Black Women Making an Impact in Corporate America

black women

I love seeing people’s reactions when I tell them that there is a real job that allows people to distribute money to help do good in the world. Their remarks range from disbelief to total astonishment. Yes, in a world filled with challenges and endemic social ills, it’s refreshing to know that there are corporations that care deeply about local communities.

These corporations hire people with skills and knowledge to lead this function. These people are typically referred to as CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) officers.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, it is important to note that bringing awareness to the growing number of black women leading corporate and private foundations, is important for the third sector.

If you want to have a career in corporate social responsibility, you must possess great communications skills and knowledge on subject matter related to the company. A growing number of people employed in this role are black women. They possess the required set of skills for the position but more importantly, they bring an awareness of the issues impacting underserved communities. This will have a positive impact on the company’s reputation and brand but more importantly, it will help strengthen the connection to the local community and ultimately, improve the bottom line.

Black women have not earned much recognition for leading the charge on many major social impact issues. However, there are some who are motivating their corporations to address some pretty stubborn issues.

These stubborn issues take on many forms—ranging from what’s required to lead an effective nonprofit organization to financial literacy. There is a growing trend among corporations to identify ways to amplify the work that impact leaders are doing. This approach is known as capacity building for nonprofits. This approach answers a very important need that often goes unaddressed, particularly with organizations led by people of color.

“For News Corp., supporting philanthropy is about producing tangibly positive outcomes for underserved communities. Our approach has been to seek out innovative philanthropic organization partners’ approaches focused on root causes. We want to be a part of the ecosystem that actually eliminates—not just mitigates—the lack of access to critical resources that impoverished communities experience,” stated Keisha Smith-Jeremie, chief human resource officer for the media company.

Smith-Jeremie’s work is transformational in that most foundations lack the ability to focus on capacity-building, which is one of the greatest needs for startup organizations.

These women are tasked with more than just writing checks for galas and luncheons. Their most important task is to help bring about meaningful change. According to Stephanie Bell-Rose, senior managing director and head of TIAA Institute, “It’s important for financial institutions to invest in communities because their expertise is sorely needed and can make a significant difference: the Personal Financial Index, a survey conducted by TIAA Institute and George Washington University, found that one-fifth of the adults surveyed have a relatively low level of personal financial knowledge.”

This is an excellent example of a company utilizing their platform to impact a social issue directly connected to their business focus. The benefit of a Bell-Rose to financial literacy is that she has the ability to provide crucial data points from research done by the institute. This is critical in mapping a strategy around how to reach those most in need of the training and resources.

Smith-Jeremie and Bell-Rose are not alone but they represent a very small group. LaJune Montgomery Tabron leads the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and works with communities across the country to create conditions that will support vulnerable children. To learn more, please visit

Tonya Allen leads Skillman Foundation based in Detroit. The foundation is focused on supporting quality education and economic opportunities for children. To learn more, please visit

Sherece West-Scantlebury is the President and CEO of Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, a private independent foundation based in Arkansas whose mission is to improve the lives of Arkansans. To learn more, please visit



This article was written by Christal M. Jackson, Founder, Head and Heart Philanthropy, a social impact agency focused on solving social issues impacting communities of color and supporting investors and entrepreneurs of color.

How This Former Miss America Winner Changed Diversity and Inclusion

Ericka Dunlap (Image: Ericka Dunlap – Miss America 2004)


While most women in the U.S. may be excited about gaining access to the most popular clubs in the world’s most vibrant cities upon turning 21, Ericka Dunlap celebrated her special birthday in a different way. She, instead, toured the country, while attempting to solve the complex social issue of diversity and inclusion.

On September 20, 2003, Dunlap became the seventh African American woman to ever be crowned Miss America. Prior to this accomplishment, she had made headlines as the first and only African American woman to ever win the title of Miss Florida throughout the entirety of the pageant’s 81-year history.

