As Pride Month concludes and San Diego Pride Month begins, we are celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community and the launch of SDG&E’s newest employee resource group: the LGBTQIA+ Allies ERG. The group aims to foster an environment that educates, enhances and sustains the LGBTQIA + Ally community where everyone can feel a sense of belonging, be seen and bring their whole self to the workplace in an authentic way. The goal is to provide a safe space for connecting and educating members and allies, with a strong emphasis on all employees feeling “proud to be me at SDG&E.”
The ERG has a strong team of SDG&E employees leading the way, with a focus on equity, equality, respect and inclusivity. In the Q&A below, get to know Robert Gabriel, Project Manager – Wildfire Mitigation Strategy and Director at Large of the LGBTQIA+ Allies Employee Resource Group.
What’s your role at SDG&E? What are some of the things you enjoy about your job?
I started my career with SDG&E over a decade ago in Regional Public Affairs and have since been fortunate to work on a number of teams including Marketing & Communications, Business Services, Customer Programs – Government & Institutional Partnerships, and now Clean Transportation. I’ve served as a Project Manager on our EV Customer Engagement team for the last three years, and have really enjoyed supporting program marketing and outreach, large-scale events, and so much more. The work SDG&E is doing to meet our sustainability commitments and to support our customers’ transition to zero-emission vehicles has been inspiring, and I’ve enjoyed helping create new initiatives like our first-ever Adaptive Ride & Drive event, the first-ever San Diego EV Fleet Day, and our new on-campus EV charging system.
Why is it important to you that SDG&E celebrates Pride Month?
Growing up in a very poor, very rural place, I could never imagine I would one day be an out married gay man working alongside other out employees from across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. When we started the process of creating a new employee resource group here at SDG&E, I was incredibly nervous to talk about my experience because our community is taught to exist quietly, to live our lives privately, and to be cautious about who we let in for safety, for fear of losing a job, and for so many other reasons. When I drive into work and see the Progress Pride Flag welcoming me in, I still get chills that this is real, that I work for a company that not only values my authenticity, but celebrates it. Being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community is not just waving a rainbow flag, though. Allyship is about putting in the work to advance and protect the rights of a community, and SDG&E and Sempra have been right there with us. In fact, Sempra and its family of companies receive a perfect 100/100 score on the Corporate Equality Index for providing workforce protection policies that include sexual orientation and gender expression, as well as inclusive benefits, and supporting a culture of social responsibility. Our new employee resource group is looking to take the momentum our executive team has created around equity into a new chapter of employee-driven inclusivity efforts. I can’t wait to see what all of us and our allies will be able to create in the coming years and I hope you will join us.
How are you celebrating Pride Month yourself?
I remind myself often that the first “Pride” was an uprising against police brutality in the Queer community. From that uprising some great heroes emerged like Stormé DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera, and Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson. They came behind many in history who mostly lived very private lives like James Baldwin and Alan Turing. Those heroes also paved the way for other civil rights and community leaders like Harvey Milk, and current San Diego representatives like Mayor Todd Gloria, and State Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, among many others. This context is important to me when I hold a rainbow flag, when I join a parade, or attend a celebration. Pride is not just a recognition of how far we’ve come, but a reflection of where we still need to go. Of course after my husband and I fought many years for formal legal protections, you'll always see us on that parade route celebrating, but we'll also be reflecting on how we can be better allies to others in our community, and what we can do to continue to dismantle racism and injustice within our movement.
Are there any LGBTQIA+ community organizations that you are involved with that you would like to share more about?
In addition to working on energy and sustainability programs, I really love theatre and the power it can have to change our perceptions or give us a small window into other experiences. Because of this, I donate a lot of my time to the San Diego nonprofit Breakthrough Workshop Theatre, where my husband Ira and I have been honored to help produce more than 70 productions, 25 of them focused on queer theatre, helping as a writer, actor, director and even stage manager. This Pride season I’m helping create an annual PRIDE HONORS at the Coronado Public Library. Last year we celebrated 10 Queer heroes with spoken word, music, theatre, and poetry, and are doing it again this year with a celebration of 10 more honorees. I’ve had to teach myself the history of the LGBTQIA+ movement because our community is mostly missing from any educational lessons. It’s important to me to share that history with our San Diego community, and I’ve found theatre to be a small way I can do that. I hope you'll consider joining our community this year in a meaningful way to be an ally who not just celebrates the rainbow, but supports and reflects on what more we can all do to advance the rights of any marginalized person.