Building Workplace Inclusion With Rainbow ERGs

Members of Best Buy's Pride ERG, from left: workforce lead Ngowo Nasah; ERG chair Shawn Wimberly; community lead Luke Austing; workforce lead Emily Finn; workplace lead Alyssa Marschner
Members of Best Buy's Pride ERG, from left: workforce lead Ngowo Nasah; ERG chair Shawn Wimberly; community lead Luke Austing; workforce lead Emily Finn; workplace lead Alyssa Marschner

Members of Best Buy’s Pride ERG, from left: workforce lead Ngowo Nasah; ERG chair Shawn Wimberly; community lead Luke Austing; marketplace lead Emily Finn; workplace lead Alyssa Marschner


As our societal and economic landscape evolves, it’s paramount for businesses to look out for their employees and offer them both personal and professional support, as well as to ensure that their work environment is inclusive and welcoming.

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are an excellent means of offering this network of social support for employees, with many workplaces being home to various ERGs, including those for women, members of the military, people of color, and members of the GLBT community. Many businesses in the Twin Cities metropolitan area boast vibrant ERG support networks for employees of various sexual orientations and gender identities.

Electronics retailer Best Buy has been strong in supporting its GLBT employees with its Pride Employee Resource Group, which was founded in 2004.

“The ERGs were just kind of emerging; at the time, they were called Business Employee Networks,” said Pride ERG Chair Shawn Wimberly.

Wimberly said that the Pride ERG started because of a need to elevate voices in the workplace.

“I think some of the groundwork that the Women’s ERG really kind of paved gave us an opportunity to really focus on,” said Wimberly. “The platform enabled employees of Best Buy to have more or less a social network to feel comfortable, that they could connect with others similar to themselves, and to start really creating a strong ally network. And that’s something that we’re really focused on here.”

Wimberly said that networking is a major resource that the ERG provides members, noting that not only is it a great way to meet people from other business units, but also people from other backgrounds and identities, particularly people of varying sexual orientations and gender identities. Wimberly also said that the ERG is focused on professional development.

“How do we use those networks to mentor?” said Wimberly. “How do we use those networks to help elevate all of our membership into the positions and careers they want to be with? And what do we do to retain that talent?”

Wimberly continues by stating that the ERGs are about making sure people feel that they belong.

“The worst thing that anybody can feel is like they’re an outcast, they’re an outsider, they’re not valued, they’re not heard, they’re not seen,” said Wimberly. “And for us to be able to provide that space as an ERG, to make sure that everybody’s voice is valued, it’s incredibly important for us to do that. That’s the way we get ahead from a business standpoint, that’s the way we get ahead from a human standpoint.”

In the last year and a half, Best Buy’s Pride ERG launched a Workplace Transition and Gender Identity Toolkit, a resource meant to help all employees of Best Buy foster an inclusive and respectful environment for those who identify as transgender or gender diverse. Best Buy’s Pride ERG has also worked with or supported several GLBT-friendly organizations over the years, including YouthLink Minnesota, Gay For Good, Twin Cities Quorum, and the Avenues for Homeless Youth.

Voya Financial is another company that is highly dedicated to looking out for its employees with employee resources groups.

“Voya helps Americans plan, invest and protect their savings so they can retire better,” said Voya’s Minneapolis LGBTQ + Allies ERG chair Jason Bryan. “We offer retirement products and services, investment management and employee benefits, which are the kind of group life and disability policies, health savings and spending accounts that are offered by employers.”

According to ERG co-chair Anita Larson, Voya rebranded in 2014, previously having operated as ING U.S.

Members of Voya Financial’s Minneapolis LGBTQ & Allies ERG, from left: ERG chair Jason Bryan; co-chair Anita Larson; member Nora McNary

“It was a real good point for us to reassess what we were doing with employee resource groups,” said Larson. “So it’s been going strong pretty much since day one.”

“ERGs, in general, are just important [and] play a role in how we welcome people into the company, educate our workforce,” said Bryan. “It helps us also as a tool for recruitment, to refer people into the company, and advance our business areas… for customers and community relations.”

Bryan said that Voya’s GLBT employee resource group drives diversity and inclusion across the company, engaging employees to foster an inclusive and welcoming environment.

“This ERG specifically really gives us a community for LGBTQ employees [and] allies, where everybody can feel comfortable and be authentic,” said Bryan.

Larson said that the ERG started with get-togethers in the form of a social hour.

“As things progressed, rather than using it as a social hour, we actually started bringing people in from the outside to talk about their particular organizations,” said Larson. “We’ve had people in from Clare Housing, The Aliveness Project. And they’re just really super popular.”

Bryan mentioned that the ERG has been involved in charitable events such as Dining Out For Life, and clothing drives for The Arise Project and The Aliveness Project.

“We’ve also had an annual holiday event with volunteer activities,” said Bryan. “We build snack packs for homeless youth, and those go to one of the agencies that support homeless youth, including LGBTQ.”

“Personally, I think it just really demonstrates to the community—both your employees and then the people they know and network with—that this company is really committed to diversity and inclusion, is really welcoming to LGBTQ employees and allies,” Bryan continued. “Voya as a company is really committed to helping all the communities where we live and work and do business and look for clients and business relationships. So we want to carry that forward through our ERGs and other diversity efforts.”

According to Bryan, Voya’s ERG started a national partnership last year with workplace advocacy organization Out & Equal, with some of Voya’s ERG members from across the country going to Out & Equal’s conference. Voya will continue that relationship and see what kinds of opportunities it brings in the future.

SIDEBAR

Here are some more Twin Cities-area businesses that offer employee resource groups for GLBT employees:

3M • Allianz • Allina Health • Amazon • Ameriprise • Andersen Corporation • Blue Cross Blue Shield • Cargill • Children’s Minnesota • Eaton • Ecolab • EY • Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis • General Mills • Hormel • KPMG • Land O’ Lakes • Mayo Clinic • McKinsey & Company • Prudential • RBC Wealth Management • SAP • Securian • Target • Thrivent • Travelers • Wells Fargo • Xcel Energy

We are modifying this list of business ERGs as is needed. If your local business has a GLBT employee resource group you’d like to add to the list, please send the information to managing editor Chris Tarbox, at [email protected]

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