ERG Leaders - "side-of-desk activists"

By Lenore MacAdam

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion…is a powerful and ambitious approach to making Canada, and the world, a better, and safer, place. – Justin Trudeau, November 2015

Diversity and Inclusion – these terms are part of any corporate agenda in 2016. We talk about “turning the dial”, “gender parity”, “moving beyond diversity and towards inclusion” – it's a national conversation.

And a large part of this work is being done by volunteers.

Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) are voluntary, employee-led groups which are assembled in workplaces based on shared characteristics or life experiences (e.g. gender, sexual orientation, race, ability, etc.). Sometimes going by different names (affinity groups, business networks, communities), these groups are practically omnipresent in the corporate world.

What is interesting to me is that these volunteer groups are such fundamental drivers of the agenda. Diversity and Inclusion professionals design, develop and implement world-class organization-wide programs, but the ERG’s are always close by. They provide the real-life stories, perspectives and lived experiences that often support an organization's Diversity and Inclusion journey.

I’m the National Co-Chair of my firm’s LGBT ERG. Personally, I can’t imagine notdoing it. It has enriched my work life, allowed me to meet different people across my firm and in the community, and given me leadership experience. However there are some challenges unique to this work, and this inspired me to write about it.

In this series I’d like to explore the world of ERG's. What motivates us, the “side-of-desk activists”, to spend our scarce spare time organizing panel events and running awareness sessions? What is the history of ERG’s? And where are they headed?

Are you involved with an Employee Resource Group? Why do you do it? I’d love to hear from you.

Lenore MacAdam is a Policy Advisor with our Talent team. She can be reached at or via LinkedIn.


Lenore MacAdam
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