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Latino ERG Exchange Discusses Belonging and Barriers

Latino ERG Exchange Discusses Belonging and Barriers

The Latino ERG Exchange discussed building community, including targeted programming, and advocating for sponsorship to elevate Latino leadership

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The first Latino ERG Exchange of 2024, presented by Hispanic Executive in partnership with DRR Advisors, took place on Thursday, April 4th. This virtual event brought together over three hundred attendees, including ERG leaders and members. They discussed the critical role employee resource groups (ERGs) play in empowering Latino professionals, serving as an educational platform for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.

Vianni Lubus, head of audience and engagement at Hispanic Executive, opened the event. She highlighted the series’ goal to create a safe space for Latino ERG members and leaders. Why? To engage in open discussions about their experiences and best practices in promoting DEI. Lubus emphasized the importance of facilitating a genuine exchange of ideas to implement effective and lasting change in organizations.

Event Speakers:

Building a Space for Belonging and Advancement

The Latino identity is multifaceted. Successful ERGs should offer programming that considers the diverse experiences within the Latino community, including race, gender, and geographic background.

“What I’ve gotten out of [ERGs] has been the opportunity to do unique events like this, to elevate myself to the leadership within my company, to gain professional development opportunities—a whole host of different opportunities I’ve had just from my interactions with AHORA, which is our Latino ERG at AbbVie,” says Natalie Monegro, director of diversity and patient inclusion at AbbVie.

And the panelists argued these groups should go beyond social gatherings. Tony Colon, SVP of Customer Success at ServiceNow and the executive sponsor of the organization’s employee resource group, emphasized how ERGs can foster a sense of belonging. “Our group is called Unidos,” Colon says. “And at Unidos, we actually call ourselves the EBG. That stands for employee belonging groups because we feel one of our core values is belonging and inclusion.”

The panelists also discussed pressing topics for ERG members. Those included career development, building confidence, and leveraging unique Latino superpowers in the workplace. Dr. Rodriguez shared his experience as a leader and member of ERGs in the mid-nineties, now turned top ERG consultant. He noted today’s shift toward encouraging members to bring their whole selves to work and embrace their Latino ethnicity.

ERG vs. BRG: A Business Resource

Kiko Restrepo from Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) explained the distinction between ERGs and BRGs (Business Resource Groups). WBD’s group is a BRG, highlighting its role as a resource to the business, not just to employees.

Restrepo also highlighted the importance of community outreach and visibility. As such, he mentioned WBD’s partnership with VECINOS, an organization that brings together different BRGs across New York City. Tony Colon also stressed the significance of community events like Cinco de Mayo in sharing Latino culture, as well as the importance of supporting each other in times of crisis.

Metrics of Success: Beyond Attendance

While event attendance is a common metric for ERGs, panelists discussed the importance of looking beyond basic numbers. Engagement goes beyond just event attendance. It includes metrics like leadership development, increased employee retention, and impactful partnerships with other BRGs/ERGs.

“Our last metric of success is how many empanadas have been eaten. But really, it’s about connection, career, culture, and community—our four main pillars,” Restrepo jokes and offers, regarding ERG success. “We position it to our senior leaders that these are benefits to the employees, but it benefits the business in that we’re developing future leaders…increasing employee engagement…and also we’re serving as a resource in many of the functions of the business.”

Data and tracking engagement are also crucial. “We have a new role called the Data Lead that’s going to help us better engage with our members, so we know which events and what types of topics really drive the most engagement,” Monegro added. “Knowing your data, and knowing what’s of interest to your membership, is the most important.”

Breaking Down Barriers and Achieving Sponsorship

The event also addressed challenges faced by Latino professionals. Dr. Robert Rodriguez addressed the issue of Latinos being “over-mentored and under-sponsored.” He further emphasized the importance of representation in decision-making roles to ensure diverse perspectives are considered.

A key point raised by Colon was the need to move beyond mentorship and focus on sponsorship. “We all talked about, you know, [making sure ERGs are] a board level agenda item and for service. I’ve presented to our board on our desire to continue to increase the number of Hispanic and Latinx individuals into service now. And one of the things we’ve uncovered…is making sure that our job descriptions don’t show any bias,” Colon says. “Building a diverse team, diverse thought, diverse backgrounds builds better products.”

Several panelists highlighted the crucial role of sponsorship, particularly for senior-level director positions. Sponsorship provides crucial visibility and advocacy that mentorships often lack.

Dr. Rodriguez offered closing remarks that aligned with this sentiment. “For me, sponsorship has everything to do with visibility and exposure, right?” he says. “Because I can go to someone and say, hey, will you mentor me? But a sponsor has to pick you, and they’re not going pick you if they don’t know who you are.”

The Power of ERGs

Overall, the event marked the beginning of the fourth year of partnership between Hispanic Executive and DRR Advisors. And there’s more Latino ERG Exchanges planned for later this year. As the event demonstrated, ERGs play a crucial role in developing future leaders, increasing employee engagement, and serving as a resource for various business functions. Panelists highlighted the need for constant communication, engagement, and representation to foster a supportive and inclusive work environment.

By fostering a sense of community, providing targeted programming that addresses the multifaceted Latino experience, and advocating for sponsorship opportunities, ERGs can be a powerful force in breaking down barriers and elevating Latino representation in the workplace.

As Colon succinctly concluded, “Never question your seat at the table. And if you’re not given a seat at the table, bring your own chair.”

The next Latino ERG Exchange promises to continue the conversation on advancing DEI initiatives and promoting the success of Latino business leaders in America.

Hispanic Executive

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