Sometimes advocating for diversity and inclusion begins right in your own workplace. To learn more about how to successfully create a corporate diversity program, we talked to engineers at Emerson, a global manufacturing organization, which identified a need for inclusion programs within the workplace and created a solution.
Emerson has tens of thousands of employees across the globe, so naturally, you’re working with people from all sorts of backgrounds. Even so, much like other engineering organizations, the boys club feel is very much intact. So, the leadership team at Emerson formed a diversity council and asked themselves the question, "How can we increase diversity."
After identifying the diversity council’s mission, aspirations and goals, Emerson sought out an organization they could partner with that would elevate its diversity platform. Finding that SWE aligned with their objectives, the company became part of SWE’s Corporate Partnership Council.
Next, Emerson created an internal organization specifically for women engineers – the Emerson SWE Group, which has since evolved to be called Emerson Women in STEM. The partnership with SWE allowed Emerson to align with SWE’s regions and sections, and provide a local feel for its employees across the globe.
"In terms of a specific diversity organization within Emerson – there was a strong need for it, there was an internal desire for it, and it’s gotten a lot of executive support over the years," said Pamela Jackson, vice president of corporate technology at Emerson and head of the Steering Committee & Council for Emerson Women in STEM. "The group has grown from less than 200 members around the time it was formed in 2013, to nearly 700 members across the globe today. So, it’s been highly successful."
The structure of the Emerson Women in STEM employee resource group is very much like the structure at SWE. It has a Steering Committee & Council that organizes things from a high level and multiple regions across the globe are responsible for day-to-day activities, such as community involvement and outreach. The group’s mission even aligns with SWE’s – Aspire. Advance. Achieve.
"Aligning with a group like SWE provided a turn-key approach to provide more diversity and inclusion for our employees," said Ellen Midgley, manager, university talent acquisition at Emerson. "Establishing an internal support network is highly valuable to our employees, and partnering with a global professional organization in this effort drives that value up. SWE’s extensive network and resources are another thing our employees can take advantage of."
Further empowering employees interested in the group, Emerson Women in STEM is corporately funded. That means that Emerson covers SWE membership dues for 200 of its employees, and Emerson also provides funding for regional events and outreach efforts.
We talked to Pamela and Ellen about best practices and lessons learned with this type of approach, and here’s what they had to offer:
Choosing a Name
The Emerson Women in STEM group used to be called Emerson Women in Engineering. Evolving the name to Women in STEM allowed Emerson to be more inclusive, empowering more women to contribute to the conversation and participate in events.
Utilize human resources and leadership within your organization to get the word out. The top down approach is very helpful and has been instrumental in helping to grow the Emerson Women in STEM group.
Make sure HR teams are talking about your resource group with new employees right from the start. In addition, talk to leadership. Most leadership teams do quarterly or annual webinars or informational meetings. Ask them to add a slide to their presentation about your resource group.
Constantly communicate. Rather than sending communications out a few times a year, commit to monthly or even weekly communications on what the group is doing.
We need to educate men and empower them to be our diversity partners. Men make up the majority demographic at Emerson and we have many male managers. Bringing men into the conversation is critical to creating a more inclusive environment.
Providing constant feedback and demonstrating impact to executive leadership and management will result in continued support for your employee resource group. If management understands how your group is helping employees, they will see it as a value add. If it’s working, they’ll keep investing.