Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are grassroots networks of employees who share a common culture or common characteristics and have a desire to connect. At Symantec ERGs are open to all employees either as members or simply to participate in activities such as outreach to young students, mentoring, community service, networking and events to build cultural awareness and understanding while celebrating differences. In theory, ERGs exist primarily for the benefit of members, but as most companies soon learn, ERGs are very good for business.
When Symantec launched its Diversity & Inclusion initiative some of the initial feedback we received from our D&I champions was that the company was “silent” on issues of interest to members of the gay community. We were also told that members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community did not feel it was “safe” to be open about their sexual orientation at work. With the help of several employees, we quickly set up a virtual meeting of LGBT employees and their allies and had an open and candid discussion about their concerns and experiences. It was an emotional and powerful meeting. It meant so much to the members of the community to be connected and to be able to talk openly about issues of concern to them. One member said: “I can’t believe I am having this conversation at work. It is such a relief.”
Since that time, Symantec has launched SymPRIDE, its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Allies ERG across the USA. Members of the community connect virtually and act locally, hosting events with guest speakers on topics of interest to their community, sponsoring Symantec booths at local pride events and introducing their partners to coworkers. They are building Symantec’s brand as a great place to work. When SymPRIDE was launched, the members recommended that Symantec participate in the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) survey, a survey that measures LGBT equality in the workplace. With the input and support of SymPRIDE members, Symantec moved from a score of 80 in 2007 to a score of 100 in 2008, a score the company has maintained every year since. Why is this good for Symantec? CEI survey results are published on a public website so that members of the LGBT community can refer to them and do business with companies that support them. That’s good business.
Symantec has four very active ERGs including 17 Symantec Women’s Action Network (SWAN) chapters worldwide; Symantec’s Black Employee Network (SBEN); Hispanic Outreach and Leadership Affinity group (HOLA) and Symantec’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies (LGBTA) group (SymPride).
Unfortunately, there are many countries in which Symantec does business where members of the LGBT community are discriminated against and in some cases subject to criminal prosecution. Symantec’s policies on non-discrimination are universal and apply to all Symantec employees. Our goal in FY12 is to expand our support of LGBT employees outside of the USA and expand our social impact.
Ellen McLatchey is Symantec's Director of Global Diversity & Inclusion.