An Employee Resource Group (ERG) is a safe space intentionally created by the organization for underrepresented communities where employees can be their authentic selves and connect with one another. The LGBTQIA+ ERG or Pride ERG at the workplace is created for employees belonging to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) community and their allies.
A Pride ERG is a must-have in every organization because it impacts employee well-being as well as business objectives. Listed below are the reasons why every organization should have an ERG that supports its LGBTQIA+ workforce.
A sense of belonging
The primary purpose that a Pride or LGBTQIA+ employee resource group serves is providing a sense of belonging to employees, who may or may not be out, but are part of the community. About one-third (37.7%) of LGBT employees have reported experiencing at least one form of harassment at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives. These challenges can be discussed without apprehension in the Pride ERG. With hate crimes against this community still being prevalent in the 21st century, employees need to feel physically and emotionally safe at their place of work and the Pride ERG provides this safe haven.
Employer of choice
A majority of Gen Z and younger millennials advocate for authenticity and demand inclusion at the workplace. While choosing a prospective employer, an organization having a Pride ERG stands out to candidates and conveys the commitment of the organization to diversity and inclusion beyond mere tokenism. Promoting awareness about the LGBTQIA+ ERG during the recruitment process also assures candidates that their career prospects will not be affected by being part of the community. Such visibility can attract top talent who might be hesitant to join companies who do not seem inclusive.
Improving workplace policies and processes
The Pride ERG members can contribute immensely in transforming policies and processes that have not been revisited for a long time. By creating anti-discrimination policies, incorporating transgender rights and making the workplace physically inclusive for all (gender-neutral restrooms), organizations can attract a more diverse workforce. ERG members can work with the HR team to ensure policies are inclusive. For example, parental leave in case of surrogacy should be treated the same as it would for any other employee. Unconscious bias and gender assumptions in the recruitment process can also be overcome by introducing formal training for hiring managers that has been approved by ERG members.
Adding value to product and services
Employees belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community who are also part of the Pride ERG can be leveraged as partners in product and service development. The Pride ERG can provide input to marketing campaigns to make them more inclusive, for example, by ensuring that imagery is not limited to heterosexual couples but also includes same-sex partners and parents. Mass General Brigham’s LGBTQ Resource Group started a grassroots initiative in 2021 to allow employees, staff, patients and visitors an opportunity to represent their pronouns with buttons and stickers so that no one would be using pronouns that weren't represented as what one individual would use. This initiative grew and was made a priority initiative for our entire organizational system, with really strong leadership buy-in and commitment. In the service industry, the ERG can work towards ensuring all forms and documentation are inclusive of all genders and personal pronouns. These are just few of the many ways the Pride ERG can create business impact.
Two-thirds (67.5%) of LGBT employees reported that they have heard negative comments, slurs, or jokes about LGBTQ people at work. This shows the need for more dialogue and explicit support from colleagues. An LGBTQIA+ employee resource group is often open for allies to join as well. Through sharing sessions, allies can understand the challenges faced by the community first-hand. These allies can jump in during awkward interactions and educate other colleagues politely and spread awareness. The workforce includes parents with children who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community and the Pride ERG serves as a place where they can celebrate their family members and feel accepted.
Representation in leadership roles
Just 10 out of thousands of named executive officers at America’s 1,000 largest companies identify as part of the LGBTQ community. As self-identification increases, the new workforce will look for role models at the workplace. The LGBTQIA+ employee resource group provides an avenue where employees at different levels can interact. Mentoring programs within the ERG help charter the course of career progression with guidance to help LGBTQIA+ employees climb the corporate ladder. Reverse mentoring programs facilitated by the Pride ERG is another great way to educate senior leadership, engage in open dialogue and get the internal community’s voice heard.
A Pride or LGBTQIA+ employee resource group is an essential component in building a truly inclusive and diverse workplace and should be supported by the leadership team to create real impact.