During each pageant, Dunlap not only mesmerized the judges with her proven preparation for each phase of the competition, but she also caught the attention of many with the relevancy of her platform; “United we stand, divided we fall behind: celebrating diversity and inclusion.” This platform made her immediately stand out as the ideal role model for Americans everywhere.

Miss America is a scholarship program that celebrates the academic intelligence, community activism, and performance talents of women between the ages of 17 and 24. Contestants are judged by their level of prowess and confidence in each of the four phases of competition: interview, evening wear, talent, and physical fitness. Dunlap’s victories still stand as a distinct representation of the business case for diversity and inclusion in the world of mainstream pageantry; a $5.5 billion industry, in which black women have been consistently underrepresented since the first Miss America pageant in 1921.

Today, Dunlap is president and CEO of Crown Communication Group, a public relations and diversity consulting firm headquartered in Orlando, FL. caught up with the Miss America 2004 title-holder to learn more about her pageant experience, as well as hear her thoughts on diversity and inclusion:


Black Enterprise: Why is diversity important to you?


Ericka Dunlap: Diversity is very close to my heart, because many of the people I went to grade school with were of various cultures. My parents wanted me to have the best possible education, and that usually comes with exposure to different ethnic groups in school systems. I attended a private Christian school, where I was immersed into the nuances of various cultures while constantly being surrounded by different people and different perspectives. At the same time, I was consistently one of the very few black girls in the school. I quickly became a representative of black girls everywhere to my peers.

Oftentimes, I was the only representative of black students at leadership conferences, events around town, talent shows, pageants, and many other areas of my day-to-day life. While I didn’t seek the exclusivity of being “the only,”I began to encourage other black students to show up, get involved, and represent, so that there were more opportunities to expand the diversity of these organizations. So, to help further this conversation, I started competing in the Miss America system at 19, broadening the perspective of diversity and inclusion through the power of the crown.


BE: What sparked your interest in diversity and inclusion, as a contestant for the Miss America 2004 title?


Dunlap: I saw diversity and inclusion as this open gateway for the business community to truly reflect the community at large. As a 21-year-old beauty queen, I had no idea about the grand-scheme significance of my platform, and what it was going to do for people. I wanted people to have the confidence to be their authentic selves at work and be valued for the vital perspective they brought to work environments. People just needed to feel comfortable at work.

During that year, I was fortunate enough to have several wins revolving around workforce diversity appreciation and the extension of viable opportunities to people that are often overlooked. Through the title, I traveled across the country to over 37 states and built relationships with companies from the Home Depot to Chevron-Texaco. Also, I interacted with CEOs and the entire C-suite to influence best practices for diversity. Interacting with people at the highest levels extended my opportunity to serve as an ambassador and influencer, when it came to diversity programming. At the time, I didn’t know the impact would be so far reaching.


BE: What do you think needs to be done, in order to advance African American women in the workplace and as entrepreneurs?


Dunlap: I believe it is incumbent upon our “sister networks” to vet, mentor, and sponsor the other African American women, so that they may be valued as critical contributors to the success of an organization or industry. The branding around black women in the workplace should reflect us as non-threatening, viable decision makers.

Unfortunately, over the last 30 years, we have been fed terrible lies and misconstrued examples of how black women interact in the workplace through television, film, and the media. Generally, African American women are viewed as too demanding and aggressive, from our hair to our management style. Likewise, as entrepreneurs, black women are often underrated, due to the narrow diversity confines of their industries.

Moving forward, the collective agenda for our advancement must be organic, yet deliberate, in order to recreate the image of African American women as respected, passionate leaders with the uncanny ability to thrive and deliver.


To learn more about Ericka Dunlap, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram using the handle @ErickaDunlap, check out her Facebook, or visit her website.


Trump’s Cabinet Lacks Diversity and Latinos


The Latino community is outraged that Donald Trump is set to become the first U.S. president to exclude a Hispanic American from the U.S. Cabinet in decades. Trump, who has a history of making inflammatory attacks against Latinos and immigrants, announced Thursday morning that he has nominated former Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia as his pick for the agriculture secretary, which was the last open Cabinet position. This marks the first time since 1988 that not one Hispanic was nominated for a Cabinet-level appointment.

