Each year, Seramount recognizes the critical work employee resource groups, their leaders and allies do to drive diversity, equity and inclusion at their organizations and in their communities through our Above and Beyond Awards.
This year, we received over 100 submissions across the six categories reviewed by a panel of judges made up of diversity, equity and inclusion practitioners, subject matter experts and members of the Diversity Best Practices team.
Although the opportunity to honor these groups and individuals is important, we feel that it is equally important to share the best practices from the awardees in order to learn from and be inspired by their work.
To that end, we have compiled some highlights from this year’s Above and Beyond Awards in six categories: business impact, community impact, workplace culture impact, workforce impact, individual leadership and valued ally.
In addition, we created two special recognition awards, one for a group and one for an individual, from which we have also shared best practices.
We hope that you will use what you learn from this year’s awardees to take your work to the next level.
WINNER: Professional Women’s Network – Massachusetts Chapter, State Street Corporation
The Professional Women’s Network in Massachusetts (PWN-MA) launched the Consulting Initiatives after identifying the need to address employee sentiment that employees were operating in silos within their larger organization.
PWN-MA wanted to help employees develop new and existing skills, broaden PWN-MA members’ networks and allow visibility into other business areas to understand State Street’s overarching goals. At the same time, there was an increased push from the corporate leadership to increase internal mobility. PWN-MA launched the Consulting Initiatives in 2015 as a program that aimed at addressing these challenges with specific goals to:
Since 2015, they have completed 26 Consulting Initiatives across 10 business areas. This represents over 11,000 hours of work towards solving real business challenges, upskilling 156 PWN-MA members and an estimated cost savings of US$1.7 million.
In addition to the savings, the Consulting Initiatives resulted in tangible solutions and outcomes. For example, one of the Consulting Initiatives enabled the company to adopt a formal, corporate-wide internal mobility policy while another helped to improve technology roll-outs.
In 2019, the PWN-MA Consulting Initiatives began a partnership with the Boston Women’s Workforce Council (BWWC), a public-private partnership between the Boston Mayor’s Office and the Greater Boston business community, with the mission of closing gender pay gaps and removing visible and invisible barriers for working women.
During the most recent engagement, the BWWC leveraged the Consulting Initiatives team to review industry best practices to eliminate gender-based wage gap and to create an implementation plan that could be shared with participating companies using case studies.
Honorable Mention: Project Onyx, Levi Strauss & Co.
The goal of Project Onyx, Levi Strauss’ Black Employee Resource Group (ERG), is to “act as a business consultant on how to leverage black community buying power and cultural impact.” In 2019, Project Onyx hosted “(Bl)Acknowledge: Understanding the Black Consumer,” a multimedia presentation educating employees on the perspective, needs, contributions, and power of the Black consumer.
The event created so much buzz that the Global Leadership Team requested the presentation at a leadership meeting. The effect of the presentation sparked action — to create collections that Black consumers would want to wear.
To celebrate Black History Month (BHM) 2020, Levi’s introduced its first product capsule focusing on BHM with a limited collection with Gianni Lee, a multidisciplinary visual artist whose images explore the Black experience in America. LS&Co. also featured Black employees wearing the collection on its external channels in February 2020.
As part of Levi’s broader BHM campaign, ten Project Onyx members made customized BHM T-shirts featuring different sayings that resonated with them, like SOY NEGRA, MELANINVIBE and BE YOU TIFUL. Members then participated in a photoshoot and interview discussing their perspectives on BHM and sharing their personal stories. The photoshoot and interviews were highlighted on Off the Cuff (LS&Co.’s external channel) in a three-part series throughout February 2020. Photos of Project Onyx members were also featured on Levi.com and the Levi’s app throughout the month.
The result of this campaign included increased associate engagement, incremental sales of over 100% versus normal trend for the relevant categories, and the campaign’s product was the top selling product in the relevant categories for the time it launched.
Honorable Mention: Caribbean Employee Business Resource Group (CREBRG), American Airlines
Through the “Know Guyana Day” initiative, the Caribbean EBRG (CREBRG) brought key company and community stakeholders together to increase awareness of Guyanese culture and the needs of customers in this market. CREBRG members worked directly with senior leadership and New York team members to create an enriching cultural experience, equipping our employees with the tools needed to build and maintain a loyal customer base in Guyana.
As part of the event, attendees enjoyed a presentation by Wilderness Explorers and learned about Guyanese artistry and cuisine. Guests even engaged with a Guyana Tourism Board US representative, and Guyanese vendors showcased their products. Other attendees included top-selling Guyanese travel agents, prominent government officials (Guyana Consul General and Guyanese State Senators), company executives, frontline team members, and Caribbean media outlets.
