Employee Q&A: The Importance of Being Inclusive – and Authentic

Brenda Karras, Product Owner Leader - Global Information Systems
May 2, 2024 10:45 AM ET
Brenda Karras and family

Our people making a difference is a series featured throughout Owens Corning’s 2023 Sustainability Report.

Born in Brownsville, Texas, U.S., and raised in Mexico until age three, Brenda Karras has always aspired to make a contribution on a larger scale. She’s brought that idea to her work here at Owens Corning, both as part of our Global Information Services team and as an early member of the HOLA affinity group. Brenda has been an active participant in our efforts to build an inclusive workforce, helping seek out new bilingual talent for the Customer Solutions team from within her community. Her ability to find connections with others has helped us live our commitment to inclusion and diversity every day.

On the importance of affinity groups in building community

I believe affinity groups have a lot of power to help people feel seen and understood. They create an environment where people can connect with folks who may have walked a similar path and understand the challenges a person may be going through. They also foster camaraderie — through HOLA, I have met some pretty amazing people, some of whom I consider friends even though we’ve never met in person. Affinity groups can also help move the needle in achieving our inclusion and diversity aspirations. In our first two years, HOLA has focused on creating a network for connection and belonging, building a roadmap that focuses on talent attraction, onboarding, retention, development, and career advancement. We also want to expand to our plants strategically and understand what would help our Latino and Hispanic employees feel supported.

On being one’s most authentic self at work

I started a Hispanic Club in high school, and I was active in the Latino Student Union in college. When I joined Owens Corning, though, I unintentionally separated my “Mexican American me” from my “work me.” When I became involved with HOLA in the early stages of the group’s formation, though, I felt re-energized. It helped me truly understand the meaning of “bringing your whole self to work.” The people, cultural sharing, networking, and building a community and support brought back memories. Additionally, being able to find opportunities to connect with the community I grew up in (a mile from world headquarters) felt like I was meshing various parts of my world. That’s why being able to recruit local talent for bilingual roles from my church was so special to me. I hope we can partner with neighboring schools more and talk about the opportunities at Owens Corning and that maybe one day those students become future employees of our company, just as I did.

On the benefits of an inclusive workplace

Inclusion and diversity are key components of social sustainability. They show our company’s commitment and dedication to creating a positive and inclusive work place and promoting equal opportunities for all. A commitment to inclusion and diversity can also be a factor in the choices employees or potential employees make about whether to join, stay, or leave a company. Seeing Owens Corning include inclusion and diversity as part of our approach to sustainability sends a powerful message about our values and our stance on respecting people from all backgrounds. It makes it public — loud and proud — and you can see how it’s being measured and understand the progress being made in an area.