In response, Hispanic groups and leaders voiced concerns about Trump’s white, male-dominated Cabinet.

“We’re extremely worried,” Hector Sanchez, chairman of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, told The Dallas Morning News. “This is anti-democratic.”

“Trump has not only been the most anti-Latino, anti-immigrant president in the history of the nation, [but] by not including Latinos in his Cabinet, he is just showing how he plans to govern.”

Arturo Vargas, the executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials, said Trump’s Cabinet picks prove he is out of touch with Hispanic leaders.

“The most obvious thing it means to me is that he doesn’t know Latinos,” Vargas told The Dallas Morning News. “He himself and his team don’t know who the Latino leaders are. What this does is it makes our job as advocates for the Hispanic community infinitely harder.”

Likewise, National Council of La Raza President and CEO Janet Murguía released a statement calling the lack of Latino Cabinet representation “an embarrassment.”

In a news conference, incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended Trump’s decision to exclude Latinos from his Cabinet, despite the fact that they make up the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the country. Spicer argued that Americans should be more concerned about the President-elect choosing “the best and the brightest.”

He also claimed that the controversial billionaire’s Cabinet is diverse despite the fact that it consists of all Republicans, three women, and one African American man, Dr. Ben Carson.

Watch a clip of Spicer defending the lack of Hispanic secretaries below.

5 Tips for Surviving Work after Inauguration Day


Every presidential election cycle brings with it the challenge of navigating several tense “morning after” conversations and situations–the morning after a heated debate, the morning after a scandal, the morning after the election, and even the morning after the inauguration. The 2016 campaign season was no different except that it unfolded like a hit reality TV show and left much of the country in a tailspin. At the time, all we knew for sure was that the 2016 presidential election was going to be an unprecedented, history-making event—our nation would either elect the first female leader of the free world or a businessman-turned-reality-TV-star with zero political, military, or public service experience. Following the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States approaches, many Americans are looking toward the weekend with anxiety and the upcoming workweek with dread.

If President Barack Obama’s farewell address was a reminder of the distress and despair many citizens are coping with, and let’s be real, normal coping mechanisms just aren’t working for most of us. A recent episode of the hit ABC show Black’ish, tackled the growing anxiety Americans, especially minorities, are experiencing in the face of Trump’s America, particularly in corporate America. It isn’t simply a leader with varying views but one that has openly set the standard for division, misogyny, racism, and intolerance. Citizens are already beginning to see and feel how the rhetoric of the campaign will affect our lives, careers, and pockets.

According to the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence survey, more than 1 in 4 employees have been negatively affected by workplace conversations related to the Clinton-Trump race and that divisions exist between generations and genders in the workplace. For younger workers, (defined by the survey as those under age 34), some 28% reported that political discussions at work left them feeling stressed; 1 in 4 millennials also shared that political debates led to workplace hostility. Nearly half of all respondents (47%) indicated that people are more likely to discuss politics in the workplace this election season than in the past. And 1 in 5 survey participants reported avoiding some co-workers because of their political views, while more than one-quarter (27%) reported at least one negative outcome as a result of political discussions at work this election season.

Though many of us would like to ctrl+alt+delete the presidential inauguration, the reality is that IT. IS. HAPPENING. Here are a few tips to help you cope in the workplace post-inauguration.

