Inside Local Women’s ERGs That Are Making an Impact

Michael Hines
January 7, 2021
A Chicago bridge leading into the loop
PHOTO VIA RUDY BALASKO FOR SHUTTERSTOCK

In the tech industry, there’s seemingly no problem that can’t be solved with more data, slick software or a new app. Well, except for the industry’s massive gender gap.

While tech can identify and verify instances of gender bias — such as disparities in hiring, pay and promotions between men and women — there is no tool that can remedy these problems. Companies need to enact structural change to tackle these issues, and one way they can accomplish that is by launching an employee resource group (ERG) for women.

According to a 2019 survey by Fairygodboss, a career community for women, 70 percent of respondents said the women’s ERG at their company was responsible for driving policy changes. In addition to providing a space for women to address workplace and career-related challenges and strategies for overcoming them, these ERGs often also provide opportunities for networking, mentorship and professional development.

To get a better idea of the impact these groups make, we spoke to four Chicago tech leaders about the impact women’s ERGs make on their companies.

 

The Motorola Solutions team
MOTOROLA SOLUTIONS
Kristin Kruska
CORPORATE VP, TRANSACTIONS, CORPORATE & SECURITIES LAW AND SECRETARY AND EXECUTIVE SPONSOR OF THE WOMEN’S BUSINESS COUNCIL

When it comes to women’s ERGs, Motorola Solutions thinks beyond its Chicago headquarters. The company’s Women’s Business Council (WBC) has 15 global chapters according to Kristin Kruska, an executive sponsor of the group. In addition to providing professional development and mentorship opportunities to employees, Kruska said the WBC also lends its support to the Society of Women Engineers.

 

How would you describe the mission and goals of Motorola Solution’s women's employee resource group?

We have several employee-led business councils, which provide professional and personal growth opportunities, impact business results and ensure diversity and inclusion are woven into the DNA of our company culture. Our Women’s Business Council was created specifically to help empower, develop and support the continued success of Motorola Solutions’ female employees through programming, mentorship, networking and philanthropic opportunities. This inclusive global group supports our workforce diversity goals and business objectives by creating a supportive environment where women can connect, feel a sense of community, share ideas and have an important voice in our company’s success.
 

The WBC helps employees be their best, building an inclusive workplace where women feel supported and empowered to be their authentic selves.”


What resources does this group provide for its members?

The motto of the WBC is “think globally, act locally,” and our 15 global chapters work collectively and independently to support our members’ needs based on location. We focus on development by sponsoring various programs and workshops on career growth and personal development. Topics range from unconscious bias and leading with empathy to claiming your voice and developing financial acumen. Additionally, we believe seeing women in leadership positions is important, so we provide networking opportunities to help members build relationships and mentorships with senior female leaders locally and globally.

 

What impact has this group had on your company and its culture so far?

The WBC helps employees be their best, building an inclusive workplace where women feel supported and empowered to be their authentic selves. In tandem with professional development, we support the goals and initiatives of the Society of Women Engineers, the world’s largest advocate and catalyst for change for women in engineering and technology. Our SWE chapter sponsored over 300 of our female employees — our largest participation to date — in this year’s virtual SWE conference where a Motorola Solutions executive gave the keynote sponsorship presentation. 

Our impact also extends outward. Throughout 2020, our philanthropic endeavors focused on frontline workers. All of our chapters around the globe selected a local hospital or nonprofit to provide personal protective gear, gift cards or food.

 

Jen Frost
Managing Director, Marketing

In addition to providing a place for women to share their struggles, goals and strategies for overcoming obstacles, the women’s ERG at One North also provides a place for male employees to learn about the issues their colleagues face. Jen Frost, managing director of marketing, said opening the group up to all employees has helped the women on One North find new allies in the office.

 

How would you describe the mission and goals of One North’s women’s employee resource group?

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.
 

We’ve provided opportunities for women who are new in their career to voice their goals and challenges.”


What resources does this group provide for its members?

In addition to holding monthly meetings, our women’s ERG also holds panel discussions with experts and thought leaders, shares extracts from women empowerment conferences, provides access to training programs focused on women and leadership, and launches initiatives to empower local women’s groups.

 

What impact has this group had on One North and its culture so far?

We’ve provided opportunities for women who are new in their careers to voice their goals and challenges and created an environment where we can openly discuss development areas like vulnerability, compassionate center, gender communication styles and balance. By opening up the group to all employees, we’ve made it possible for our male colleagues to learn about some common struggles women face and become our allies in the workplace.  

 

women at GoHealth
gohealth
Lauren Blackburn
Director, Corporate Communications

Director of Communication Lauren Blackburn said GoHealth’s women’s ERG, [email protected], has been instrumental for women at the company, who make up a majority of the company’s workforce. 

