What are Women’s Employee Resource Groups?
Women’s Employee Resource Groups or Women’s ERGs (WERGs) are employee-led voluntary community groups in the workplace that ensure equality for women employees, foster diversity, and promote inclusivity. These resource groups are essential for fostering a safe space for women in the workplace while also furthering the organization’s broader objectives, values, and mission statement.
Why do companies build Women’s Employee Resource Groups?
According to a recent study by McKinsey, there is a lack of women leadership in organizations, which is prompting women employees to switch jobs at rates higher than ever before, affecting retention numbers and leading to a loss of women in the workforce. Women's ERGs are one way to bridge this gender inequity and ensure safer, and more professionally conducive environments for women in the workplace.
Benefits for the organization
- When ERGs support the organization’s DEI goals, it enhances company culture within the organization and builds strong and empowered employee communities
- Talent retention is increased as employees from diverse backgrounds find value in the company’s mission
- Employee engagement is boosted as employees foster better relationships with the workplace culture
- Good company culture leads to better client relationships and assists in business development
- Meaningful and productive changes to company policies are facilitated
- Increases number of women leaders and women in other qualified job positions
- Members of the Women’s ERGs help the organization’s employee networking efforts by participating in conferences, panels, job fairs, etc; and contributing positive testimonials about the organization
Benefits for Women Employees
With robust Women ERGs in the organization, Women employees:
- Feel a sense of community and empowerment at the workplace which reduces isolation
- Are equipped with the means to influence business decisions and results
- Gain access to professional development opportunities
- Get fairer pay and further gender equity in the workplace
- Gain greater potential for new growth opportunities, promotions, and contributions to their work
- Can access senior leadership, including women in important positions to learn from and be mentored by
- Gain opportunities to network beyond their immediate work colleagues
- Increase overall competencies of employees by transferable skills such as leadership skills, better communication and collaboration, organizational understanding, and interpersonal skills.
Examples of Women’s ERGs and their Mission Statements
So far we’ve read about what Women’s ERGs are and what are their benefits and goals; before you jump into how one can start a Women’s ERG at their workplace, take a look at some successful ERG examples and their mission statements that can not only provide insights on why other organizations build Women’s ERGs but also inspire your own Women’s ERG:
- Motorola Solutions
Motorola’s Women ERG has 15 established chapters for its global teams. The group is called the Women’s Business Council (WBC) and is supported by Kristin Kruska as one of the executive sponsors for the ERG. The mission statement of the ERG is as follows:
“The WBC aims to empower, develop and elevate the women of Motorola Solutions by providing community and connections to enable success while remaining focused on meeting the company’s business objectives so that they can rise, inspire and thrive together.”
- One North
One North is notable in many aspects but especially in its policy to keep the Women’s ERG open and accessible for allies of all genders. Their mission statement reads:
“The One North Women’s ERG commits to empowering one another’s personal and professional growth through building an inclusive culture, providing an opportunity to talk about issues we’re facing, and carving out time to educate ourselves on strategies and philosophies to help us be the best versions of ourselves. All are welcome to participate and all voices are encouraged.”
- Syneos Health
The Syneos Health Women’s Employee Resource Group consists of more than 750 members globally who are focused on advancing the careers of women through achieving work-life presence and enabling personal and professional growth. Their mission statement is as follows:
“The mission of the Syneos Health Women's ERG is to build an inclusive community to discuss and create awareness around issues women face in the workplace, provide tools and resources for women and help colleagues who work with women be better equipped to support them.”
You can read more about them here.
- Georgia Tech
The Women’s Employee Resource Group at Georgia Tech, also known as the Women of Georgia Tech Employee Resource Group invests in women to create an environment that celebrates their unique contributions, champions their professional and personal growth, and fosters experiences in which all women can thrive. Their mission statement declares:
“Women of Georgia Tech provides a network that supports the professional development of women, facilitates recruitment and retention, and works with senior management to address and provide feedback on matters of interest to female employees, including policy matters. Women of Georgia Tech’s activities also provide a forum to acknowledge the achievements of women at Georgia Tech and address their common workday challenges. It also serves as a support system on matters of interest unique to women in the workforce.“
You can read more about them here.
