Ok, seven minutes to guide you through what an ERG is, what they can look like, why they are important, and how to start one at your workplace – it’s a big promise.
Ready? Let’s start the clock…
What is an ERG?
When we talk about ERGs, we are talking about Employee Resource Groups. Also sometimes known as Network, Inclusion, or even Affinity Groups, Employee Resource Groups help organizations foster diverse and inclusive workplaces.
When we spoke to our Endorsed Employers about their ERGs, we especially loved how the definition Charissa Samaniego (she/her), Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Specialist at ConsenSys really got the heart of what an ERG is:
“Our ERGs are employee-organized and led groups that provide a sense of community through friendship and support. They enhance career and personal development and contribute to our organization’s mission and values. These groups can be as simple as a Slack channel to share resources and stories, or larger groups bringing in speakers and creating partnerships with organizations in our ecosystem. All activities big and small work towards promoting diversity and equality by raising awareness of different perspectives and areas of growth towards a more inclusive workplace.”
Types of ERGs
Employees who lead and take part in ERGs usually share particular dimensions of their identities. More often than not, these identities are underrepresented, undervalued, or under-voiced within the industry they work in.
Shared characteristics may reflect:
- Gender identity
- Religious affiliation
- Sexual orientation
- Parental status
- Military experience and many others.
“Our aim is to give the veteran community a voice and mechanism to be heard within the company. Together, we are making Thales a preferred employer for those that have served.”
– Daniel Keighran (he/him), Account Manager Close Combat at Thales
Examples of ERGs
Here are three examples of organizations with ERGs:
Telegraph Media Group (TMG)
They have six Employee Resource Groups, for Women, Able (accessibility), Out Loud (LGBTQI+), Ethnic and Cultural Diversity, Wellbeing, and Working Families.
Sarah Lambley (she/her) Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging says, “Each plays an integral role in offering support to colleagues whilst fostering a greater sense of inclusion and belonging at TMG. Our employee networks run workshops and events to encourage a more open discussion around diversity in the workplace and promote positive action to improve the representation of under-represented groups.”
Thales focuses on five areas; LGBTQI+, Gender, Reconciliation Action Plan, Veterans, and Neurodiversity & Accessibility. Each ERG has a unique makeup; some groups are larger (20+ employees) and some smaller (seven employees). Some groups have been active for a longer period of time, for example, their Reconciliation Action Plan Group, and some have been formed quite recently, like the Neurodiversity & Accessibility group. Each group plays a vital role in creating an inclusive culture at Thales.
Qualcomm has two very active and engaged ERGs: Qualcomm Women and eQuality. Qualcomm Women provides opportunities encouraging leadership, mentorship and career development of all women and allies at Qualcomm. There are Qualcomm Women chapters in office locations across the globe. eQuality is an LGBTQI+ group centred around fostering safe, inclusive, supportive, and open work environment for all employees, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Can anyone join an ERG?
ERGs are supportive rather than exclusive. The idea is to narrow the focus enough to effectively support groups that are underrepresented and whose needs and concerns might not be well-reflected in company policy otherwise. At the same time, ERGs want to help connect members into the larger organization. Encouraging allyship is another important role for ERGs.
“I joined the LGBTQ+ group as I wanted to increase my awareness, understanding, and the challenges that are faced on a day-to-day basis by the community. I wanted to show my support to help provide a safe, non-judgmental, and accepting environment for our LGBTQ+ community within the Company.”
– Michelle Cooper (she/her), Supply Support Manager & LGBTQ+ EWG Underwater Systems at Thales
What do Employee Resource Groups actually do?
The purpose of Employee Resource Groups is to strengthen workplace relationships, foster a sense of belonging, promote personal and professional growth, and ultimately, nurture the entire company community.
These are great goals, but they can be a bit abstract. So, how do ERGs actually achieve these things?
- Marched on behalf of the company in Perth Pride Parade.
- Celebrate LGBTQI+ days of significance.
- Rolled out Ally training to those interested throughout the company.
- Ensured the presence of all-gender restrooms in the Perth office and both mine sites.
- Are proud [Gold] sponsors of Pride Professionals, an external LGBTQI+ networking program. AGAA has both mentors and mentees in the mentoring semester each year.
