I have spoken to so many internal Women in Tech (WiT) groups, and they all struggle to raise money within their organization for their group. We are at a point where companies are all about diversity and inclusion. They scream from the rooftops, “We believe in Diversity and Inclusion.” Still, they don't give their ERGs (Employee Resource Group) a big enough budget to do much of anything. They can get money for things like snacks when they get together, a nice dinner catered at the office, a nice dinner at a restaurant, or on rare occasions, they may be able to pay for a speaker or workshop facilitator. That last one is a biggie. It really shouldn't be. Companies need to put their money where their mouth is and not just give lip service.
What can you do for your WiT group?
1 - Up All Night.
What areas need improvement in terms of knowledge or productivity? What are the things that your leaders speak about most often? That will give you an idea of what keeps them up at night and where their focus lies. Most leaders seek solutions to grow their business, expand their reach, or attract more talent. What do your leaders talk about the most?
2 - One for All and All for One.
Think of initiatives that will help not just the people in your group but the people in your organization. Something that anyone can participate in and get something for their development. This sounds like it goes completely against creating a space for women to have those deeper conversations. However, you can't have those conversations in an isolated chamber—the people you want to change need to hear things from your side. When men join the Women in Tech Regatta discussion, they add a different perspective. And they typically walk away saying they had no idea that women were going through the issues we face. It's other than hearing it firsthand, then reading it online. It feels much more personal. When it feels more personal, people are more willing to engage.
3 - Stronger Together.
Find other groups you can partner with inside your organization. They also want to raise money for their initiatives. Is there a topic that one or more groups wish to address? When your executive team sees that specific issues go beyond your group, they are more inclined to pay attention. Pooling resources and funding can make the difference between receiving €1.000 or €10.000.
4 - Values and Strategies.
Tie your initiatives to the company's values and yearly strategies. It shows your group is there to support the company. When your initiatives fit into the bigger scheme of things, it's hard to say no. If, for example, your company wants to increase engagement and the employee survey reveals that most people lack a sense of belonging, perhaps your next initiative will be centered on initiatives that address this problem and advance the organization's objectives.
Open the windows. Look outside your company for funding. Other companies want a way to be visible within your company. If they can host or provide services in exchange for having 10 minutes of the audience's time to share about their product or services, why not? Just make sure that their quest for attention doesn't take away from the objectives of your group or overshadow the changes you seek to create within your company. Try to align with partners who have a shared passion for your group and the community feeling you are trying to achieve.
6 - Return On Investment.
Ultimately, the money given to an ERG is money invested in their people. Companies love to see the ROI on their investments, and there are ways that your group can show that to their stakeholders. It involves doing your research. Which numbers matter most to your company? Can your initiative improve those numbers? Where in the gaps did you identify can you create the minor change for the most significant impact? What can you do to be a partner with your stakeholders?
I love that the conversation on diversity and inclusion is much louder and more often at the forefront of organizations. However, it is discouraging when you find out that the women's groups within the companies are essentially just for show or a place to vent. We can do so much more if given the opportunity.