The Women’s ERG at SLAC is called “Women@SLAC.” Their primary executive sponsor is Carole Fried and their leadership includes 5 members. Their mission statement is as follows:
“The "Women@SLAC" Employee Resource Group is dedicated to raising awareness of the issues facing women in the workplace. We are committed to making SLAC an inclusive workplace for everyone where we foster personal and professional growth and development.”
You can read more about them here.
Premise started their Women’s ERG because a diverse group of women across many departments was interested in the opportunity to cultivate an inclusive environment that supports and encourages women to advance their skills and leadership potential through collaboration, community, connection, and mentorship. Their mission statement reads:
“Building culture and ensuring employees have a feeling of empowerment in the workplace, have become focal points for many organizations over recent years. So much so, that these companies have created, or employees organically create specialized Employee Resource Groups or ERGs. These established forums provide a tangible resource to network and share ideas, strategies, and experiences for employees. As an added benefit, ERGs provide an opportunity for those within the organization to gain a better understanding of the importance of inclusivity and diversity.”
You can read more about them here
- Minnesota Government
Minnesota Statewide Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are intentional groups of employees building a broader culture of inclusion across the state enterprise. These groups embrace diverse cultures, professional development, and community involvement. ERGs work closely with Minnesota Management and Budget's Diversity and Inclusion Program to ensure group activities align with diversity and inclusion efforts. Their Women’s ERG called ‘Women IT ChangeMakers’ define their mission statement as:
“Women in IT ChangeMakers will support and provide outreach to under-represented women in technology. The gender gap is wider in executive leadership and cyber-security. It is important to not only establish a network of leaders but resources and partnerships that can advance creativity and opportunities for women. Who best to establish this, than the women that are impacted by this disparity? It's our mission to build an influential and sustainable network of women leaders to increase the number of women in technology. This includes traditional and non-traditional roles such as cybersecurity. To establish partnerships, resources, and strategies to build a strong pipeline of women leaders in IT where this ERG would no longer be needed.”
You can read more about them here.
How to start a Women’s ERG at your organization
The beginning of a Women’s ERG comes from acknowledging the gap in gender equity at the workplace. While establishing an ERG, it is important to keep ERG Best practices in mind. The steps to starting a women’s ERG at your workplace are as follows:
Step 1. Survey your existing employees
Before starting an ERG at the organization, it is essential to have an understanding of the problems that women employees face at your organization. Study company policies that affect women employees, and look at recruitment, retention, and performance numbers. This is also a good time to talk to other women at the workplace to get a deeper understanding of their professional experience at the organization.
Once you have a clear idea about the state of women in the workforce, it’s time to make a case for an Employee Resource Group and generate interest among the workforce. Send out resources that address the need for a Women’s ERG, conduct a short survey to gauge interest, or simply ask for a show of hands in company meetings. Use the survey to get data about employee experience. This can later be used to make a case for the leaders and sponsors.
Step 2: Setup goals and mission
Before you can take your proposal to the leadership, you need to define a Mission statement, objective goals, and a charter for your ERG. The mission statement is a short (4-5 lines) paragraph that states the need and purpose of the ERG. It can be followed by more elaborate and quantifiable goals, and a charter to launch the ERG. To gain inspiration for your Women’s ERG mission statement, read examples of other Women’s ERG mission statements in the previous section.
Step 3: Seek executive sponsorship
When you have set up your goals and mission statement, it is time to secure buy-in to ensure that you have the funds to organize impactful ERG activities and events. When you arrange a meeting with the executive leadership, you need to be prepared to make a strong case for your ERG. Your presentation should include:
- The purpose of your ERG with goals, objectives, and mission statements
- Quantitative and Qualitative data based on your employee experience survey
- External research and data to support the need for gender equity in the workplace
- Inputs about employee interest in the resource group
- Identified executive sponsor(s) along with other organizational support that the ERG will require for smooth functioning
- A proposed plan for the functioning of the ERG and upcoming events and activities
- A proposed budget based on the data above
Step 4: Recruit members and elect leaders
When you start recruiting members for the Women’s ERG, your ERG needs to take a call on allies. Some Women’s ERGs allow allies to join the group, and others do not. Different stakeholders might have different opinions on the matter, and once an agreement has been reached, earnest recruiting for the ERG can begin.
Begin by spreading the word about your resource group through in-org newsletters or all-hands meetings. An inauguration event to kick-start the group can also generate interest in the activities of your ERG. If there are people in the organization whom you know to be interested in the ERG then reach out to them specifically. Using word-of-mouth marketing to spread your invitation is also a common way to recruit members.
