What are Employee Resource Groups?
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups that promote a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds within an organization. ERGs typically focus on a particular community or characteristic, such as women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and more. ERGs provide support and advocacy for their members, which is particularly relevant and needed for women in tech.
Bearing in mind the tech world is still very male-dominated, adding up the lack of female role models, the perceptible wage gap between men and women, and the outright discrimination being still very problematic in some countries, getting involved in an ERG that supports women in tech is nothing short of amazing & needed. Check how to present your future Women in Tech involvement to your manager and lead the change.
How do ERGs function?
No two ERGs are alike. For a smaller company, an ERG may just require some co-workers getting together to discuss their company process in an informal setting. Larger organizations usually have a more formal process though, with set events throughout the year. Some groups focus on supporting each other and taking care of employee development. Others, however, put more emphasis on advocacy and making people aware of certain causes or issues.
Running an ERG is rewarding in many senses - from being the catalyst of positive change to receiving a financial compensation for your involvement. Larger companies tend to recognize the importance of ERGs to their overall company culture more than SMEs. Managing an ERG can be as time-consuming as a second job, so it’s essential than leadership acknowledges the time commitment and the value it brings to their company.
What are the Benefits of an ERG for women in tech?
- Bringing women in tech together in a safe, supportive environment where they can have open conversations and feel comfortable sharing their experiences.
- Raise awareness about specific topics that cause concern such as diversity & inclusion policies, company culture, incidents in the workplace
- Forming ERGs can help members of a suppressed groups to share their common experiences and begin identifying a problem that an individual might be too afraid to raise alone. This way, everyone can work together to address the issue without fear of retribution while also making the workplace a more positive environment.
- ERG leaders can spot emerging talent that might otherwise go overlooked due to conscious or unconscious bias. Group participants can search for new opportunities to connect with mentors and supportive colleagues across different "silos".
- ERGs aren't just an occasion for friendship and inclusivity, but they also give employees the opportunity to develop new skills. These come from leadership positions, organization responsibilities, or even mentorship programs. Working together as a team with colleagues that have different roles in various departments can help provide employees with new perspectives and helpful insights to propel their career growth (and personal life).
How can I get involved with an ERG?
The first step is to check if your company already has an ERG in place. If they do, great! You can start by attending events and getting to know the people who are already involved. If there isn't an ERG at your company yet, you can take the initiative to start one. This will require some planning and effort, but it will be worth it in the end.
Before starting anything, you should check with your HR department to see if there are any guidelines or policies in place for creating an ERG. Once you have the green light from HR, you can start reaching out to potential members and organizing events.
If you're not sure where to start, there are many online resources and templates that can help you get started. Creating an ERG is a great way to make a positive impact at your company and in the tech industry as a whole. Women in tech face many challenges, but by working together we can create lasting change.
See here how to involve your ERG with WomenTech Network as an individual or company.