“Being part of the Accessibility and Neurodiversity ERG has a lot of benefits beyond helping all our colleagues feel safe, included, and respected in the workplace. It is also about ensuring diversity of thinking in business decisions and identifying ways of working that enable all our workforce to thrive and reach their full potential.”
– Jean Capdevielle (he/him), Director, Value and Bid Marketing at Thales
Benefits of employee resource groups
*Checks the clock* We’re cutting it tight, so we don’t want to waste time repeating all the obvious reasons why fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces is a good thing. Instead, let’s just hear some real stories from employees about why these groups matter to them:
Krys Stokes (she/her), NFT Technical Support Lead at ConsenSys said:
“Being the only woman on my team led me to feel somewhat isolated at times but when I connect with the group it’s reassuring to know that I am amongst other women that may have shared the same experience at some point in their careers.”
Also from ConsenSys, we heard from Lorenzo Santos (he/him), Product @Codefi:
“The LatinX ERG instantly gave me a sense of connection with my colleagues. Our monthly meetings create a welcoming space and provide visibility into other teams I’d never see otherwise. The LatinX ERG helps me feel interconnected with ConsenSys and confident that my point of view is represented and valued.”
And from Qualcomm, we heard from Emma Mageean, Senior IT Project Manager, who said:
“Qualcomm Women is a great support network. Being part of this group has given me opportunities to collaborate with women at Qualcomm I wouldn’t necessarily meet in my day-to-day job, which I love.”
“As an individual with the living experience of mental illness, I can’t speak highly enough of how EY and my team have embraced the diversity that I bring to the team. I am part of the Strategy and Transactions Diversity and Inclusion Disability working group, where EY people from a range of backgrounds come together to draw on their experiences to break down barriers, remove stigma and discrimination, and enhance the working experience for people with disability.”
“It is an empowering experience to say the least, to come together with like-minded people who are as passionate as I am about making a change in this space.”
– Claire Timmel (she/her), Senior Consultant | Infrastructure Advisory | Strategy and Transactions at Ernst & Young (EY)
Rosemary Lane (she/her) Manager: Environment Operations at AngloGold Ashanti Australia said:
“It has made us more approachable as a company. More employees are confident to bring their whole selves to the workplace. As a company with FIFO operations, this is critical to the health and wellbeing of our workforce.”
And just one last great point… This time from Adriana Toffolo (she/her), Senior Quality Engineer, at Qualcomm who said:
“I’ve always been a supporter of the rights of each individual to express and live their lives the way they wanted without being questioned or discriminated against. Becoming a member of the eQuality Board was my way to step up and show my support. I truly believe that when you publicly support a cause you can encourage other people to do the same”.
How to start an employee resource group at your company
Our seven minutes are almost up. But after sharing all these examples and benefits, we can’t call time until we’ve offered some advice on how to start reaping these benefits for yourself with tips for starting your own ERG.
Bre Conway (she/they), Senior Mine Geologist at AngloGold Ashanti Australia shared that the idea for their [email protected] group was first brought up in a company Diversity and Inclusion meeting. The idea was instantly supported by the members of both the D&I team and members of the executive team.
“We then sought advice from PID (Pride in Diversity) and other mining companies who had successful Ally programs to ensure that we were following best practices in the industry and were launching something all members of AGAA could be proud of.”
The founding members of ConsenSys’ LatinX and Women’s ERGs also had more advice on getting started:
“My advice for starting an ERG is to create an environment that is safe to join, so members can feel loved and welcomed. Even if there are only two of you then you have a group! Stay connected and create a network. Listen to your members and each other’s stories. LatinX members tend to thrive when there is harmony and teamwork in a group, so meet at least once a month. Last but not least, have fun!”
– Heidi Covarrubias (she/her), Senior Talent Coordinator.
“ConsenSys encouraged me to take time out of my everyday work to dedicate to this and have provided a budget to the ERG for the year, based on some activities we have planned. If you feel like starting similar initiatives at your organization, I suggest talking to allies on your management team, as well as your Human Resources team. They will likely be supportive!”
– Shailee Adinolfi (she/her), Director-Business Development.
Well, our seven minutes are up. But the time for investing in Employee Resource Groups at your company has just begun. ERGs may not solve problems overnight, but they represent a powerful step forward to greater inclusion, diversity, and transparency.
Have the employers above inspired you?
Be sure to see the other great DEI work they’re doing by checking out their Endorsed Employer Pages: