WE Pride: An ERG that Makes a Difference
When I think about communities, I tend to think about a few different groups of people in my life: friends, family, colleagues, former classmates come to mind. From a professional standpoint, belonging to a community was a huge factor in my decision to join WE. Six years later it continues to rise to the top of the reasons I come to the office every day.
Last year, I started thinking a bit more intentionally about communities at work. As a gay person, I realized that the agency didn’t really have a place for professional support and dialogue about topics and issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community. Sure, I had friends at the office who were out of the closet, and I knew that WE was a supportive and inclusive workplace. But I had to step back and remind myself that I’d been with the company for five years at that point. Not to mention, I was privileged (and grateful) to have had a relatively easy coming out experience in general. What about the new employees joining WE every day? And what about the people still struggling with their identity and being out in the workplace?
BRINGING YOUR WHOLE SELF TO WORK
I’d heard about employee resource groups from friends at other companies, and I wondered if something like that would work at WE. I approached a close friend and colleague and asked if she’d be interested in starting one. Like me, she was very passionate about the idea, so we pitched it to agency leadership. I’m happy to say that we were met with overwhelming support, and before we knew it, we had the green light (and the resources) to really get the ball rolling!
Flash forward one year, and WE Pride — the agency’s employee resource group for the LGBTQ+ and ally community — has representation in each of our six offices across North America, totaling more than 70 members and counting. We spent much of the last twelve months learning how to be an employee resource group: establishing ourselves internally, defining our mission and creating a designated channel for discussion. We welcomed guest speakers from incredible organizations like the Gender Justice League. We discussed news that impacted our community. We gave our time to important causes. We got personal for National Coming Out Day. And we had a lot of fun along the way. Nothing quite compares to a good cry with coworkers at an afternoon screening of Love, Simon.
Having groups like WE Pride is vital because they offer opportunities for employees to network, connect and collaborate on topics they’re passionate about, and provide a platform for employees to have their voices heard by agency leadership on decisions that impact specific communities in the workplace and beyond. WE Pride has become, perhaps most importantly, a space for conversation, expression, guidance and learning — a safe space that encourages everyone to bring their whole selves to work.
THE FUTURE OF WE PRIDE
One piece of advice to those wanting to start their own ERG: don’t bite off more than you can chew. Be realistic about what you can feasibly accomplish in a certain amount of time. Chances are this is going to be a passion project on top of your day job, so be strategic by focusing on where you believe you can make the greatest impact. Don’t forget to be patient with yourself and with your group’s progress in the early stages.
For WE Pride, I’m happy to say our patience and hard work paid off. When we launched a year ago, we were firmly supported. A year later, it feels like more than that. Today, WE Pride is an agency priority. As we look at the next twelve months, we want to expand on our commitment to giving back to local LGBTQ+ communities, while we continue to strengthen the group’s cross-office collaboration.
I’m incredibly proud of everything WE Pride accomplished so far, and I’m very excited to see what we will do in the years ahead.
LGBTQ Equality in the Workplace: Where Do We Go Next?