Today, a woman’s representation and impact is discussed daily in news and certainly in politics.
But how are conversations and good intentions put into action? How can women feel heard and valued in a multi-billion dollar company? And how does that impact their life and morale outside of the workplace?
Employee Resource Groups are a popular and strategic opportunity for underrepresented groups and minorities to let their voice be heard within a company.
Volkswagen Chattanooga’s Women in Motion (WiM) is doing just that for women in the automotive industry. Employee-led, this affinity group gives women the opportunity to:
- Integrate the perspective and talent of women into Volkswagen’s global vision.
- Develop and mentor women to excel within an organization that values diversity.
- Create a voice within our community through business and volunteer outreach.
The professional group is organized with four volunteer officers and three advisors. Their mission statement highlights the key responsibility of “strengthening our company by enhancing the network of employees connected to the support and development of women.”
Established in 2013, the WiM group has hosted over 50 varying events for their 140 members including Women in Leadership panel discussions, Lunch-and-Learns, factory quality drives, site visits and maintains a number of social and networking opportunities.
“I have worked in automotive for 20 years, which isn’t a very female-heavy industry,” said Megan Herndon, president of WiM. “I’ve always wanted to work in the type of place where women help each other, and this group is key to that success. Women now can create relationships in different departments, open doors and offer advice to each other, and have the camaraderie females crave.”
“For our first three years, the majority of our events were focused on networking,” said Megan. “Women socialized in their own departments, but rarely connected. It was important to us to give the opportunity to mingle different groups and interests like factory floor team members, moms, management, or a combination.”
The first completed project of WiM was to establish a mother’s room for women returning to work after having children. The WiM group took the proposal to their male executive sponsor and then to the executive board. Now Volkswagen Chattanooga has a mother’s room complete with cubicles for nursing, a sink, fridge and lockers.
Another notable event was a Factory Quality Drive where women were given the chance to drive the SUV being built at their plant around a course in Ooltewah.They not only got to see the fruits of their labor, but were able to offer feedback and a female perspective on the car.
The keynote event this year was a Women Who Rock awards luncheon. Over 75 nominations came in from all different levels of the company, from the factory floor to upper management. Six awardswere presented, including CWLI memberships. Julie Baumgardner, president of First Things First, spoke to the group about women in the local and global community who have changed the world while male and female managers came to support their employees and co-workers.
“It was really special to honor these women and host a large event for the group,” Megan said.
In addition to the networking, Lunch and Learns, and guest speakers, the group recently launched an inaugural women’s mentoring program. Six female mentees and six managers were matched on an application basis and will meet at least monthly for six months.
“It will be an opportunity to get visibility and feedback, discuss goals and to see a different part of the organization,” said Megan.
For Volkswagen Chattanooga, Megan notes the group isn’t only a retention tactic, but also a recruiting one.
Megan added, “Sometimes it’s challenging for women to imagine themselves working in the automotive industry. We have to show them what it’s like to work here and how women could find their place at Volkswagen.”
She hopes to see ERG’s at fellow Chattanooga companies collaborate in the future. If you would like to connect with Megan Herndon or the Women in Motion group, email Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a great resource on the impact of ERG’s, enjoy this Bloomberg article.