Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), often call Business Resource Groups, are employee led groups supported by company leadership around groups with common identities. The most popular groups are women, race and culture-based groups, LGBTQA, Veterans and People with Disabilities. Over the past few years ERG efforts have expanded into groups like Mental Health and Wellness, Parents / Caregivers, Environment Awareness and more.
ERGs ideally serve both the needs of employees and the organization around DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging) initiatives and organize activities around leadership development, recruiting, community outreach, workplace culture and more.
Now more organizations, including one of my best clients which I have helped launch ERGs and training their leaders, have started Men’s ERGs. And this has raised some questions like:
• Why do we need a men’s ERG? They are not an under-represented minority within our organization.
• Men hold most of the power and privilege in our organization, so why would they need a group?
Yes, there are valid questions. And here are four valid reasons for the legitimacy of and the need for Men’s ERGs:
1. Men are indeed a crucial part of the diversity fabric. DEIB is about all of us working together to leverage our unique differences for good, not setting up a “We vs. Them” culture. We should never frame the discussion as one of the “diverse and the un-diverse.” Everyone is part of diversity. This also now provides availability of all employees to join an ERG that aligns with their identity in addition to joining as allies.
2. Men are now facing many of the same challenges that women have always faced in the workplace, especially as men in today’s culture are taking more responsibility for managing the home and raising the children. Men also may need to discuss challenges like managers who are OK with women on the team needing to leave early to pick up a sick kid from school, but look unfavorably upon their male employees who need to do the same.
3. Men can have in depth discussions on how they can work together to promote DEIB instead of being labeled as “the diversity problem.” They can team with the women’s ERG to discuss how men can better support and mentor women in the workplace and better understand challenges and issues women, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities face.
4. Finally, there are some industries and organizations where men are indeed an under-represented minority.
It is great that ERGs are continuing to grow and expand into more areas so that everyone can participate in advancing DEIB in the increasingly diverse interconnected global economy.