#Avanade20Years: How our Employee Resource Groups started and where they are now
- Posted on January 30, 2020
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
We continue our #Avanade20Years special series on the blog in celebration of our 20th Anniversary on April 4, 2020. This week, we’re taking a closer look at our Employee Resource Groups.
Avanade’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) make up a cornerstone of our Inclusion & Diversity strategy, offering resources and opportunities to various communities within the company. While each ERG serves a distinct contingency group and has a structure, leadership and priorities customized to the ERG, each one is part of the larger ERG Network and can leverage resources, guidance, information, support and strength from the collective whole.
There are four ERGs: INSPIRE Black Employee Network ERG, Prism ERG, Veterans ERG and Women’s ERG.
Prism’s founding board members approached Avanade’s Inclusion & Diversity lead on his first day at Avanade. They explained that Avanade’s LGBT+ members needed to have a forum for feedback, networking and sharing opportunities for improvement with leadership. The ERG became a reality in 2013.
One of the first things Prism did was secure funding to send members and leadership to the Out & Equal Annual Global Conference, where they also hosted a booth and collected resumes to promote the Avanade brand. Since then, the group has worked to elevate the voices of employees across the globe, sharing stories that connect the community. Throughout FY19, their social presence rose to 1.5 million global impressions, they delivered three global training sessions through AvanadeU, they empowered over 50 local leaders and are active in 22 locations across the world.
“In FY20 and beyond, Prism is focusing on the employee experience by focusing on LGBT+ recruitment,” said Prism president Christopher Mostello. “By bringing more diverse perspectives to the table, we’ll foster innovation that’s inclusive of everyone’s talents. We’ll also bring additional training opportunities to our global audience, providing enlightening content curated for all employees to learn at their own pace.”
Launched in 2014 by 13 board members, the ERG grew from the “Women’s Initiative Planning and Steering Committee.” In its early years, the Women’s ERG held numerous global membership calls to gather feedback and present on topics like mentoring, demonstrating confidence and unconscious bias. The group also hosted virtual book club discussions on “Lean In” and “Tipping Point.”
Today, the group has grown to support major global initiatives including the Pathways to Success Speakers series, International Women’s Day and Moms’ Coffee and Conversations. One new initiative for FY20 is the Local Leads, a group that advocates for the ERG at the local level. Local leads connect with the Global Board during a monthly forum to share knowledge, track events and activities and learn from each other.
“We have an opportunity to accelerate the progress of women at Avanade through workplace inclusion,” said Gina Wheel, chair of the Women’s ERG board. “In our community, we plan to continue to build internal and external connections, and to drive growth and innovation. Now is the time to continue to press for the progress of women. The decisions we make today will influence the empowerment of future generations of women at Avanade.”
Three founding board members officially launched the group in 2014 after survey data collected in 2013 revealed that 10 percent of the Avanade population were veterans. Particularly active in Seattle in the beginning, the Veterans ERG influenced Avanade to get involved in U.S. Veteran Job Fairs, like the OFCCP and Dept. of VA Job Fair, Military Mojo and MSSA (Microsoft Software & Systems Academy) programs.
Today, the Veterans ERG continues to influence recruiting in NA and sponsoring and participating in MSSA cohort sessions. The group also just concluded their second annual Toys for Tots campaign across the U.S.
“Avanade is taking great steps to strengthen the connection with the veteran community, and by sharing our stories on MSSA campuses and other career-related events gives service members and veterans confidence knowing there are great opportunities available for post-military life,” said board member Diana Ayala.
INSPIRE was launched as an Avanade ERG on May 17, 2019 by six founding board members out of the Houston and Dallas offices; the group evolved from the Blacks at Avanade Affinity Group. In just its first year, INSPIRE launched several community service events. The group hosted a Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) service day, a Dress for Success clothing drive tied to International Women’s Day, a hackathon for over 60 middle and high school students with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), reading events, diversity outreach events and a network collaboration with Accenture and Microsoft, including ones tied to MLK Day and International Women’s Day.
In FY20, the group is launching a campaign to celebrate and raise awareness for U.S. Black History Month and is involved in Junior Achievement and NSBE Jr.
“As an African immigrant and black women in tech, the industry can leave us without role models or support system,” said member Nebiat Belayhun. “For me, INSPIRE is building that support system.”