Employee Resources Groups (ERGs) are a key part of any organization’s DEI efforts today. They catalyze communities in business and promote inclusion. But often ERGs have limited access to resources and require employees to create the framework, communication plans and engagement strategies for the organization. Rachel Parrott, an ERG leader herself recognized that and found a creative and inspiring way to help others gain access to much needed support.
Years ago, Rachel Parrott was in code school on her way to being an engineer, and having a miserable experience in the process. She was regularly talked over, insulted and poorly treated in her final group project. It got her thinking about how someone chooses to simply walk away from their Computer Science degree, or their job in tech, because the emotional, physical and mental toll wasn’t worth it.
The lightbulb moment for Rachel was realizing that to change the harmful behavior of her colleagues, it would take data and science and not simply “be better” messaging. She pondered if the conversation of inclusivity could focus on the science, or in other words, how the ways we treat each other affects our brains. What happens in our brains when we feel rejected, excluded or unequal, and does this impact business efficiency?
Rachel’s journey connecting the dots between business psychology, neuroscience, and human behavior had begun, and it was only a matter of time before she was pursuing how those connections could influence Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs in organizations.
As her expertise grew, so did her own company’s effort in building Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), and Rachel became instrumental in the creation of them. Rachel and her company worked hard to make ERGs not just as a box checked, but also a direct line to more leadership development, targeted mentorship and exposure at the C-level.
While Rachel infused her learnings of neuroscience and human behavior in the workplace into the ERG efforts, she also turned to other leaders across her network for ways they had been able to take their own ERGs to the next level. She was challenged by the costs associated with effectively powering mentorships, leadership development, and the kind of community building she desired from her ERGs, and wondered how others were doing it. As an active member of the LinkedIn community, she posted one day in August 2020:
“Calling all Employee Resource Group (ERG) leaders, chairs, and executive sponsors! I have a small dream of creating the most giant cross-company ERG event series that the world has ever seen, and I’d also settle for creating one cross-company ERG event (sharing speaker fees, etc.) with a few other ERGs looking to bring in speakers or trainings.
This is one of those professions where I firmly believe we will make a bigger impact together than in silos- message me or comment if you are interested in brainstorming!”
Over the course of just a few days, Rachel had gone viral. Nearly 200 people raised their hand to be a part of the cross-company ERG, and Rachel had the data she needed to prove that access was missing for so many Employee Resource Groups across her network. Depending on your company size, its budget and capabilities, driving leadership development, mentorship, and community building can be cost and resource prohibitive, and Rachel believes firmly that DEI leaders “shouldn’t’ exist to be a company’s DEI programming.”
Today, Rachel’s idea has transformed into the Global ERG. The Global ERG exists as a cross-company community with a Slack Channel and email list that have over 230 members. They hold weekly leadership meetings to further the mission of advocacy, education, collaboration, and sustainability of best practices and innovation in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. And best of all, she feels this is just the beginning.
When asked what advice she would share with ERG leaders based on her learnings thus far, she said, “First, we cannot do this work if we invest 100% in other people and don’t stop to care for ourselves and our minds. Second, we benefit from doing this work together as the same systemic elements challenge us all. Together means cross-industry, cross-ERG, cross-functional. It’s not cheating to ask for help, repurposing other people’s resources isn’t lazy, and it is okay to step down if you are burning out.”
To join the Global ERG, reach out to Rachel Parrott through LinkedIn.
About the Authors
Rachel Parrott is the Diversity and Inclusion Manager at New Relic, Inc., a San Francisco-based technology company focused on providing a unified view of customers’ software and systems. In her almost 5 years at New Relic, Rachel was instrumental in the creation and launch of their five employee resource groups (ERGs), including the formation of a group focused specifically on mental health and neurodiversity at work. In addition to her work supporting the Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion teams at New Relic, Rachel has made a name for herself as someone who engineers “aha” moments around DE&I through the study of neuroscience and human behavior in the workplace.
You can find Rachel here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/racheletnire/
Sarah Ratcliffe, CIC, SPHR, a VP in Product Management at Applied Systems, also leads the company’s new LGBTQIA Employee Resource Group and is a founding member of the company’s Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Council. Her passion is to see folks excel at work and help everyone recognize that happens best when everyone can be their authentic selves. In Sarah’s spare time she’s a writer, dancer and choreographer and runs a social enterprise that focuses on using accessible movement as a source of fitness, liberation and resistance.
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