Expanding your Employee Resource Group
There are critical aspects of forming a LGBT employee resource group when employees do not have explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Working with your managers is essential so that the organization's leaders fully understand their responsibility to create a workplace where everyone can be open and honest without fear of personal or professional recrimination.
Use every communications vehicle allowed in the organization — i.e., the internet, newsletters, bulletin boards, company gatherings — to post information about the group and its upcoming events. Make available a safe way (a voice mail box, snail mail box or e-mail box) for people to reach out without necessarily identifying themselves by name. If the organization will not allow you to use its communications vehicles, consider taking out an ad or placing an announcement in your local gay newspaper.
Make sure that there is a person in management, ideally in the human resources department, who supports the ERG's desire to reach out — someone whose name is posted within the company and who is a "safe" person to reach out to.
How can the ERG include closeted employees?
Many employee resource groups maintain two membership lists; one that may be shared with HR and other management, and another that is maintained as confidential (information is only BCC’d by e-mail to these members). Membership numbers are reported in total, and meetings may operate with an agreement of confidentiality.
What about non-LGBT members?
Make sure your ERG includes non-LGBT members in its activities and programming - including allies will help solidify the ERG and bolster its mission of promoting fair workplace policies and practices. Many employers report great participation and interest from their overall employee base when different ERGs collaborate on programming and events, such as inviting speakers who can speak to more than one issue (for example, a transgender person of color who can speak to their struggles in the workplace from both gender perspectives).
Additionally, make sure that the ERG upholds the organization's non-discrimination policy by including all employees regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.