Following years of examination into equity issues at the University, the first Employee Resource Group (ERG) for women was launched this month.
Human Resources Organizational Development and Learning manager Mary Elms told the Journal via email that the ERG, a partnership between the Equity Office and Human Resources, will serve partly as a “communication conduit” at the University.
The ERG, which was established on Nov. 14, will provide resources based on employees’ needs, she said, adding that seminars, networking, information sessions, mentoring opportunities and “the opportunity to communicate more broadly to the University community and to take a leadership role in breaking down barriers to equal participation” may be among the resources provided.
Interest in ERGs was first explored two years ago, following the formation of ERGs at some American universities, and included employee focus groups with Equity Advisors.
“One of the strongest reasons a focus on women was chosen, was the fact that women are themselves a group identified through statistics and other studies as meeting with systemic inequities in the university environment,” Elms said.
She added that women are part of “diverse communities” — Indigenous, immigrant, Lesbian/Queer and persons with disabilities, for example — that also experience “systemic inequities within the universities’ workforce”.
Human Rights Office Director Irène Bujara told the Journal via email that Queer University of Toronto Employees is the only other ERG she is aware of at a Canadian university.
“It is difficult to imagine that there are not others across Canadian Universities, but they may use different terminology and their goals may be somewhat different,” she said.
She said support from the University through resources and encouragement, coupled with leadership from the employees, makes for a successful ERG.
“This means that employees see a benefit for themselves and wish to provide a benefit to the University through their participation in such a group,” Bujara said.
“It also means that the employees need to make a time commitment to sustain a meaningful series of events that will attract the continued participation of employees.”
Bujara said although an ERG wouldn’t be suited to every university, the response to the formation of the ERG at Queen’s has been “tremendous”, with “very few individuals who have not been supportive”, although faculty members had more questions about the ERG’s goals.
“This is not surprising, given that a faculty member works in multiple worlds — as educators, researchers, and at times employers themselves when their research funding allow the hiring of individuals to assist in their research,” she said.
“We are quite certain that this first step will lead to the formation of more groups focused on assisting the professional development of many staff members within Queen’s and enhancing the environment for everyone.”
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