The Fairygodboss mission is to improve the workplace for women by increasing transparency. Since 2015, the startup has provided a free and safe space for women to share their workplace experiences authentically. On the Fairygodboss platform, women anonymously provide information about what their jobs are like and whether their employers are supportive of women — and job seekers who register on the site can access this information for free.
Fairygodboss hosted its first-ever summit on Nov. 1-2, 2017, in an effort to further its mission and create connections that would lead to faster progress on gender parity. At the inaugural conference, called “Galvanize: Making Women’s Resource Groups More Powerful,” top leaders from a variety of industries and Fortune 500 companies assembled to further discuss how employers and women’s resource groups can best support female talent.
The summit focused on women’s networks in particular because they are ubiquitous: employee resource groups (ERGs) exist at 90% of Fortune 500 companies. However, research conducted in 2017 by Fairygodboss suggests that employee resource groups have much room to be made more effective and impactful.
Approximately 100 business leaders representing corporate women’s groups from over 50 major US corporations attended Galvanize 2017, and they shared information and best practices about their employers, jobs, and resource groups. Leaders of women’s corporate networks identified actionable ideas to make ERGs more effective and relevant, addressed the most urgent issues that working women face today, and discussed how both women and men can advance gender diversity in the workplace by opening channels of communication between women’s networks.
In addition to sharing best practices and brainstorming solutions, Galvanize attendees heard directly from top changemakers on how they are changing the corporate culture. Iconic speakers at Galvanize included:
...along with many more inspiring leaders across a variety of industries.
Fairygoboss has amassed unique, proprietary findings from both the summit and from prior research and has summarized those findings in this report, which presents findings on the wide range of obstacles ERGs face, what areas of focus will help them retain relevancy, and what practices and communications correlate with their missions.
The meetings, events, and lines of communication provided by ERGs create a safe space to discuss issues within the workplace. While these can range from discussing an unsupportive supervisor to how to solve the gender pay gap, ERGs provide underrepresented employees with an opportunity to have their voices heard. By coming together, employees — along with sponsors, advocates, and allies — can create short- and long-term solutions.
Open lines of communication are crucial to the success of ERGs. ERGs must strive to ensure that they receive executive support, which will help them align with the company’s overall strategic initiatives. By doing so, ERGs ensure their continued effectiveness as a corporate and personal resource. Simultaneously, ERGs must hold themselves accountable to their constituents by soliciting feedback, creating open dialogue with allies, and inspiring continued engagement for new and veteran employees.
When fully utilized by employees and employers, ERGs can positively impact across all lines of business. ERGs provide unique resources within traditional corporate governance structures and can help diversify talent pipelines, strengthen corporate communication initiatives, and encourage cross-collaboration throughout different departments. Within the workplace of the future, ERGs serve as a key resource on multiple levels.
Executive engagement in ERGs is crucial because it ensures well-established governance structures that lead to progress, and it also helps ERG leaders to align their objectives with corporate strategy. For instance, one company represented at Galvanize instituted a policy that requires senior advisory council to meet with ERG representatives to discuss their charter, the ERG’s recent accomplishments, and how women can continue to keep the lines of business connected and engaged.
The support of male allies is a crucial form of advocacy for women in the workplace, something attendees spoke to time and again. When ERGs engage male allies, they utilize positive peer pressure to spread a culture of accountability and inclusivity. And according to research presented at Galvanize, the impact male allies can make is considerable — they found that when men champion gender diversity, 97% of those workplaces’ diversity programs saw progress. But when men remain outside of the conversation and don’t make diversity a priority, only 39% do.
We know that ERGs can truly carry an impact — if their initiatives can avoid becoming lost in abstract ideas and language. The mission of these ERGs must boil down to specific and actionable items that groups can accomplish within a designated period of time. Establishing SMART goals — or, goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based — can help you realistically measure your objectives and provide a concise plan for what your group is hoping to achieve and why.