  • Avoid political debate at work. Michelle Obama said it best: “When they go low, we go high.”
  • Think long term. In four years, the pendulum could swing in the other direction, so it’s important to keep the design of democracy in mind. President Barack Obama said it best in his farewell address, “Democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders quarreled and compromised, and expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity—the idea that for all our outward differences, we are all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.”
  • Understand your rights in the workplace. Speak up about racism and sexism. If someone isn’t being respectful, report their behavior. Your employer is required by law to address disrespectful and distracting discussions.
  • Build a protective network. Know your audience. Avoid being dragged into political conversations and escorted out of the building by surrounding yourself with a “work crew.” These are the colleagues you can depend on for emotional support and a sanity check.
  • Take a Mental Health Day. Per Evelyn from the Internets, sometimes you just have to call out black. Create the time and space between you and your coworkers to get the mental rest you need to reboot your emotional intelligence and make sound decisions.




photo 2Toni is the CEO & founder of The Corporate Tea, an online resource that provides unfiltered advice to help professionals navigate their careers. Toni is also a career strategist & HR blogger with over a decade of experience in corporate America. For more insights and advice, follow her @thecorporatetea

See How This Coalition is Helping Black Female Techies

Coalition(Image: S. King for the Research Coalition of Black Women and Girls in Computing 2016) (Image: S. King for the Research Coalition of Black Women and Girls in Computing 2016) caught up with the Research Coalition of Black Women and Girls in Computing Conference Committee leadership Chair Dr. Jamika Burge and co-Chairs Drs. Jakita Thomas and Ryoko Yamaguchi to discuss all things computing and technical careers. They provided important background on their organization and shed light on why this career path is so compelling. What was the motivation behind creating the Research Coalition of Black Women and Girls in Computing? 

RCBW&GIC: Black women are one of the least represented groups in the computing discipline. The Black Women in Computing (BWIC) community exists primarily to celebrate the contributions of black women in computing and technical careers and provide communal support and outreach for its members.

The Research Coalition of Black Women and Girls in Computing serves as the research arm of the BWIC community. Created in 2016, it seeks to investigate—through empirical research—ways to combat the lack of awareness of black women in this space. It also seeks to create a body of research focused on and informed by the exploration of the common experiences of black girls and women in computing. The Coalition also plans the annual conference for black women in computing every January.

BE: What has been the biggest hurdle in demonstrating the value in computing-related fields?

RCBW&GIC: Computing has become an integral part of our lives. We use smartphones, laptops, and tablets to do everything from surfing the internet to completing substantive work in every industry. Computing—computer science, more broadly— enables us to apply computational thinking to solve a range of problems.

From developing social media platforms to connecting people, performing data analytics to discovering insights from large amounts of data, and ensuring that the technologies we develop are usable by everyone, computing is an effective problem-solving methodology. To continue to grow as a discipline and truly innovate, computing must embrace the ideas and solutions created from a diverse talent pool.

BE: What are core goals for the foreseeable future?

RCBW&GIC: Immediate goals for the Research Coalition of Black Women and Girls in Computing include continuing to address the issues of intersectionality that are inherently part of the black women in the computing community.

After the January conference, we will cultivate our partnerships to provide research and development workshops for computing students and professionals. We are also in the midst of data collection to better articulate the intersectional experiences of black women in computing and how they are similar to and different from the experiences of women in computing, more generally.

BE: If you could offer one piece of advice to young black women who are undecided about entering a computing related field, what would that be?

RCBW&GIC: Anything worth pursuing will have its challenges. A career in computing is no exception. One amazing benefit, however, is that no black woman interested in pursuing a career in computing needs to feel alone. There is an amazing community available to support her at any stage, whether she’s just starting out or a senior-level professional. We encourage young black women, in particular, to reach out, connect, and network with the BWIC community.



Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport or visit her website,



Here’s What This College Dean Really Thinks About Diversity


It is true that the demographics of professionals in corporate America has evolved significantly since the 70s. But, if you take a look at the number of African American leaders currently in roles of corporate influence,  you can count the results on your fingers. According to Fortune, there have been only 15 black CEOs in the history of the Fortune 500 – five are currently in the role as of January 2016.

When you’re an African American male, who is a college dean and former engineer at a Fortune 500 company, you are keenly aware of the impact of diversity initiatives. And if you add becoming a small business owner to your career portfolio, you add another layer of cultural acceptance that you have to navigate. You even start to question why corporate America hasn’t moved the needle much on this issue in the last three decades.

