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How to Start a Women's ERG?
Learn the steps and best practices for starting a women's Employee Resource Group (ERG) within your organization.
It might seem like the world has come a long way in addressing the gender gap and building a place beyond male domination. However, female employees, more often than not, continue to play second fiddle through systemic oppression. The only way is to get people to become aware of what's happening around them and create a safe space to feel included, heard, and cared for.
That's what a women's employee resource group tries to achieve.
A woman's perspective on everyday life is vastly different from how a man's day is. For a reference point, ask the closest woman you know how they prepare themselves when using public transport. Stories are not just within us but also around us; the ERG forms a space where women can stand for each other and talk about the shared experiences that make them feel alone. During the pandemic, many women had to step up and take care of their families and leave the workforce, and this caused a further lack of equity within various company structures. With hybrid environments becoming the new norm, the goal was to make it easier for everyone to communicate their problems and try to become a little more upfront about their issues. However, the pandemic made a few things take a turn for the worse as more and more cases of harassment and abuse under the garb of anonymity in the social media space have been popping up.
Read to know more about a women's ERG and how it can help build a healthy and gender-equal workspace.
What Is a Women's Employee Resource Group?
Employee resource groups started as a networking point for groups of women and people of color in the 1960s. They didn't have a unified title back in the day. They went by different names like business resources groups, affinity groups, etc., that helped foster talent, engage and retain employees and grow a culture that encourages diversity within the organization. ERG is an employee-led initiative that brings about experiences of diverse groups into the limelight and provides the support employees are looking for. Any company's missions and goals align with the ERG's efforts to reach the goals set. A community-centered growth project within the organization encourages people to speak up and gives them a place to be who they are.
A women's ERG is a great initiative when the company tries to be more diverse and inclusive of the people in their ranks and help cultivate an inclusive and sensitive workplace. They also form a mentorship platform and inspire peers to advance in their careers. ERGs are created explicitly for the marginalized, who share one common characteristic; in this particular case, it's about a working woman in the current situation. The same rule extends to a black woman's ERG, as their experiences will vastly differ from a white woman's experience of the world around them.
Why Does a Company Need a Woman's ERG?
ERGs are an integral step in the right direction for any company trying to flourish. They forge high-trust relationships within the organization. Women's ERG provides a safe space for women to connect and grow and, most importantly, build a support network with which they relate and connect. The women's ERG will be one of the places built on the foundations of mutual respect and compassion to help one another reach their potential. By just being there for each other, empathy nourishes each other more than hard handing one another into roles and responsibilities that they don't see themselves prospering in.
A woman's ERG system can also contact senior women leaders and budding managers outside their talent pool for the proper guidance and support. ERGs can also set up critical processes for members' sensitivity training and development in their career path. Members get access to panels and informal meet and greet sessions, conferences, and other events with female leaders for an eye out for women's empowerment. The experience of being a career-oriented person while keeping the patriarchy in check is unique to every individual. It needs to be heard if a company wants to improve. In all senses and practicality, being a woman-oriented company does not mean you need to change everything you believe in. At the same time, it is about leaving the breathing space for everyone to open up about their pasts and what they could've done differently.
In terms of numbers, 77% of working women support the idea of an ERG and would immediately join one if their company offered it. This number indicates how many people see the need to join one and how ERGs improve employee engagement. Women's ERGs directly impact the diversity of the organization. According to McKinsey, unity within diversity is the goal of every organization; this translates into DEI and CSR work that more women than men put in. Women putting each other in the limelight and being happy to support someone else's journey past the differences in ethnicities, designations, and departments make a meaningful difference in improving the organization's atmosphere.
Employee Resource Groups: How to Make One for Your Company Missions?
International women's day rolls around every year, and every company gets a chance to reflect on the course of action for gender equality. A variety of events are conducted on the day to address, all the way from virtual events to address concerns and take the next goal for annual diversity goals. When women within positions of leadership look to create a collaborative environment, the mentoring program becomes cohesive and in sync with the company's plans to advance diversity.
Authentic leaders learn from the world around them in the current era of remote work schedules. Leading and inspiring a team that you're away from needs effort and active participation from your employees/team members. Addressing professional development and opportunities for women should not create tension within the teams as that will only lead to a falling apart of the remote environment. Here are a few milestones you need to hit when making a woman's employee resource group for your company.
- Research and find reasons why you need an ERG within your company: Provide access to virtual mentoring programs and create a career community that helps them guide their careers better. Access to training programs helps them align and upskill themselves with your company's business objectives.
- Develop a direction and define the mission for your company: Initiate panel discussions in favor of flexible work schedules and elaborate processes that will help the company at the executive sponsor level. Awareness of women's issues will only increase when they are no more in denial of issues beyond themselves.
- Identify the leadership that can communicate and drive the initiative forward: Maintain a healthy level of communication among female employees through a monthly event to discuss the happenings and address grievances. Company employees should always have the freedom to talk about awareness around issues women are facing without hesitating.
- Find an executive or company sponsor to scale the ERG: Find how budgets, goals, and returns can be materialized into numbers. Use the numbers to convince the company leaders to fund the initiative across departments and find common ground on when the executive team can see the results.
- Recruit and promote your ERG: Foster diversity by seeking new members beyond domains, demographics, and anyone who wants to add to the conversation. Update the people in the ERG with relevant and happening content regarding career coaching sessions and drive the ERG through a party. Don't limit yourself to cishet women, as career growth has nothing to do with their sexual orientation.
- Partner with other ERGs and business resource groups: Conduct joint events with other ERGs to provide visibility for women's issues. Such events help in building connections to address the lack of diversity. Startup guides often have an expansive view of how complicated awareness of women's issues is to address because each department has its flaws and problems that it's dealing with.
Women in Leadership Positions: Career Journeys and Space for Women
More and more women are taking on leadership roles in the workplace. It's an exciting time for female professionals as you continue to make strides in achieving gender equality. While there's still a long way to go, women in leadership positions are increasingly making their voices heard and positively impacting the business world.
Plotting the journey for professional growth is taking a breath of fresh air in the career journey in women's history. With hiring patterns taking a turn for the better, along with ideological changes in how people approach female leadership, better models are being created by the women who make a difference. When an ERG forms a community for women, the senior-level management and the women who lead them take the discussion to the teams. Having women taking up leadership roles makes it much easier to set a benchmark within the company as the company culture takes a step towards nurturing and investing in its talent pool.
The leaders can bring up topics that include the opportunities for women within the organization and how they chart professional development for everyone involved. When leadership resembles the progress women have made, it inspires women beginning their careers to enroll in a mentorship program. At the same time, the responsibilities are shared between the leadership team and the career navigation panel within the organization. Career goals are not just set by barely browsing through what they are interested in but through constantly seeking career advice and finding the career advancement opportunities that help them take the next step.
Company development is invariably connected to the advancement of women in tech, management, and executive teams. Accomplishments of women are a cause for celebration when you understand the wall of barriers women cross to get there. Most prominent women look for inspiration in the world around them, the books they read, and the publications and books they read to keep connecting to the collective experience of life.
If you're interested in pursuing a leadership role, many resources are available to help you get started. There are also organizations that support women leaders by assisting in creating a women's ERG. And don't forget to lean on your female friends and colleagues - they can be a great source of support and inspiration.