Once members have been recruited, it is advised that the group nominates or elects a leadership committee, with the size of the council depending on the size of the ERG. The first meeting can also be used for this purpose. A good head-committee rule is to make their terms limited with re-election or nominations scheduled at recurring intervals. Not only does this ensure accountability and urge actions from the ERG leaders, but it also ensures that new perspectives and ideas are constantly introduced in the leadership.
Step 5: Set Agenda
To kickstart your Women’s ERG, you need to set an agenda for the quarter/year. Your agenda should include the activities and events you are planning to conduct, along with the impact you are hoping to create with them. A common problem that ERGs face is that they start with a bang and a rush of energy that fizzles out due to lack of direction, mismanaged event calendar, or loss of organizational support. To arm your Women’s ERG against these:
- Make sure that your charter is filled with goals and objectives that are achievable. Reassess these goals every once in a while to make sure that your activities are aligned with the goals, and that your goals are aligned with what women employees at your workplace need.
- Plan your ERG’s activities well in advance. Organizing multiple big events like panels and conferences very frequently is not sustainable. Therefore, it is wiser to plan a bunch of smaller events like group discussions, volunteering events, video screenings, etc around bigger events to keep the calendar populated and your members engaged.
- Ensure that you are reporting and amplifying the ERG’s impact to the stakeholders and the rest of your organization. Transparency translates into continued faith and support in your ERG’s work.
Find more insights about your Women’s ERG agenda in the next section.
Step 6: Organize your Women’s ERG’s first meeting
Once everything else is set, it’s time to organize the first meeting for your ERG. The purpose of this meeting should be to introduce members to each other, discuss the ERG Charter, and start planning events for the ERG.
An exciting way to onboard members to the ERG could be to organize a short volunteering event with a non-profit that works for the upliftment of women. Alternatively, you can use the first session to share basic resources including blogs, articles, educational videos, or other media to generate awareness for the issues you plan on tackling. Lastly, you could simply utilize the first meeting to familiarize the members with each other and have a fun chill session of discussions.
Find more resources for your first meeting in our Women’s ERG Toolkit!
Setting Agenda for your Women’s ERG
While the agenda that you set for your Women’s ERG is going to be unique to your company and employees personally, here are some ways to start thinking about your ERG’s agenda:
Growing your Women’s ERG
One of the primary goals of a functional and robust ERG is to continue growing, increase recruitment, and retain a healthy membership. Here are a few ideas that can help your Women’s ERG grow:
- Hosting open sessions and events
Hosting open sessions and events helps you interact with members of your organization who might be a good fit for your Women’s ERG. When employees get to witness the impact that your ERG events have on the affinity groups, and the employees themselves, they will be able to assess how being a part of the Women’s ERG can contribute to their well-being at the workplace.
- Marketing your ERG within the organization
Use avenues like internal company newsletters, announcements at all-hands meetings, update emails to all employees, posters/flyers at company notice boards, and word of mouth to market your Women’s ERG and its activities within the organization. The more the employees are exposed to your ERG and its activities, the more members it will attract.
- Informing new employees
Get in touch with the HR of your organization and make sure that the onboarding of new employees involves informing them about the ERG and its activities.
- Collaborating with other ERGs
Collaboration with other ERGs is not only a good way to share resources and avoid duplication of efforts, but it is also a great way of interacting with members of other ERGs within your organization who may be the right fits for your Women’s ERG too.
Engaging your ERG members
Engaging ERG members regularly is one of the struggles that ERGs face constantly. It is also the reason why many of them fizzle out. Here are some ideas that can help you continuously engage members of your Women’s ERG:
1. Organizing meetings and reviews
As an ERG your members must get together every once in a while to create a safe space for women employees to forge bonds, debate and discuss women's issues at the workplace, or just hang out informally. These meetings can be official with discussion agendas, informal dinners, or lunch get-togethers. Regular meetings have been known to foster solidarity, boost confidence, and strengthen women employees of organizations (source).
The way ERGs function, it is also extremely important to get constant input from your members to review the impact of activities and events that the ERG executes. Monthly meetings and reviews can help you stay in touch with members and make sure that your agenda is aligned with the real problems women face at your workplace.
