Kevin Avery: A diversity pioneer on Capitol Hill

By Gus Morgan
Kevin Avery discusses how corporate America is addressing racial injustice.

With November on the horizon, Kevin Avery is busier than ever.

“The biggest issue now is the election,” he said. “So we are trying to anticipate what things might look like in January.”

Kevin leads ConocoPhillips’ federal government affairs advocacy efforts, managing a small team that serves as the company’s eyes and ears in Washington, D.C.

In recent months, they’ve been analyzing the potential effects of an administration change or a change in control in the Senate.

Advocating for the oil and gas industry

No matter the month or year, it’s never dull in D.C.

Kevin’s job involves legislative work with Congress and regulatory work with administrative agencies in Washington, D.C.

“We’re a highly regulated industry,” Kevin said. “There are always things going on at any number of agencies in the government that will have an impact on us.”

Kevin and his team provide multiple services.

They used to say we don't have manufacturing jobs anymore. We have those jobs in the oil and gas industry. And they're here in the United States.


They help ConocoPhillips’ executives determine the company’s position on various policy issues and provide guidance on advocacy strategy. They also discern which members of Congress will support a particular policy and which ones won’t. In addition, they identify outside groups and allies that ConocoPhillips can collaborate with to help the company achieve its advocacy goals.

Much of Kevin’s advocacy initiatives are educational in nature.

He’s constantly working with members of Congress, explaining how ConocoPhillips benefits the districts they represent.

“The company and the industry are so important for the economic well-being and the lifestyles that Americans enjoy,” he said. “They used to say we don’t have manufacturing jobs anymore. We have those jobs in the oil and gas industry. And they’re here in the United States.”

Life in the nation’s capital

Kevin has been working in Washington, D.C., for more than 30 years.

After graduating from Stanford University Law School in 1988, he moved to Washington, D.C., to join a law firm. To Kevin, it was a stepping stone to bigger things.

Kevin Avery smiling next to John Lewis in crowd
Kevin with the late U.S. Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights activist committed to non-violent protest for six decades. Lewis was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders, civil rights activists who challenged segregated interstate travel in the South in 1961. He was the founder and early leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which coordinated lunch-counter sit-ins. He also helped organize the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the main speaker on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

“Secretly, I just wanted to get to Washington,” Kevin said. “I was really interested in policy work, so I left the firm after a couple of years and went to work on Capitol Hill.”

For the next 16 years, Kevin pursued his government affairs work with executive branch agencies on Capitol Hill.

Life in D.C. was good, but not without its challenges.

Diversity was lacking, a far cry from today’s cultural standards.

On countless occasions, Kevin would scan the meetings he attended or his workplace settings to find a familiar sight: he was the only black male.

But to Kevin, it wasn’t surprising; it’s what he had come to expect.

“In those days, diversity happened when I walked into the room,” Kevin said.

Such experiences molded Kevin into the diversity and inclusion advocate that he is today. To that end, Kevin is dedicated to fostering a culture of equality and opportunity for all.

How he’s making a difference

When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Kevin is a thought leader, fostering awareness and action in Washington and at ConocoPhillips.

For example, Kevin is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Advisory Council, a Hispanic nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to developing Latino leaders.

He’s also involved with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, an organization that focuses on issues impacting the black community.

At ConocoPhillips, Kevin is a member of the company’s Diversity & Inclusion Council, a group that oversees the company’s journey to develop a more diverse and inclusive work environment.

Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace is a long-term endeavor, he said.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’ll keep moving forward, and ideally, we’ll reach a point where we don’t even have to talk about it anymore. It just happens. But I think we are doing things the right way at ConocoPhillips.”

Kevin is especially proud of how corporate America and ConocoPhillips have stepped up to address racial injustice.

“In years past,” Kevin said, “it’s been, ‘well that’s not our issue. We aren’t going to fix that.’ Now corporate America has stepped up and said this is something that needs to be fixed. And I think that’s something that is incredibly heartening to see because that division does not help us move forward as a country.”

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

For Kevin, a 1984 graduate of Harvard College, the allure of Capitol Hill remains as strong as ever, a symbolic place of hope, opportunity and the American dream.

And it’s right where he wants to be.

“I grew up in Albany N.Y., but I couldn’t go back,” he said. “As they say, it’s hard to go back to Pocatello after you've seen Paris.''