The following is an interview of A&B employee Gail Abrena-Agas, written by fellow A&B employee Robbie Rhead.

On May 31, A&B announced at a company town hall the formation of A&B Pride to kick off national Pride Month, as well as the company’s newly established Diversity & Inclusion initiative. Gail Abrena-Agas, an A&B employee who helped establish A&B Pride, discussed the origin of the group and why it’s important to embrace diversity in the company.

How and why was A&B Pride started?

A&B Pride was established by employees for employees as an engagement, resource and social group. It is intended to create cohesion and solidarity among LGBTQ+ employees, allies and supporters who recognize a need to connect with one another and with our community. We’re recognizing that workplace diversity brings value to our business and overall experience. We want to foster an environment where employees from different backgrounds, schools of thought, and beliefs are comfortable collaborating and sharing their unique perspectives. When employees are comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, sharing ideas and collaborating is exciting and dynamic. We want to celebrate what makes everyone proud to be who they are.

I’m proud to be part of a 150-year-old, kama’āina company that is enthusiastically embracing diversity. The hope is that being open to supporting an evolving company culture can help A&B thrive for another 150 years.

What has A&B Pride done so far, and what do you hope to see in the future?

So far, A&B Pride has received an overwhelming amount of internal support, most of all from our executive leadership who understand how these sorts of initiatives align with our company vision, mission and values. People across different departments have reached out to express their excitement about what we’re doing, and about ways that we can keep the momentum going. More than half of the employees in the corporate office participated in a rainbow group photo on our historical steps (shown above). It was so meaningful, especially for someone like me who, prior to A&B, had never felt 100% comfortable sharing my full background and story. Many have already volunteered to walk with A&B Pride in October’s Honolulu Pride Parade and have offered their help in organizing. It’s truly inspiring.

A&B Pride was started as an internal initiative. Do you foresee this having an impact externally within the community?

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I understand how important it is to feel represented and seen. A hope of mine is that while we’re building this group internally, community members outside of the company see and recognize that we support them. It’s always been A&B’s legacy to partner with the community, and we want to continue to expand that to all of Hawai’i.