Connect with Your Colleagues: Learn About ERGs at CUIMC

In a large, busy work environment like Columbia University Irving Medical Center, it can sometimes be challenging for employees to find their niche. Employee resource groups offer the chance to connect with others from shared backgrounds and similar life experiences.

CUIMC's Asian and Pacific Islander employee resource group hosted a celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month on Haven Plaza last May.

“The ERGs at CUIMC create a supportive and collaborative environment where employees can celebrate their diverse heritage and culture and raise awareness of their experiences in the workplace,” says Ashley Boyce, diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging staff engagement manager for CUIMC Human Resources. “They really foster that sense of belonging and inclusion among identity groups.”

CUIMC HR is hosting the inaugural ERGs Open House on Thursday, Feb. 1, from noon to 2 p.m. on the School of Nursing Building’s 7th Floor. The event offers a chance for staff to hear from current ERG leaders, executive sponsors, and members about upcoming awareness opportunities, cultural events, and leadership opportunities. Attendees also can have professional headshots taken, with limited availability, and enter a raffle to win CUIMC-branded items. Learn more and register.

What are ERGs?

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are groups of employees who share characteristics or life experiences and help foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational goals.

CUIMC has 11 ERGs, including the LatinX ERG, CUIMC Women in Technology ERG, Jewish Cultural ERG, Working Parents ERG, African, Black, and Caribbean ERG, Veterans ERG, and the new Islamic Cultural ERG, which held its kickoff meeting in January. Learn more about ERGs at CUIMC.

“ERGs are the first line of response to the evolving needs of the community,” says Alade McKen, PhD, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer for staff. “They offer constructive recommendations to leadership and serve as a space to address the challenges that employees from diverse backgrounds and perspectives face, so that everyone at the medical center feels valued, respected, and heard.”

What benefits do ERGs offer to employees?

The African, Black, and Caribbean ERG was a leading advocate for Juneteenth becoming an official holiday across Columbia University.

ERGs offer an opportunity to network and collaborate with employees from across the medical center. They host a variety of events open to the entire community and are dedicated to raising awareness, educating, and celebrating diverse cultures and experiences.

ERGs also help ensure each group’s priorities are visible to university leadership. Each ERG has an executive sponsor, a member of senior leadership who advocates on behalf of the group to accomplish the group’s goals. Executive sponsors help break down university silos and navigate challenging bureaucracy to suggest policy changes and ensure that resources are allocated appropriately to address issues.

Over the years, ERGs at CUIMC have been a force for positive change, creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace for all. The CUIMC Disability ERG has championed Project POSSability, which offers job opportunities to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through the project, which began in 2020, 12 employees have been hired, including five in the past four months,. The LGBTQ+ ERG was a driving force for gender-affirming care benefits for employees, and the African, Black, and Caribbean ERG was a leading advocate for Juneteenth becoming an official holiday across Columbia University.

How can I get involved in an ERG?

Awards were presented to Employee Resource Group champions and trailblazers at the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Summit in November. From left: Shydeka Richards, ERG champion; Lina Maria Alfonso, ERG champion; Shaquanna Williams, ERG trailblazer; and Daniel Dobrin, ERG champion.

All staff at CUIMC are invited to join or create an ERG (email for more information). If you’re interested in learning more about existing ERGs, stop by the ERGs Open House on Feb. 1.

This year, CUIMC HR plans to reinstate quarterly all-ERG meetings, where leaders and members from each ERG share updates and action items with the community and university leadership.