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Leading & Learning: How to Head a Corporate ERG

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SURUCHI SHARMA
mars 23, 2023 - 5 Min de lecture

“Learn continually—there’s always “one more thing” to learn!” - Steve Jobs

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. My journey began in India, where I was born and raised in a middle-class family. Even though the resources were scarce, I was fortunate that my parents prioritized my education and learning — and played a pivotal role in building a solid foundation for my career and future. Looking back, I am grateful for all the learning opportunities that came my way and the ones I chose to follow. 

One of the most special and enriching experiences that I’ve had is leading WIZE (Women in Zscaler Engage). WIZE is one of the many employee resource groups (ERGs) within Zscaler. It aims to empower women—within the company and beyond—and provide the right tools, access, and community that they need to advance professionally. 

I joined WIZE in 2018, and at that time, it was merely an idea that was ready to become a reality. Our leadership has always been united in its efforts to break down barriers for women to thrive and move into leadership roles. WIZE stemmed from that vision and it warms my heart to see that the WIZE community has grown to more than 1,100 members globally, and counting. 

This Women's History Month, I've reflected on how joining WIZE, and now leading it, has been one of the best decisions that I have made. Not only have I evolved as a leader, but I have learned the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives firsthand—and what a journey it has been! 

If you’re looking for a way to learn and gain skills that you are not able to develop in your day-to-day role, joining an ERG is a great way to accomplish this. Being part of an ERG leadership team provides you exposure to senior leadership and networking (both internally and externally), and allows you to challenge yourself in a myriad of ways that will accelerate the trajectory of your career if you’re willing to put in the effort. 

Here are the top 7 things I learned from leading WIZE

1. Diversity and inclusion are key to success.

An ERG can be an effective way to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, as it brings together employees from different backgrounds and experiences. By fostering a culture of respect and understanding, an ERG can help create a more inclusive and welcoming work environment for all employees that encourages everyone to show up as their true selves, and do their best work, every day. At Zscaler, we have several ERGs and many support groups, which play a huge role in shaping the culture we are so proud of.

2. Employee engagement is imperative. 

An ERG can help engage employees and foster a sense of belonging within the organization. By providing a platform for employees to share their ideas and perspectives, an ERG can help foster a sense of ownership and drive within the group. We have more than 1,100 employees in our WIZE community and the support we see is unparalleled. 

3. Leadership support is essential. 

The success of an ERG depends on leadership buy-in and support. Without this, it can be difficult for an ERG to make an impact and drive change within the organization. WIZE is fortunate to have an amazing Executive Sponsor, Kavitha Mariappan, who has been our guiding light and champion. 

4. Communication is key. 

Effective communication is essential for an ERG to be successful. This includes both internal communication within the group and external communication with the rest of the organization. By keeping all stakeholders informed and involved, an ERG can more effectively drive change and achieve its goals.

5. Collaboration is crucial.

An ERG can be an effective way to bring together employees from different departments and areas of expertise to work toward a common goal. By fostering collaboration, ERGs can help drive innovation and create a more cohesive and aligned team.

6. Hiring and supporting diverse employees benefits everyone.

By focusing efforts on ERGs, you see higher retention, a broader attraction of top talent, stronger financial performance, and a high-performing culture that creates innovative products and better services for our customers. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just buzzwords; when DEI initiatives are integrated into an organization’s goals, the benefits are endless!

7. Fostering DEI initiatives is everyone’s responsibility.

It is our collective responsibility to ensure that people from all backgrounds, experiences, lifestyles, and thinking feel welcome and protected, and, most importantly, feel confident about bringing their authentic selves to work. 

What makes Zscaler special?

At Zscaler, we attract, engage, and develop talented people from a wealth of different backgrounds, experiences, and thinking. Our culture offers an inclusive environment where unique backgrounds, experiences, and thinking are valued as part of creating a high-performing, innovative, and customer-obsessed, team. If you choose to lead or join an ERG and put in the hours, the benefits and learnings are endless. 

Overall, an ERG can be a valuable tool for promoting diversity and inclusion, engaging employees, and driving positive change within an organization. By leveraging these lessons learned, organizations can create more effective and successful ERGs that benefit both the employees and the organization as a whole. There is so much research that shows that we need diverse teams to do our best work. So it's important that we play our part in building an inclusive workplace! That’s the only way we're going to serve our community and our customers the best.

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