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Continuing on the theme of Employee Resource Groups… ERGs have become integral components of many DEI programs, demonstrating significant impact when effectively managed. They serve as strategic partners for organizations, aiding in the identification and resolution of workplace issues while providing a communal space for employees from marginalized groups. But they can be perceived as exclusionary or just plain window dressing if they aren’t managed well.

This article from Worklife highlights potential pitfalls when ERGs are not adequately supported:

  • Reinforcing Stereotypes: ERGs may inadvertently reinforce stereotypes if they are utilized solely for themed events during cultural holidays or as part of marketing initiatives. This also gives an impression that the groups are more exclusionary than a valuable part of a broad inclusiveness program.
  • Tokenism: Companies risk tokenism when they showcase the work of ERGs to attract diversity without genuinely understanding the underlying issues faced by the community.
  • Creating a Divisive Environment: Inadequate support from leadership, coupled with decisions contradictory to the ERG’s mission, can lead to the creation of a divisive environment.
  • Additional Burden on Marginalized Groups: When efforts of ERG leaders from marginalized communities go unrecognized, ERGs can inadvertently become an additional burden on these groups.
  • False Impression of Issue Resolution: Relying solely on ERGs without a comprehensive DEI strategy may give the false impression that all diversity issues have been addressed, potentially hindering meaningful progress.

To ensure the success of ERGs, companies must recognize them as part of a broader, comprehensive DEI strategy. Well-run ERGs can serve as powerful partners, contributing to widespread and meaningful improvements in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives. Our checklist Empowering Employee Resource Groups can help your ERG be successful.

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The Editor

Ngozi Okeh is an experienced leader with a history of driving efforts to conceptualize, define, assess and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as strategic business processes. Ngozi is currently the Director of DEI at a leading marketing technology company where she develops and executes enterprise-wide DEI initiatives through rigorous strategic planning efforts, community partnerships, leadership collaboration, strategy evaluation, and careful management of communication and buy-in as well as policies and procedures.  Previously, she worked at an independent mortgage bank, where… View Profile