Helping Companies Achieve Gender Equity
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The E4W Blog

What Your Company's Women's Group Can and Can't Do For You


Many companies have created internal groups for women, sometimes called employee or business resource groups (ERGs or BRGs).  While these can provide great support for women, they are not a silver bullet for solving all the challenges women face in the workplace.  Here is what you need to know to make them most effective.

What Women's Groups are Great At Doing:

  1. Creating a sense of community.  Particularly in large companies, these groups provide a way to make the experience more personal.  They create a space for women to learn from each other, share advice and provide support.
  2. Surfacing shared issues.  One of the greatest things about women's groups is that they provide a forum for discussing experiences, frustrations and challenges.  This can lead to a rallying cry for the group on ways to make work better.
  3. Creating networking opportunities.  Groups often bring together people who otherwise would not interact with each other.  They can be great ways to create new connections at multiple levels and across functional areas and office locations.

Where Women's Groups Can Fall Short:

  1. Action orientation.  Getting together just to connect is ok in the beginning but the group will need to evolve to more of a mission-orientation to maintain engagement.  Develop a mission and goals, track progress and revisit them every year. 
  2. Leadership participation.  Because a lot of these groups are grass-roots efforts, and/or they are formed in environments with few to no women leaders, they can lack regular leadership-level participation.  Without this, there is no communication path for getting feedback and buy-in from leadership on desired changes.
  3. Connecting with men.  Working in a silo will only get us so far.  We really need to partner with male counterparts at all levels to make progress.  Sponsoring and speaking at events where men and women attend to share the group's goals and activities are great ways to include everyone.

Supplementing women's groups with company-wide initiatives on recruitment, hiring, mentoring, leadership skill development, pay parity, family-related policies, unconscious bias training and sponsorship for promotion will round out advocacy efforts for women across all levels.