Meet Stacy Mitchell, a Total Rewards Analyst out of our Phoenix, AZ office and co-lead of SWCA’s Disability and Critical/Chronic Illness Employee Resource Group (ERG) alongside Anne Russell, a Lead Geospatial Scientist out of our Albuquerque, NM office. Stacy shares what leading the ERG means to her and the group’s current priorities.
“Turning experience into opportunity”
Q: Would you like to get started by telling us about yourself and your career?
A: Benefits has been a perfect career path for me over the past 20 years because I enjoy building and improving benefits plans and bringing innovative programs to our employees. In my current role as a Total Rewards Analyst on the HR team, I focus on our wellness, benefits, and retirement strategies. I am an advocate for policy, equity, and belonging for individuals with disabilities when we design our benefits programs.
Q: What are your interests outside of work?
A: Dungeons and Dragons has been my passion for many years. It is more than just a game, it is a social outlet to explore identity and individual personalities through an imaginary character, in which you create and build upon as you play the game.
I currently run four separate games a week, often as a form of gender and/or mental health expression for the individuals playing the game. I write and publish my own campaigns (a series of adventures with a plot line) and I also run games for large role-playing game developers at national gaming conventions. I own a Discord server with community channels for games, workshops, and community support that anyone can join to become more involved with the group resources. It is a fun, informal, and incredibly open setting for people to come out of their shell.
Q: What does leading the Disability and Critical/Chronic Illness ERG mean to you, and how did you become involved with it?
A: I raised my hand to lead the group when the idea of a Disability ERG was proposed two years ago. We are growing steadily, and Anne joined as the co-lead for the Critical and Chronic Illness side of the ERG. To me, leading the ERG means providing a space for people to share their emotions, experiences, and challenges in an open and safe environment. It is also a healing experience for me, as I also need this safe space to have a voice. The group values our unstructured meetings each month as it gives the members the opportunity to be heard, sharing their challenges or their wins with the group. We welcome what members have to say and what they have to offer with open arms.
Q: What are the goals and activities of the group?
A: Our current priorities focus on creating a supportive, safe environment for employees with disabilities and critical/chronic illnesses, providing activities to raise awareness of issues affecting employees with disabilities and illnesses in the workplace, and advocating for affected employees in the SWCA community. This year, we are working on bringing in a guest speaker to talk about the challenges of breast cancer and providing training on compassion fatigue.
One goal to highlight; fostering the relationship of trust needed to help people feel comfortable in sharing hidden disabilities. Not everyone feels secure about identifying themselves as having a disability in the workplace – especially as history, and as exacerbated by the pandemic, people with disabilities face disproportionate unemployment rates and hiring discrimination. We strive to listen first and to help others become more comfortable in sharing their own stories.
Q: How can we work toward more unity and positive beliefs about individuals with disabilities?
A: The way I see this- in work environments and outside of them - is to turn experience into opportunity. We see the testimonials from our group members as one opportunity to embrace the idea of sharing people’s stories, talents, and experiences. As a hive mind, the ERG can help each other see how we can make a positive impact by creating new opportunities from our challenges.
Anyone can start conversations about disability, inclusion, and diversity. We can listen to the experiences and challenges of those around us without judgement. Only then will we find their special qualities and skills and be able to support them and build upon their unique talents.