Getting Involved: Why I Joined an Employee Resource Group...

A group of young people talking at work.I began my career with Emerson in mid-September when I moved to a suburb of St. Louis to begin my career in business development in an office. I came from the Chicago area where I worked at a job that was 100% remote, so I expected there might be some new experiences coming my way in terms of work culture. My new colleagues immediately suggested that I join Emerson’s Women in STEM group as it would provide an opportunity for me to meet others in the St. Louis area and learn more about the Emerson organization as a whole.

To be honest, I had never really been involved with SWE (Society of Women Engineers), a sorority, or other 'females-only' social or networking groups in college and my engineering classes were highly male dominate. Needless to say,  I had no idea what to expect of an Employee Resource Group (or ERG) - especially one that I assumed was comprised of all females. Reluctantly, I put the next meeting on my calendar; it was scheduled to at Emerson’s very large corporate campus. Needless to say, I was nervous for a few reasons:

  1. I had never been to a corporate campus, especially a sprawling one, and didn’t know what to expect in terms of culture.
  2. There was a strong possibility, I thought, that everyone had already formed “friend groups” and that I was going to walk into this meeting as the lone outsider.
  3. I was new to my role and unsure of how much support my manager would offer if I did, in fact, decide to become involved in 'extra curricular' activities.

Luckily, I was the third person to show up and was able to introduce myself to the other two people in the room (who happened to be among the group leaders). They were incredibly kind and welcoming and as we chatted many others arrived - including men! Eventually, we broke out into small groups to introduce ourselves. During this time, an individual in my group immediately wrote down my name and asked if she could introduce me to a colleague. In the coming weeks, I met people from HR, Legal and even other Emerson businesses. Note to self: this would never have happened if I stayed in my office! During the presentations portion of the meeting, I learned that a Social/Networking committee co-chair position was available, however, I was unsure if this was something I should take on since I just started a new job at a new company. When the question was asked if anyone would be interested in volunteering for the open position, my hand stayed down.

For the remainder of the presentations, I had a knot in my stomach as I mulled over what seemed like a million questions in my head. I wanted to be involved, so why didn’t I jump at such an intriguing opportunity? What was stopping me from saying 'yes' to something that seemed to be a natural fit and had landed in my lap? Would someone else take the position I wanted? Will I be spreading myself too thin by becoming the Social/Networking Co-Chair? Do I need to ask my manager for permission before adding other responsibilities to my role?

As soon as the presentation concluded I jolted up to the front of the room. I make a lot of decisions based on my gut reaction, and my gut was telling me, “Erin, why not offer to help fill this position? Not much bad can come from it, and a lot of good could.” I immediately told the leadership team that I wanted to help be the Social/Networking Co-Chair. However, I wasn’t sure what level of involvement I could commit to since I was still learning a lot about my new job.

When I returned to the office, I met with my manager and learned that he wholeheartedly supported my efforts. He was thrilled to learn that I was interested in joining the Women in STEM group at Emerson. And, when I informed him I had stepped forward to lead the social and Erin Meehan at the local WE community eventnetworking committee, I believe he was more convinced than ever that I was a great fit for my new role! This validated the importance I place on trusting my gut when making decisions. It encouraged me to continue to seek out opportunities that may lay outside of my ’job description’ or even my comfort zone. Here is a great set of guidelines on when you should trust your gut. 

Helping organize the first social event for December was a breeze as I consider one of my strengths to be organizational skills (99% of my life is organized via lists and Excel Spreadsheets) - my intuition had served me well again. At the event, I met more people and even (gasp) began to make a few friends! I was inspired to organize more events and create an environment where people would feel comfortable being themselves while they learned more about those in other functional and business areas - the people we wouldn’t necessarily meet or interact with on a regular basis.

Soon after, I also volunteered to help plan Emerson’s sponsorship of a WE Local event. Participating in the WE local conference, I met and learned more about our VP of Diversity and Inclusion, Akberet Boykin Farr, and what initiatives were being rolled out to further our understanding and practice of diversity and inclusion. I also met an Emerson executive who offered to meet for lunch to share her knowledge, get to know one another more, and discuss my professional goals.

Through my involvement in Women in STEM, I’ve been able to expand my social network, gained a better understanding of the inner workings of Emerson and learned about additional opportunities and career paths I could choose to pursue. More importantly, my connection to the group has improved my feeling of being connected to and proud of my place of work, taught me that volunteering is highly encouraged by my manager and has even added value to my role. Want more proof? Here's a great article on the benefits of joining an affinity group.

As with most things in life, "What You Get Out of It is Equal to What You Put Into It.’ This has certainly been the case with my involvement in Women in STEM. Choosing to step into a committee role has provided me with support, encouragement and inspiration that I use to fuel other areas of my work and my life. Next on my calendar is a SWE meeting...

What benefits have you received from becoming an active member or an Employee Resource Group or other Affinity Group? Please reply below to share your experiences. 

  • thank you so much for sharing! Women in STEM would not be where it is today without people like you stepping up and saying yes to these opportunities! I am happy that our Employee Resource Group is giving people opportunities to meet people they wouldn't usually come across and make great relationships to help them in their careers. Thanks for sharing!
  • Thanks for sharing a great story Erin! Coming into a large organization like Emerson can be daunting. In my experience as a new grad, I quickly found great people willing to collaborate, mentor, and help. Glad you were able to experience the same and “pass the torch” by getting involved.