 

How would you describe the mission and/or goals of GoHealth’s women’s employee resource group?

[email protected] is a group of employees dedicated to supporting and mentoring women in the workplace. Our goal is to build friendships, develop careers and foster support among women employees. This may include providing social opportunities for women, creating opportunities for mentorship and establishing a forum for discussion of women’s issues in the workplace. Events are inclusive and open to all to join. We are empowered women empowering women!

 

What resources does this group provide for its members?

[email protected] provides an open forum where we freely discuss relevant topics and share opportunities and events that provide support to women (and allies) in the workplace. We’ve held a variety of events since our inception back in 2017, including wine tastings, movies in the park, fundraising events for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, private golf lessons, happy hours, game nights, book club takeovers, International Women’s Day events, Ted Talks and discussions, personality tests, LinkedIn learning courses and discussions, and more!
 

Our goal is to build friendships, develop careers and foster support among women employees.”


What impact has this group had on GoHealth and its culture so far?

We’re proud of the fact that [email protected] is GoHealth’s longest-running ERG. At GoHealth, our most valuable asset is our employees, and with 53 percent of employees being women, it’s important that they be supported and have a group dedicated toward their progression in the workplace. This is especially valuable as we look to grow our organization and bring in intelligent, talented individuals into the company. We make sure to let candidates know that there’s a group already in place to help support their growth and provide opportunities for mentorship.

 

Christine Herald
Professional Services Team Lead

LogicGate’s ERG, Women in LogicGate (WIL), provides a forum for women at the company to discuss and learn more about women’s collective experience in the workplace. Professional Services Team Lead Christine Herald added that events have brought together women to learn more about others’ experiences in tech. 

 

How would you describe the mission and/or goals of LogicGate’s women’s employee resource group?

WIL’s mission is to foster a supportive and collaborative environment where all LogicGate employees can come to learn, share best practices and grow an internal community dedicated to ensuring women’s equality. We were very intentional about broadening this employee resource group to all employees because we believe that our impact will be greater with the support of our allies.

Our cross-functional WIL committee, which consists of six members, two leadership advisors and one executive sponsor, strategically outlined our core pillars at the onset of creating WIL:

  1. Drive thoughtful discussion and bring relevant content to fellow members to further enable our women to grow in their careers.
  2. Partner with community organizations that have aligned missions in order to inspire more women in tech and instill learnings at LogicGate.
  3. Teach our women how to develop and foster mentorship relationships to help each other tap into the existing knowledge, skills and experiences that our people hold.

 

What resources does this group provide for its members?

First, our members have the WIL committee as a resource to suggest ideas for monthly events. Our goal is to have roughly one event every one to two months that is open to all members, and those have been structured in a number of formats such as panel discussions, lunch and learns, and fireside chats. These events have been curated based on survey responses from our employees as to what is top of mind for them.

Second, we recently created a Slack donut channel called #wilpower that women can opt-in to. Each month, members in this channel are randomly grouped into teams of four to five people who are responsible for setting up a virtual group chat to discuss the monthly topic. Members are encouraged to suggest ideas for monthly topics using our LogicGate platform.

This month, we discussed the article “The Real Reason Women Aren’t Getting Ahead in Tech: ‘She’s Not Strategic’” by Jess Iandioria. Next month, we plan to discuss the article “These Seven Emotions Aren't Deadly — They’re Your Secret Career Superpowers,” by Liz Fosslien. The WIL committee distills our conversations into a few key themes with actionable insights to assist our leadership team with implementing change when needed.
 

WIL has allowed us to foster a community at LogicGate where women feel empowered to speak up and connect with their colleagues.”


What impact has this group had on LogicGate and its culture so far?

WIL has allowed us to foster a community at LogicGate where women feel empowered to speak up and connect with their colleagues when they need support or want advice on a particular topic.

In September, we held a career navigation panel that spurred conversation around what career paths look like at LogicGate. Through this panel discussion, we introduced our members to leaders across numerous industries and functions such as a chief product officer from a supply chain management company, a chief information security officer from a boutique consulting firm, an operations executive from a data management company and a corporate counsel for a large aerospace company. These insights have facilitated conversation around “one size does not fit all” when it comes to your career — and that’s OK.

In October, we held a fireside chat with a CEO from another tech startup in Chicago who spoke to us about his experiences mentoring and sponsoring women. Specifically, he spoke about where he got it wrong, how to help to educate our allies and where he believes we should focus to get it right allowing us to be forward-thinking.

 

WOMEN IN TECH STATISTICS FOR 2020And How Tech Can Do Better

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