Pride Month: LGBTQ Progress and the Evolution of Oath
Rachael Buckner-Caraballo is a problem-solver. "Being able to anticipate and solve issues before they become issues, knowing where all the keys are hidden, being able to help people from the little stuff to the big stuff—that's something that has been part of my personality forever, so being able to do it on the professional level is really amazing."
The co-lead of Oath's LGBTQ employee resource group, Prism, in addition to her day job as an Executive Assistant, Rachael has seen a lot of change in her 15 years at the company. "When I first started here, I wouldn't have had a picture of me and my wife on my desk and I don't know that anyone else would," she says. "Once it became a little more comfortable to bring my full self to work, it made it more comfortable for other people to do the same."
It's Pride Month so we sit down to learn more about Rachael, her time at the company, and her passion for progress within the LGBTQ community.
Title: Executive Assistant
Office location: New York, NY
Years at Oath: Almost 15 years with AOL and Oath combined
Previous employers: Spherion, CSFB, Rothchild, Theatre Virginia, Lakes Region Summer Theatre, Palace Theatre
Education: BA—Appalachian State University, MFA—Virginia Commonwealth University
Major: Theatre Arts
Hometown: Asheville, NC
Activities outside of work: Volunteering, quilting, live music
Oath: Live Out Loud
You've seen a lot of transformation in your time here. From AOL being part of Time Warner, to a year ago when AOL joined Yahoo to become Oath. What's that been like?
One thing that I've had to become comfortable with is change, as we all have. Living through those big changes have made the other changes a lot more comfortable. I resisted for a while, but now I embrace it—I love change.
Speaking of change, working in media and technology wasn't part of your original plan, was it.
I actually started at AOL as a temp job in-between theatre directing gigs in 2003. At the time, I was with a small business development group that was working on entertainment and content deals. I loved the people and learning about the business, so when a full-time position came along, I jumped at it! I have moved from team to team since then but have continued to love learning about the business and have worked with some amazing people throughout the years.
And through those years, you've also taken leadership positions with the organization's LGBTQ employee resource groups (ERGs). Why has that been important to you?
I really believe in our company. I believe in our people and I want to make sure that we're giving ourselves the opportunity to be as diverse and comfortable bringing our full selves to work as possible. I want to make sure that we are creating an environment that's going to bring the best, and being part of the ERGs is the way I can contribute to that.
From marriage equality to transgender rights, a lot of progress has been made in recent years for the LGBTQ community. There is still a very long way to go, but how have you seen that progress impact the company?
When I first took over AOL's LGBTQ employee resource group in 2006 or so, our Head of Sales was gay. Knowing she was our Head of Global Sales and she was gay, I was like, oh you can be gay at work. Being able to see an executive at a high level that looked like me in that regard, made me feel like I could be myself at work. And that's the type of environment I want to help spread and I want everyone to be able to experience. I feel like we do that here.
In your opinion, how progressive is Oath? Are we behind the curve or ahead of it?
I think we have really ahead-of-the-curve intentions and, while we're behind, we're addressing it. The Diversity and Inclusion team is working on training leadership on down. We're focused on becoming a more inclusive company so, while I think we're behind the curve, I think we're running really hard to get ahead of it.
What does inclusivity look like to you?
I want to see more people that look like me on the leadership team—not just female, but LGBTQ or people of color. You just need to see more diversity. I think that leadership is aware and that is a big step. The company has been really invested in diversity and inclusion in the past year, and I think they're really serious about it.
It's Pride Month—what are you proud of here?
I'm really proud of our relationship with the Hetrick-Martin Institute (a New York-based organization providing social support and programming for LGBTQ youth, including support for the Harvey Milk High School). We first started working with them as volunteers probably ten years ago. We've brought students in here to do resume workshops and interview techniques, practice interviews, and headshots. Last fall we were the recipient of the Emery Award, which honors those who exemplify HMI's mission to provide a safe and supportive environment for all young people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and I'm very proud of that.
Something else I'm really proud of—and I'm not sure what my part has been in this—is that everyone is just so much more comfortable being themselves at work. I can't imagine coming in today and not feeling like you could be out and talk about your partner, and I think that's amazing. It's really just a pleasure to kind of be a part of that.