I recently attended the WILDwood Symposium here in Richmond, Virginia. The conference focuses on women’s leadership development and ERG design. Our Executive Vice President happens to be neighbors with Stacy Wood, the founder of this event, so it was a natural fit for UDig to be a sponsor. The day started on a high note – mimosas and networking. I met women from several local Richmond companies: Cigna, KPMG, Altria, and more. However, once the presentations started, I immediately had one question, “What the heck is an ERG?”
Luckily, I wasn’t the only one with this question and Stacy explained that ERG stands for Employee Resource Group. These are groups of employees who come together based on similar characteristics or interests. Common resource groups include LGBTQ+, gender, and race. These groups add value to a company by giving these minority groups an outlet for support and professional or personal development. These groups actively work to make a company more inclusive.
Although I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know the acronym for a resource group, I was pretty much the only one who worked in the tech space, specifically as a software developer. Lots of women were there representing their company’s female ERG. Even though I felt like the odd woman out, I did take the opportunity to brainstorm how UDig could utilize a female-focused resource group, or something similar.
Let us take a look at the data. Employee resource groups are found in 90% of Fortune 500 companies. Only 24% of computing jobs are held by women and in the last 21 years, female software engineers have only increased by 2%. The turnover rate for women is more than twice as high as it is for men. Women in STEM make 82 cents on the dollar compared to men. Although women make up about half of the overall workforce, less than one-third are in leadership roles.
Reading these statistics in 2022 is a bit shocking, especially considering 38% of people prefer to work under female leadership. It is also profitable to have women at the top. Firms, where at least 30% of leaders are women, had a 15% increase in profits compared to firms with no female representation. Employee resource groups can help drive outreach and development of female engineers.
Although the workforce here at UDig is primarily male, steps are always being taken to continue diversifying the office. In the time that has passed from me attending this symposium to me writing this blog, 2 new women have been hired. Of the 18 women in the office, 6 were hired in 2022. Women account for 30% of our leadership team, including our Chief Financial Officer.
Our company motto is “we leave you better.” I think about that not only in terms of leaving our customers better but also leaving UDig better. We currently have a #udigladies slack channel, but post-pandemic it’s hardly utilized. I would love to be involved in organizing a formal resource group for the women at the company. Creating a safe space, especially in such a male-dominated industry, is so important. This group could also serve as a marketing tool to attract more and more women to UDig. Although the WILDwood Symposium probably wasn’t designed for software engineers at small companies, I was able to make connections with wonderful women, learn strategies to succeed, and take steps to make UDig an even better place to work.