Could the Secret to Workplace Gender Equality Lie in Women’s Employee Resource Groups?

three women at work

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Fairygodboss
Fairygodboss
April 14, 2024 at 4:19AM UTC
According to the 2021 State of the Employee Resource Group Report, most organizations surveyed have at least three ERGs in their organizations, with more than 20% having 7-15 ERGs. The top types of these affinity groups are LGBTQIA+, Women, and Black & African American.
Employee resource groups (ERGs) exist at nearly all Fortune 500 companies. The Sequoia Consulting Group’s 2021 Employee Experience Benchmarking report found that 40% of all companies have ERGs — up 9% from the previous year.

New work scenarios.

In light of the changing world of work, organizations must reconceptualize how they respond to changing employee demands. 
Gartner found that 1 in 3 women prefer to work fully remotely and 1 in 2 women want a hybrid scenario. Women's ERG can support employees in all contexts, as well as illuminate the obstacles women face. They can act as advocates for programs that encourage flexibility and women's leadership.

The past and present.

At Fairygodboss, we have long been proponents of ERGs and served as a resource for organizations looking to establish or improve their groups. In 2017, we asked 400 women about the value (or lack thereof) they’ve found in joining their women’s employee resource group at work. The results were mixed, and while there was a lot of positive feedback, women still noted many issues surrounding their ERGs.
Surveying only women whose employers offered internal women’s networking groups, we found that 65% of survey respondents did, indeed, said they belonged to their women’s ERG. Encouragingly, 70% of women who belonged to their ERG said when utilized, it was responsible for influencing changes in policy at their employer. The top policy changes achieved by women’s resource groups included improving parental leave benefits (55%), advocating for a more flexible work schedule or vacation policy (53%), and establishing a mentor or sponsorship program (44%).  
While it’s clear that ERGs can create positive change, it’s still troubling that many women said they found them to be a waste of time or quite simply didn’t have the time to commit to them in the first place. Even more troubling is that nearly 33% of women didn't join their women’s ERG because they felt it was too highly controlled by human resources, resulting in a lack of transparency and honest dialogue. 
The top reasons women do not join their company’s women’s ERG include:
women's ERG statistics

The way forward.

According to our survey respondents, employers can start by offering more professional development resources like continuing education (53%), providing more networking opportunities (44%), and investing in mentorship (42%). 
Of course, in light of new work modes, it's important for employers to conceptualize how ERGs can serve women in this new landscape.
Join our community in this conversation about women’s employee resource groups and share whether your women’s networking group at work has been effective, and how to improve it!
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Have you experienced any hesitation joining a Women's employee resource group at your company? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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