Meet Associate Dean of Business and Professional Services at Harold Washington College in Chicago, Dr. C. Adam Callery. Dr. Callery is also the owner of Sagesse Lumiere, a small business coaching firm in Chicago. He has been on the receiving end of diversity initiatives as an employee in the 80s and 90s. Now, he is an active proponent of the advancement of diversity and inclusion, being a leader in higher education. Over the last 30 years, Dr. Callery has attended many events where the topic of conversation was diversity. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the faces of leadership in corporate America have changed much since his first corporate position in the 80s.

Black Enterprise caught up with Dr. Callery to uncover his insights on diversity and how we can move forward given what we know now.

Black Enterprise: What’s the difference between racial diversity and inclusion in corporate America?


Dr. Callery: Race is visible to the eye. Inclusion is truly understanding and adjusting to another’s interests, culture and/or values. If you are on the hiring end, you have to change the way that you ask questions. This means that you can’t just provide skills based questions—you have to include questions around behaviors and interests in order to assess if the person is a good fit for the organization.

BE: What can employers do to promote an inclusive work environment?


Dr. Callery: If you want to be fully inclusive, you have to try to understand values that may be different from yours. Differences are not bad; the unique value proposition someone offers through their skills and interests can be just what a company needs in order to achieve their goals.

BE: How do we make diversity and inclusion a business imperative or an industry standard?


Dr. Callery: It has become a business imperative, because our society has become more inclusive. Many of our traditional organizations are trying to catch up to the social advancements that the world has embraced. Because of social media and its transparency, societies have been wrestling with the issue of inclusiveness, and now everything has been fully disclosed. The newer generations entering the workforce have embraced these changes faster than the older generations, who are used to things being the way they have been before.

BE: Who is responsible for building a diverse workforce in corporate America?


Dr. Callery: The usual suspects are government, congress, and senators—they need to be actively involved. They receive tax dollars that need to be allocated towards certain things, such as job training skills. Workforce development programs need to be able to help people obtain transferable work skills. Corporations need to be willing to train their people.

Corporations and government are the drivers to advancing diversity in the workplace. Nonprofits are more reactionary. They need the funding from these institutions in order to fulfill their mission.

BE: How can corporations advance diversity in the workplace?


Dr. Callery: Corporations used to have training programs, which we now call “on-boarding.” That isn’t enough for the average employee to be positioned to be successful at the company. Employers have to help their employees understand the cultures of the recruits they bring on board. Employers should teach employees the way that they do things, so that everyone can perform well on the job.

Corporations also need to look beyond their natural catchment areas where they go to find new hires. They tend to go to preferred colleges, thus clustering hires from specific regions instead of broadening selections from a larger group of colleges. Corporations need to be more flexible and expand their diversity strategy.

Travel Elite: Erica Johnson-McElroy is Bringing Diversity to Luxury Hospitality

Erica Johnson-McElroy

Despite stereotypes, African Americans are traveling now more than ever. From 3 percentage points in 2013, intent to travel among African Americans increased to 6 points in 2014, to 19 points in 2015 and up another 18 points this year, says Steve Cohen, vice president of Insights at travel and hospitality marketing firm MMGY Global.

But despite the increase in the number of black travelers, the number of us represented within the hospitality industry is scarce. We are not being represented in high numbers on the executive level at destinations, hotels, or within the agencies that service them.

Erica Johnson-McElroy is here to defy that stereotype. As the director of public relations at Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, she works to promote the brand to encourage travelers (of all shades) to experience luxury when they visit Las Vegas. And though working for a luxurious resort in one of the most bustling cities in the world may seem like glitz and glamour 24/7, there’s a lot more to the role than you may think.

Johnson-McElroy spoke with about the challenges of being a woman of color within the hospitality industry, what led her to her current role, and lessons she’s learned along the way. You have an interesting background, first working in the journalism realm. What made you make the transition to PR?

