Women Making a Difference — The Power of Business Resource Groups

Sponsored by The Hanover Insurance Group

Colleen Ellsworth, Michelle Pace, Erin Saviano, and Amy Sciannameo. Photos courtesy of The Hanover Insurance Group.

Colleen Ellsworth, Michelle Pace, Erin Saviano, and Amy Sciannameo. Photos courtesy of The Hanover Insurance Group.

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What drives someone to devote their time to a business resource group (BRG) or employee resource group (ERG)? For many, the answer to this question comes down to having a passion for uplifting and supporting others.

“I have always been a huge advocate of equity for women,” reflects Michelle Pace, a Senior IT/Specialty Insurance Manager at The Hanover Insurance Group. “I grew up in a household where my mom was the first female of her family to graduate college and work outside the home. She was very independent with a strong mind, and she saw to it that I understood how to support myself and be strong as well…. What I found along my own career journey is that I am a huge advocate for ensuring women are treated fairly.”

This desire to advocate for women is the catalyst for the Women@Hanover BRG, which is “collectively trying to make things better for women today — and in the future,” explains Colleen Ellsworth, Director of Innovation Development. Ellsworth, who is a governance council member of the Women@Hanover BRG, has felt driven to contribute to advancing women’s leadership and development ever since she was involved in a sorority in college. And now, “by supporting the mission of Women@Hanover, I am helping to create a more inclusive and equitable environment so that we can strive for all individuals to have equal opportunities to reach their full potential,” Ellsworth tells us.

The Women@Hanover BRG seeks to celebrate, advocate for, and lift up the women who work at the company — creating events, networking, and opportunities to attract, develop, and retain talented women. As Erin Saviano, PL Strategy Manager and governance council member of the Women@Hanover BRG shares, “Women@Hanover is an amazing and empowering group of women and allies” that help ensure women have a strong presence at the table — elevating both the women who work at The Hanover and the company itself. Saviano has seen this in action, noting that the group has helped her network and make a difference across the Women@Hanover community.

This work is also showing no signs of slowing down. Amy Sciannameo, Manager of Global Underwriting and chair of Women@Hanover states that “with The Hanover’s commitment to BRGs through executive sponsorship and dedicated funding, BRGs are becoming not just a part of our culture — they are helping to drive it forward.” And Sciannameo is excited to look for the future. “The progress we have made in just a few short years, and the momentum year after year provides an extremely encouraging outlook of a future workforce that is more inclusive and diverse at every level,” shares Sciannameo.

Your inside look at BRG leadership.

Curious about what it takes to play a leadership role in a BRG? First, it takes a willingness to prioritize helping others. “As a leader of Women@Hanover, I seek to support and empower the members of our governance council to leverage their own subject matter expertise to inspire the content they deem relevant and valuable,” explains Sciannameo. “In turn, I acknowledge their efforts through advocacy in the form of feedback to their managers and other business leaders.”

“Every woman that plays a role knows that it is about lifting up what has been done and adding to the landscape,” elaborates Pace. Using this as a guiding principle, Pace focuses on enhancing the existing legacy of the group while leaving her own mark. This includes “opening doors when I can and building upon the allyship we have within and outside our BRG,” she tells us. This is made possible thanks to help from the “leaders and supporting team members in the BRG,” notes Pace. 

In fact, using the opportunity as a chance to grow yourself is another key element of BRG leadership! As Saviano tells us, being part of the Women@Hanover BRG “has given me the space to continue being me and has opened doors, revealing possibilities to grow.” Through this role, she can constantly see that her voice and ideas matter, while her need for engagement is fulfilled.

As Ellsworth states, “being a BRG leader means making sure that we are collectively advancing the mission of Women@Hanover and being role models and allies for all the underrepresented groups at The Hanover.”

5 tips for taking on a leadership role in a BRG or ERG.

For people who are considering leadership BRG roles, Ellsworth, Pace, Saviano, and Sciannameo had the following advice:

  • Don’t let time be a factor for not getting involved! Even with limited capacity, you can still make an important impact.

  • Reflect on your reasons for joining. Why are you drawn to a particular BRG, what value would you bring to the community, and how does this align to your day-to-day responsibilities and professional goals?

  • After joining, reach out to others to seek new perspectives. Talk to members of the governance committee to solicit their input and consider joining a community with which you do not identify but seek to become a more informed ally.

  • If you become a leader, be sure to conduct research and understand the challenges your BRG team is attempting to overcome. You should also be sure to delegate, empower others, and let them shine!

  • Finally, embrace your passion for this role. This work should be something you enjoy doing!

Advice on growing a diverse, collaborative, and engaged resource group.

Why is it so important that BRGs are diverse? Learning from different cultures and different perspectives will bring people together, enhance creativity, and bring more success to the company, explains Pace.

“Our Women@Hanover events attract a diverse audience,” states Ellsworth. As a result, members like Ellsworth get the opportunity to meet people they wouldn’t have crossed paths with organically at work. “It’s given me a broader perspective of the company, and I’ve built new relationships with so many great people,” Ellsworth shares.

Another aspect of growing a successful and diverse BRG is ensuring that you collaborate with the other BRGs or ERGs within your organization. As for how to do this, Saviano highlights the importance of creating connections with other BRGs. “When possible, we seek to co-sponsor events with our other BRGs,” says Saviano. And, beyond co-sponsoring, Saviano also emphasizes how it's helpful to promote other BRG events across your own channels. “It is important to ensure inclusion in this space,” Saviano says.

Leaders also play a role in BRG collaboration and engagement. “We have coordinated meetings with BRG chairs, co-chairs, and IDE leaders where we intentionally discuss our planning to ensure that we are reaching as many members as possible,” Sciannameo tells us. “Over the past year, there has been a focus on events, content, presenters, and dialogues that can benefit members across our groups.” As Sciannameo notes, “intersectionality is one of the goals of all BRGs.” The BRG also aids The Hanover in achieving enterprise-level goals,  increasing the retention levels of women and the number of women in leadership positions.

Highlights of the Women@Hanover BRG.

Thanks to the hard work of the four leaders featured in this article, along with the many other members of the Women@Hanover BRG, the group has seen great success. One part of this success relates to an innovative group that the Women@Hanover BRG has founded — The Council of Allies. Ellsworth tells us that The Council of Allies serves as a unique place for people to grow their allyship skills. 

Separately, Ellsworth also supports other events and programs as part of her role in the Logistics and Operations committee, which includes the specialized Individual Development Plans (IDPs). “A great deal of effort was made in strategizing and facilitating discussion forums where women could learn the importance of an IDP and how to facilitate conversations with their managers as a collaborative effort to outline career paths and opportunities for growth and advancement,” explains Sciannameo. IDP events help the Women@Hanover BRG act on their mission to nurture talented women.

Events are another point of pride for this BRG. For instance, Pace highlights the vast array of events and activities the Women@Hanover BRG delivered during Women’s History Month in 2023. This shows how impactful the group can be, emphasizes Pace.

Of course, March isn’t the only time that the group delivers inspirational events! Saviano takes pride in engaging executive leaders to host events designed to share inspirational stories and promote the company’s commitment to authenticity, allyship, diversity, and equality. 

All of this work has a significant impact on The Hanover. “Over the last five years, our culture has grown even stronger and more vibrant. Our BRGs and IDE leadership team have supported that growth.” says Pace. “Great things can be done!”

Curious about joining The Hanover and experiencing the great things groups like the Women@Hanover BRG achieve firsthand? Check out open opportunities and make your own positive impact via the following link…

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