2. Hosting engagement activities
In addition to monthly meetings and reviews, there are numerous other engaging activities that your Women’s ERG can organize. Some of these include:
a. Awareness campaigns
Increased awareness of issues faced by women inside and outside the workplace is one of the central goals of most Women’s ERGs. Your ERG can look for fun ways to spread awareness about women’s issues including organizing fun quizzes on women’s rights and important heritage events. Another way is to make flashcards with awareness messages that can be donated to NPOs, thus creating an impact inside and outside your workplace. Discussions around famous feminist leaders in history can also be exciting and fruitful for your ERG.
b. Host a movie screening
Movie screenings are a great way to engage your Women’s ERG members. Pick from a list of films that focus on women’s issues or feminist themes like rights, the suffragette, gender justice, etc. Depending on the popularity of screenings at your ERG events you can also screen informational documentaries and videos.
To make screenings more fun and impactful, be sure to hold a fun quiz about the topics covered in the film before the screening and a discussion panel after the screening. The session can end with a summary of key takeaways from the film and the session
Find more resources for awareness screenings in our Women’s ERG Toolkit!
c. Organize mindfulness sessions
ERGs are important in workplaces because they help to reduce anxiety and create a safe workplace for employee communities. Mindfulness sessions are a great way to help Women relax in the workplace which leads to greater productivity and concentration. Meditation, yoga sessions, mindful immersion, etc are ways to stimulate mindfulness in the workplace. This event can be open to the broader organization or can also be organized in collaboration with other ERGs in the company to ensure greater participation and more impact.
d. Mentoring programs
One of the core work areas of a Women’s ERG is providing mentoring and professional guidance to women in the workforce. Therefore, mentoring programs and sessions should be an integral part of your ERG calendar. These sessions can help coach women employees for executive positions and higher managerial and leadership positions in the organization.
For more activity and event ideas for your Women’s ERG, check this out!
3. Building an annual volunteering calendar
An activity that brings all three - awareness, engagement, and impact together - is to volunteer for a cause that uplifts women. Volunteering is one of the most powerful activity ideas for a Women’s ERG for multiple reasons:
- Helps raise awareness for employee volunteers
- Creates social impact outside the organization in women's communities
- It’s a great way to celebrate important heritage events at the workplace like International Women’s Day, Women’s Equality Day, etc.
- The number of beneficiaries, volunteering hours, and number of volunteers are all powerful quantitative metrics to track and report for the impact created by your Women’s ERG
- It has a massive second-degree impact on your workplace culture
These volunteering sessions can be offline for close-knit teams or online for remote, hybrid, and global teams. Build an annual volunteering calendar with Goodera where you can choose from a rich catalog of purpose-driven campaigns around multiple cause areas curated for an engaging experience for your employees.
What are the causes that your Women’s ERG can support by volunteering?
Many causes fall under equitable justice for women, and the cause areas that your Women’s ERG decides to support are relative to the gender gaps in your organization and the causes close to your ERG members. However, here are a few popular causes that Women’s ERGs can pick up:
- Increase in the number of women in leadership positions
- Women in STEM
- Awareness and action against violence against women
- Supporting women-owned businesses
- Battling gender stereotypes
- Rallying for equal access to justice
- Extending support to women in crisis
- Access to education for women from disadvantaged backgrounds
- Access to medical care for women from disadvantaged backgrounds
- Rallying against female infanticide
Reporting the impact created by your Women’s ERG
With all the impact that your ERG activities create within and outside your organization, this impact should be regularly reported to the stakeholders including leadership, sponsors, members, and other employees of the organization. This helps not only in maintaining the organization’s faith in your ERG but also in recruiting and retaining members.
Build tangible awareness
Awareness about your ERG activities can be created through multiple channels including marketing emails and newsletters covering recent activities and their impact, and posting updates about upcoming events on relevant company forums. Make sure that you reach out to employees outside of your ERG membership for these. The more visibility your ERG gains, the better.
Report Quantitative numbers
Monthly, quarterly, or yearly reports that you send out to stakeholders must include quantitative numbers that reflect the impact your ERG has created with its activities. These may include:
- Number of Meetings/activities/events
- Qualitative feedback and testimonials received from ERG members
- Volunteering numbers
That’s a wrap on our Guide to Women’s ERGs. We hope this was helpful. To access more of our resources on ERGs, visit our Resource Room. To plan engaging and impactful activities for your Women’s ERG, take a look at our events and activities section. To see what we do for other ERGs, check out our ERG solutions.
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