Erica Johnson-McElroy: I was working at a daily newspaper in a metropolitan city. I was mostly covering violent crime and courts, which was fascinating but also unsettling. At the end of each day, I’d continue to think about the stories I’d covered and the subjects I’d interviewed. Add to that the demands of daily deadlines and it was the perfect storm. Public relations seemed like an ideal way to transition my writing and communication skills into something more enjoyable and personally satisfying. The stars aligned and I landed at one of the city’s largest advertising and public relations agencies. I took an entry-level position and worked hard to learn the industry. Public relations was a natural fit. I’ve never looked back.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a woman of color in the hospitality industry? In your role specifically?

Interestingly enough, I faced more challenges as a woman of color while working in journalism. I was frustrated by how minority communities were often portrayed in the mainstream media and I felt a sincere obligation to cover those communities in a fair and honest way. At times, this desire conflicted with the assignment and the time given to complete it. The hospitality industry has been a different experience. Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is a global company, so in many ways, it is extremely diverse, with colleagues hailing from all parts of the world. And while women are historically under-represented in leadership roles within the hospitality sector, we are making great strides. At Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, for instance, several members of the senior management team are women. It’s thrilling to witness this shift firsthand and more specifically, to work alongside and learn from the women in these key roles.

What’s the best part of your job?

There are many things I love about what I do. Perhaps what I enjoy most are the connections I’ve made with the people with whom I work, and everything I’ve learned from them. At times, being the sole public relations person in the building can feel a bit like being on an island. However, having the opportunity to collaborate with various members of the operations team, from spa to food and beverage and sales, has taught me so much about the hospitality industry and about business in general.

What has been your greatest accomplishment since taking the helm of your role?

Successfully integrating social media into the hotel’s marketing initiatives. When I joined the company nine years ago, social media was still very new and there was no guide book. Much of it was trial and error and simply figuring out what worked in an extremely dynamic social media landscape. We not only had to determine how to best use these mediums to enhance our marketing goals, but learn how the luxury guest uses social media and how they prefer to be communicated to on these platforms. Today, the hotel has robust social media feeds on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Some of the content is promotional and some of it is aspirational, but all of it is carefully curated, relevant and developed with the luxury traveler in mind. I’m very proud of how far we have come.

How beneficial have mentors been for your career growth?

I learned early on that relationships are the key to one’s success. In my case, mentors have been both formal and informal. There are many people with whom I’ve developed close relationships and count on for professional advice. In other cases, I’ve simply admired careers from afar. Some of the people I credit most with influencing my professional growth are people I once worked for and to whom I continue to look for guidance. And of course, I have friends and colleagues in the industry, whether hospitality, journalism, or public relations, whose opinions I greatly value. Having a circle of people you trust who root for you and want to see you succeed is invaluable.

What’s been your biggest career lesson?

Be open to change. This is a lesson I continue to struggle with because I’m inherently regimented. However, I’ve never regretted the occasions when I’ve stepped out on faith and made a change. This was the case when I left journalism to pursue public relations and again when I left an agency setting to venture in-house. All of those moves were terrifying yet exhilarating. Ultimately, each transition brought me to exactly where I was supposed to be. I’m excited to see what the next phase of my career will bring.

Although your job has you in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, what are some other destinations (domestic or international) that you like to visit and vacation?

I’m naturally attracted to the energy of large, metropolitan cities like New York and San Francisco. I enjoy the culture and diversity those destinations offer. And while I’d love to say I’m an adventurous traveler, like many women my life is hectic as I struggle to balance it all. So if I can lay on a beautiful beach with a book and stare out at the ocean, I’m a happy girl. I love Punta Mita, Mexico, because it feels exclusive and secluded but it is still easy to get to. And the sunsets are postcard-worthy. I’m also a fan of Montego Bay, Jamaica. There’s something about seeing your feet at the bottom of the ocean while tropical fish circle around. It gets no better than that.

2016 Best Companies for Diversity: Ford Motor Company


CEO: Mark Fields


The 50 companies on this year’s Best Companies for Diversity list represents brands that recognize the value of cultivating an inclusive environment, driven by company leadership through senior management and the board of directors, as shown in the BE Registry of Corporate Directors. Some are taking a step further to engage employees during turbulent and confusing sociopolitical times.

