Hi all, Melissa here. As I write this, I’m reflecting on the fact that it’s been one year since the deadly tragedy in Atlanta – the night we lost 6 Asian women who were mothers, daughters, partners, and friends. That night was a spark for me and many, that ignited both outrage and inspiration. I remember feeling furious. I felt like everyone needed to see this and know what was happening. The next morning, I woke up to see Go Fund Me pages. I cried while brushing my teeth and had to be camera-off on the morning stand-up. A few days later, I talked about how I was feeling with my team at work, and the tears came again. Clearly, it was a very emotional time.
I knew that others in my community were feeling the same and my first instinct was to wonder what I could do to help. We were seeing upsetting news of violent racialized hate crimes day after day (or experiencing them), which became challenging mentally and emotionally, detracting and distracting us from work and other areas of life. But where, how, and when was the right time to talk about this, if at all?
I wanted (needed) a place where I could talk about these issues, fears, and hopes, openly with people that would understand. So in March of 2021, REX launched its first-ever Employee Resource Group (ERG) for REX team members that identify as Asian. The current make-up of our team allowed us to form a small group with the purpose of creating a safe space for those with shared identities to connect, discuss, heal, share, celebrate, express, and learn.
I’m sharing this story for the people in their organizations who see a need for a healing space like this. If you’re not going to step up and create it, who will?
Here’s a look inside how our ERG, Cultures Connected, was born.
I reached out to a few members of our team to see if there was interest in an ERG. None of us had ever experienced something like this in a workplace, but we were all eager to be there for each other in a way that only we could.
In the Spring, we strategized our pillars, goals, and charter as a group. Through the remainder of the year, we committed to meeting as an ERG or hosting a company-wide event once a month. These activities included discussions of our personal stories and cultures, starting a book club by reading Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong, and hosting numerous cultural celebrations such as Diwali, the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, and Phillipine’s Independence Day.
For Asian Heritage Month, each of our members published a blog post sharing our unique perspectives about how we’ve embraced our own heritage and cultures.
We were also fortunate to work with Bakau Consulting on a Fundamentals of Anti-Oppression program and attend Bystander Invention Training hosted by Hollaback.
The Cultures Connected ERG has grown to be a significant and cherished part of REX’s inclusion initiatives. Below is a snapshot of our “2021 Wrapped” accomplishments. The outcomes I’m most proud of are:
- Our team members feel seen, heard, and valued
- We feel we can bring our whole selves to work and share more parts of ourselves with others
- We know each other on a deeper level & strengthened our trust and bonds
- We’ve learned things that help us to increase our sense of safety and belonging, inside and outside of work
A big part of what made me feel like this was possible was the support from Allison (our CEO). She never once showed any resistance or hesitation (even though the ERG is a significant investment) or tried to overstep. She made it very clear from the beginning that she wanted Cultures Connected to be truly ours, and she gave us nearly free reign to create the group we needed. She’s been a champion, sponsor, and support — who empowered me to set the vision for the ERG, sees the value of investing in culture development, and has acknowledged every effort.
We are grateful and excited to be able to continue our group work in 2022. We hope to be able to connect with other ERGs across organizations and contribute to local community causes. We will continue to offer Open sessions this year that will be available for the entire REX team to participate in.
I think Employee Resource Groups are incredibly valuable for any organization (where the team is large enough) as this type of culture building is a significant factor for employee satisfaction and retention. And ERGs are not only built around race or ethnicity, but can be created for any type of shared characteristics, such as diverse abilities, gender, age, or family situations. If you’re considering it, there are plenty of sources online to learn about how to set up and structure an ERG effectively. The first step would be to articulate a purpose and see if others on your team are interested in participating.
If you’re interested in speaking with our ERG, please contact Melissa at firstname.lastname@example.org.