show you the way and make you feel comfortable, especially early in your career.”

Ellis was one of several past and present leaders and TNG founders who discussed the group’s rich history and legacy in a short film that premiered at the BEN 30th Anniversary Gala on Nov. 4.

“We want to make sure the Black Employee Network is open to all employees, open to all different ethnicities, ages and interests,” said Maalika Moore-Thomas, senior coordinator, Supply Chain Transactional Excellence. “We hope to make sure we’re encouraging contributions from every different type of individual.”

“The network encouraged me not just to do my best,” said Senior Analyst Ron Julun, a TNG founding member, “but to do better than best.” Julun was recognized in 2008 with a ConocoPhillips Lifetime Achievement Award for more than 20 years of mentoring college students, coordinating community programs and participating in company-sponsored charitable activities.

Under the direction of current BEN president Don Williams and the BEN board, the 30th anniversary celebrations included a November 1 panel discussion entitled Inclusion: Network Groups 30 Years Later. The discussion featured founding members of several ConocoPhillips affinity networks, including representatives from the BEN, Patriot, Parents, Global Support Staff and Women’s Networks.

The Newcomers:

LGBTA Employee Network celebrates five years

LGBTA network logo

Also celebrating an anniversary this fall, the LGBTA Employee Network became the Houston area’s ninth affinity group just five years ago. Like its sister networks, LGBTA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies) is open to all employees.

The group dedicates itself to the goals of fostering a diverse workforce and creating an inclusive environment of mutual respect. To mark its milestone anniversary, network members and allies spoke on camera about the challenges and benefits they’ve experienced during the group’s formative years. The resulting video combines many voices into a powerful short film expressing the understanding, friendship and support that characterize this and all employee networks at ConocoPhillips.

Kirt Daily
Kirt Daily, analyst, Information Technology

“Knowing that there are groups like this at the company allows people to feel like they’re in a friendly environment,” said Kirt Daily, analyst, Information Technology. “The existence of a network like the LGBTA Network tells me that the company’s stance is to prevent discrimination from happening.”

The network has provided allies, like Subsurface Vice President Ken Tubman, an opportunity to respond to lingering traces of judgment in the workplace.

Ken Tubman
Ken Tubman, Subsurface vice president

For me, being an ally just means being supportive of the equality that everyone is looking for,” Tubman said. “People need to get over being uncomfortable with someone who is maybe not exactly like them.”

In November, ConocoPhillips received a perfect score of 100 percent on the 2018 Corporate Equality Index. The national benchmarking survey and report measures corporate policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) workplace equality. Its top score gives ConocoPhillips the designation of being a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.