Here, we’d like to highlight Ford Motor Company, the American automaker headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, and what it’s doing to push forward and nurture diversity and inclusion.

Ford currently has 11 Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that help to foster diversity and inclusion, notably the Ford African Ancestry Network (FAAN), which has led the way for the other ERGs.

FAAN has over 2,000 members, regional chapters, and presence in all of Ford’s major functions. It has been instrumental in a number of community initiatives, including the National Society of Black Engineers, National Black MBA Association, and the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program. It seeks to promote an environment that attracts, develops, and retains salaried African American employees.

The group promotes leadership development through professional development seminars, formal and informal mentoring, counseling, and dialogues with senior management. FAAN’s members also support summer internship programs and recruit at minority career events.

7 Corporations Maximizing Employee Resource Groups (Part 2)

employee resource groups

In Part 1 of BE’s look at how top corporations are utilizing ERGs, we listed AT&T and TIAA. Below are five other well known brands that recognize the power ERGs and have wielded over the years to make corporate spaces more inclusive.

1. Comcast NBCUniversal


Comcast’s ERGs provide professional development, networking, mentoring, community service, and advisory support for business products and services. This includes active chapters of their Black Employee Network (BEN), which provides additional development and mentorship opportunities, as well as internship, scholarship, and fellowship opportunities.

Their ERG Mentorship Program pairs entry to mid-level employees with senior leaders for nine months, to help support their career goals. According to Comcast’s website, by the end of 2013, Comcast launched eight ERGs that had approximately 4,200 members, and NBCUniversal’s long-standing ERGs had more than 7,000 members.

2. State Farm


At State Farm, ERGs provide employees a tremendous opportunity to participate in mentoring, informal networking, and professional development, by answering the question,“What do you need to do in order to make yourself an asset to State Farm?” Any State Farm employee who supports a group’s business purpose is welcome to join and does not need to be a member of the demographic segment the group is formed around in order to participate.

The African American Forum (AAF) ERG has established a goal to provide active mentoring and leadership development opportunities to their over 1,400 members. Through AAF, members may be mentored by a director and, in many instances, by an executive. Mentoring may be comprised of both group and individual mentoring sessions.

The purpose of the African American Forum (AAF) is to provide a forum to discuss and proactively share information and experiences that will assist in the professional and personal development of its members and support State Farm’s goals for employee development through mentoring, networking, and seminars.

3. The Kellogg Company


The Kellogg Cross-Cultural Leadership Program (KCCLD) is designed specifically for talented people of color. Its main goal is to increase the diversity of the talent pipeline by helping to strengthen retention and development of this population.

The program pairs senior executives with leaders of different cultural backgrounds, and contains three modules:

  1. Succeeding in corporate America as a person of color.
  2. Building and marketing “the brand called ‘you.’”
  3. Leading and engaging with the head and the heart (emotional intelligence).

Program cohorts may be either multicultural or demographically targeted. For instance, in 2015, the program focused on African American employees in sales and marketing.

One of the program’s strengths is how it prompts employees and their managers to have more open, honest conversations, and, as a result, better working relationships.

4. JPMorgan Chase & Co.


In February 2016, Chase announced a firm-wide diversity strategy, Advancing Black Leaders. This initiative is dedicated to attracting, hiring, retaining, advancing, and developing talent from within this community. Under Valerie Rainford’s leadership, its aim is to increase black representation at the officer level, expand the pipeline of junior talent, and retain existing talent through development opportunities for continued advancement into leadership roles.

“We’re embedding diversity objectives and guidelines into business plans, increasing management accountability for bringing in the best talent, encouraging managers to look for candidates in places they might not have looked before, and continuing to promote participation in business resource groups (BRGs),” said Patricia David, managing director and the global head of diversity, on Chase’s website. “About one in every five of our employees is a member of at least one of our 10 BRGs.”

