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Perspective | A corporate and philanthropic leader reflects: ‘The workplace is one of the last arenas where we still require civility and respect’

Editor’s Note: This perspective is modified from remarks shared with Duke Energy’s Executive Leadership Team.

Amy Strecker and her wife, Emmy Coleman, are life-long North Carolina educators. Amy came to North Carolina with Teach For America where she taught high school English in Warren County, NC. She continues to teach as a senior instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government, and currently serves as president of the Duke Energy Foundation. Emmy is a native North Carolinian who started her teaching career in Warren County and went on to found Warren New Tech High School as the inaugural principal. This spring, Emmy retired from The Friday Institute at NC State University after a 30-year career serving students and teachers.

When my wife, Emmy Coleman, and I married in May of 2014, we wed in Maine with a wedding party of just seven people since our union wasn’t legal in either of our home states. We never had the big bash with our friends and family to mark the occasion. Well, just a few weeks ago, we made up for this by hosting a lively ten-year anniversary party at Sam Jones BBQ to celebrate the last decade in our journey.

Our ten-year anniversary has me reflecting on just how far our society has come in our respect for differences and our beliefs in equal rights. The progress the LGBTQ+ community has made is not through queer advocacy alone, but with the support of our allies.

It’s the meaning of allyship I want to highlight — not just for the gay community, but for all the diverse types of communities we welcome in our workforce. Being an ally does not mean you’re a self-assigned expert. Being an ally does not mean you fully understand the struggles of your colleagues and have ready solutions. Being an ally does mean that you recognize the dignity and common humanity in someone unlike yourself and you are willing to learn more.

As I hear the vitriol that’s become common place in our country, I’m reminded that the workplace is one of the last arenas where we still require civility and respect. We as leaders model this in the words we use and how we spend our time. And as you consider how you can lead in way that empowers and celebrates others, I hope you’ll include allyship for colleagues unlike yourself in your plans.

Happy Pride!

Amy Strecker

Amy Strecker is the president of the Duke Energy Foundation. She has also worked in the public policy arena, focusing on affordable higher education. Strecker started her career with Teach for America as an English teacher in Warren County, North Carolina. Strecker earned a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master of Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.