Although it seems like we have come a long way regarding women in the workplace, things are not as great as you may assume. Statistics show that women are still not appointed to leadership positions as often or as easily as men in most workplaces. In fact, women make up just 7.4 percent of the executives for Fortune 500 companies.
And COVID has made things tougher for women. A large number of female employees have left the workplace in the past several months. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 865,000 women have left the workforce—four times the number of men who have left in the same span of time.
It will still take effort to create diverse and inclusive workplaces. One of the ways to do that is to have an employee resource group for women in your company.
What is a women's employee resource group?
An Employee Resource Group or ERG is an employee-led initiative that helps diverse groups of employees find connections and support. They are often used to cultivate a more diverse and inclusive workplace. ERGs are seen as a safe space for employees to share their experiences and be supported by peers and mentors.
ERGs are created for employees who share common characteristics, the most common example being all women working at the same organization. But, they can also be very specific, such as ERGs for Asian women working at an organization.
Why is it important to have a women’s ERG?
While female representation at senior levels of your organization should always be a goal, many women are being overlooked, according to a study by McKinsey.
“Compared with men at the same level, women are doing more to support their teams and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts,” the report authors wrote. According to their findings, women hold less than 40 percent of senior positions at their workplaces.
The report notes that for every 100 men appointed as managers, only 86 women are promoted to a manager role. Study authors say that while women are rising to the challenge as leaders, they still go unnoticed in many workplaces.
Allowing women to find support and resources where they can utilize their leadership capabilities and connect to mentors or advocates that can help them unlock career advancement opportunities is vital if organizations want to achieve diversity and inclusivity. Having ERGs for these women is key to opening up their possibilities and building a community for them.
Michelle Ferguson, author of Women Mentoring Women, explains why pairing every women with a female leader doesn't always make sense. If your organization doesn't have enough female mentors, here's what to do.
Examples of companies with ERGs
ERGs hold a lot of advantages for your employees and your organization. Here are some examples of companies that have ERGs for women.
Named one of the Best Places for Women to Work, Asana credits its employees for creating a welcoming and empowering workplace culture. Its ERG, called AsanaWomen, hosts a variety of internal and external activities for members. Employees who are a part of AsanaWomen benefit from monthly group discussions as well as an opportunity to connect with industry experts. Members of the ERG said it has been a boon to their careers and enabled them to connect with women from various departments and levels of the company.
A commercial real estate firm in Canada, Avison Young has focused on creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace. They mainly wanted to see more women in leadership positions. The organization decided to use mentoring to connect more senior employees with members of their ERGs, which were designed to support women. The goal was to help female employees become stronger leaders and ready to take on leadership positions.
The organization has many different ERGs that help employees with diverse backgrounds make connections with others in similar positions. For example, the Black Professionals Resource Group and LBGTQ+ are just two of the employee groups that have ERGs within Avison Young.
Candy Crush mobile game creator, King Games, has created some of the biggest mobile games in the world. And to stay on top, the company works on developing a diverse workplace. In particular, they have an ERG focused on helping women, and non-binary employees have a stronger voice at the table. Their mentoring program has helped over 250 women at King Games. These women have had the opportunity to create unique connections with leaders at the company. Learning and growing opportunities like the ones at King Games are what ERGs and mentoring are all about.
How to build a women’s ERG
Acknowledging that your organization needs an ERG to help women be more successful is one step. Building an ERG for your female employees is the next step. Here are some best practices for creating an ERG specifically for women at your organization.
Have a female leader in the company sponsor the ERG
ERGs, by nature, are employee-led, so you’ll need to find a woman who can get the process started. Consider a female leader in your company that can sponsor the ERG. Being a sponsor means the employee would advocate for the ERG within the company. Having a sponsor for the ERG can help the group gain access to funding or resources or even pave the way for mentoring opportunities.
Promote the ERG to women within the organization
They can’t get involved if they don’t know about it. Be sure to advertise and promote the ERG among the female employees in your company. This can be through a simple email, quick message, formal invitation, intranet, and even letting new hires know about the opportunity to be part of the ERG.
Have structured meetings with discussion
These groups are not meant to be only social gatherings or coffee times. There needs to be some structure and discussion to be truly beneficial for members. Consider different topics or challenges that women can discuss with each other. An example of a discussion is to outline the issues around diversity in the workplace. How does each member feel about them? How does it affect their lives and careers? During the discussion, be sure to offer some solutions to the issues raised so that employees can benefit from attending ERG meetings.
Pair members together for mentoring or peer learning
Actively build connections by pairing together ERG members for mentoring or peer learning opportunities. These experiences can give female employees mentors who impart more confidence, an enhanced skill set, and create higher engagement among your staff.
Ask for feedback from members and respond to it
It’s important to ask for feedback from ERG members to find out what is working and uncover anything that hasn’t. But, you need to do more than just ask for feedback. You also need to make an effort to show that you’re listening to what ERG members have to say.
Host joint events with other ERGs
ERGs are about building connections and a more inclusive workplace. They are not meant to create isolation among employees. That’s why it is beneficial to organize joint events among other ERGs in your organization. Doing this allows all your employees to gain an understanding and respect for everyone in the company.
Tie your group's activities back to business goals
Starting an ERG just to have one isn’t going to accomplish much. These groups need to have objectives and goals that align with your business goals. When the efforts of ERGs are related to your business objectives, such as a more inclusive and diverse workplace, it is bound to be a more effective and successful experience for everyone.
Support women in the workplace with mentorship
For women in any workplace, having an ERG can lead to connections that instill more confidence in them. Female employees also benefit when other, more senior women guide them and mentor them. These experiences create networks for women to utilize along their career journey. And when the women who’ve mentored them are in the same organizations, these employees are more likely to be engaged and productive.
Creating an ERG mentoring program can be one of the most important things you do to change the culture of your workplace. It will help your female employees feel more supported and empowered within your company. It can bring talented female leaders to the forefront so they won’t be overlooked anymore.
If you’re serious about developing a more diverse and inclusive workplace, connect with us at Together and find out how mentoring software can help you create a mentoring experience for the women in your organization.