5. Bank of America


A key area of focus for Bank of America is on hiring, developing, advancing, and retaining black talent. To do so, the Global Diversity & Inclusion Council has implemented an initiative to identify mid and senior-level African American talent and have routine, one-on-one conversations, in an effort to get to know them and advocate for their advancement at the firm.

In addition to the GDIC is the Black Executive Leadership Council. Established in 2012 and comprised of about 150 black senior leaders at the company, the Black Executive Leadership Council is committed to supporting advancement and increasing representation of black talent at the bank. Members advocate for and sponsor strong performers, get to know and grow talent, and connect and engage, to build relationships and expand networks.

To help develop diverse talent and broaden their exposure to senior executives, they’ve created programs like the Black Executive Leadership Summit (offered exclusively to black senior leaders and managers) and the Diverse Leaders Sponsorship Program, which offers a senior-level “sponsor” to mid-level diverse managers/protégés. These programs bring in experts that help participants hone their leadership skills, while gaining exposure to senior executives

7 Corporations Maximizing Employee Resource Groups

employee resource groups

Employee Resource Groups, or ERGs, have long been utilized by corporations aiming to foster a more diverse and inclusive work environment. These voluntary, employee-led groups often help to develop future leaders and increase employee engagement, providing an incentive to remain at the company. They are usually sponsored by a senior executive, called an Executive Champion, who is connected to the issues or the under representation of the group’s members and ensures that the goals and objectives of the group are heard by senior level decision makers.

In under a decade, ERGs have played a role in attracting and retaining diverse talent. They’ve become valuable for recruitment and targeted recruitment of certain under-represented groups and for retaining talent by connecting employees to the company’s values.

According to a 2014 survey by The New Talent Times, almost half (48%) of the 1,554 adults surveyed in the age range of 18-34 were “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in joining an ERG.

Respondents between the ages of 18-34 indicated a much greater likelihood of applying to a company that offers ERGs, compared to those in the 35-44 age range. Almost 70% of 18 to 24-year-olds noted that ERGs would positively impact their decision to apply, while over half (52%) of 25 to 34-year-olds said the same.

Some of the companies listed on Black Enterprise’s 2016 Best Companies for Diversity report are proving that applying and maximizing the power of ERGs can help push a brand beyond just a diversity statement online and into the realm of a true champion for D&I.

Here are two (of our list of seven) corporations that exemplify the power of ERGs:

1. AT&T


In 2015, AT&T’s black retention rate was 85.6%. The company touts their many mentoring and employee resource group activities, which have strong representation among African American employees. Its African American ERG, Community NETwork, is a critical, business aligned channel, which has helped produce leadership candidates.

Community NETwork has over 12,000 members, and it is the oldest and third largest ERG at AT&T. In 2015, it contributed more than $111,000 to the United Negro College Fund and $51,000 to national and local scholarships, to provide educational assistance to qualified low-income students.

The Executive Advocate Program (Champions) focuses on enhancing representation of women and people of color at the executive and officer level. Since the program launched in 2013, the company has identified over 30 VP-level and more than 95 GM-level high-potential women and POC, and connected them with an executive officer outside their business unit to serve as mentor, coach—or champion.

Overall, AT&T has 12 employee resource groups with over 112,000 members. The company’s annual ERG Academy provides the elected officers of the ERGs with the education, experience, and exposure they need to grow and realize their potential, and more effectively lead their organizations. It also provides opportunities for sharing best practices across ERGs and networking with AT&T executives in informal settings.



TIAA has eight employee resource groups that aim to bring millennials on board and provides incentives for them to remain, including The Young Professionals or YoPros, an employee group dedicated to young professionals who are early in their career.

According to Skipp Spriggs, executive vice president and chief human resources officer, the group is very active in the millennial arena, conducting social media recruiting and various volunteer events, which recognize that millennials want jobs with a purpose that aligns with their own.

“We feel that, because we’re in the business of providing for those people who serve others, it really resonates with millennials—our value proposition—among making sure we have financial well-being for our clients,” he told Black Enterprise.