In concert with local businesses and Guyanese government officials, CREBRG members shared Guyanese culture with team members, including the Sales and Alliance teams at American, which provided the company with integral business insights and strategies. As a result, they are better positioned as an airline to provide a quality product and experience to our Guyanese customers.
WINNER: League of Employees of African Descent (LEAD), Merck and Co.
More than 30 million Americans have diabetes and nearly 95 percent of them have type 2 diabetes (T2D), yet certain patient groups are disproportionately affected due to factors such as race, age, access to care and socio-economic issues. The League of Employees of African Descent (LEAD) together with the Merck Hispanic Organization (MHO) helped their organization achieve a deeper understanding of barriers patients from these two communities face and the social determinants that influence individual and group differences in management.
They partnered with the US diabetes marketing leadership and film Executive Producer, Conrod Kelly to provide inputs that refreshed the TD2 awareness campaign with a fully integrated and multi-cultural communications strategy.
The centerpiece of this strategy was the development of the documentary film, A Touch of Sugar. The documentary served as a vehicle for creative storytelling by using rich, culturally relevant content with relatable human faces to evoke emotional responses that could trigger actions. LEAD and MHO played a critical role in the selection of Viola Davis, who grew up accepting “the sugar” (term used for diabetes among many) as a part of life, as the ideal narrator. In addition, both EBRGs surveyed their members to provide a list of individuals who would connect with the film’s intended audiences in an authentic way.
Overall, nearly 6 million people, including many at risk, have since viewed the film and the broader campaign highlighted the need in underserved communities to 1.5 million healthcare professionals. Traffic to AmericasDiabetesChallenge.com increased by 14,000 percent in the two weeks following the premiere. From a social media perspective, 428 posts across Merck and partner channels reached 156M+ people and generated over 2.5M post engagements.
The program’s success goes far beyond extraordinary media metrics. Merck has fielded an unprecedented 1,300+ requests to view and host screenings of the documentary from a full circle of stakeholders. Internally LEAD hosted screenings at most of its chapter sites and ensured resources were translated for its chapter in Brazil to engage their employees. LEAD has several examples of bringing insights to the organization, underscoring the importance of EBRGs supporting the business.
Honorable Mention: Hispanic/Latino Organization for Leadership & Advancement (HOLA), Bank of America
At Bank of America, our ERGs such as HOLA, play a significant role in helping drive responsible growth, which includes being a great place to work for the firm’s ~210,000 employees, understanding the needs of their diverse client base in order to best serve them, and sharing success with their communities.
Below are just a few examples of HOLA’s significant contributions in the communities they serve.
Volunteerism – By partnering with community organizations, HOLA’s commitment to the community is strong with an estimated 22,000+ volunteer hours.
Feeding America – HOLA’s five-year partnership with Feeding America has produced more than 20,000 volunteer hours within local food banks during a three-month summer challenge with 38 chapters and 16,000 members participating. In 2019, HOLA contributed more than 7,500 hours. HOLA worked with Feeding America to identify six food banks with social training and economic livelihood programs to deliver content from Better Money Habits programs in English and Spanish.
UnidosUS Latinos in Finance Program – HOLA chapters partnered with UnidosUS local affiliates to provide educational opportunities to diverse talent in select markets. The 8-10 week program assisted in implementing workforce development, bilingual client services and relationship management training.
Univision – Strengthening client relationships, HOLA continued promoting the Univision Better Money Habits en Español campaign. HOLA highlighted successful results from improvements of attrition and employee engagement. The launch of efforts like a complete Spanish translation of their Better Money Habits website and local ambassador programs was key to deliver financial education directly to the community in partnership with local non-profits.
Honorable Mention: African American/Black ERG: Partnerships and Emerging Communities, Cigna
Cigna’s African American Black Employee Resource Group aimed to focus on the [BAF1] healthcare disparities for African American/Black women with breast cancer. This particular demographic has seen a disproportionately higher mortality rate vs. white women. In the state of Tennessee, where Cigna has over 1 million customers, black women have the 9th highest rate of death from breast cancer in the U.S.
With Cigna as the premiere sponsor, the AA/B ERG partnered with Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Ascension Saint Thomas Medical Partners and the American Cancer Society for two separate events.
The 2019 Health & Back to School Outreach Day was a grassroots collaboration with participating stakeholders, where we engaged 4,500 lives through health fair attendance, distributing 2,500 backpacks filled with supplies for children from the community, educating 140 participants on the importance of HPV vaccinations, and scheduling mammograms for 32 participants.
The Stronger Together event offered free health screenings in addition to no-cost mammogram screenings through partnerships with eight health providers and promoted preventive health and wellness check-ups through educational materials and counseling opportunities to subdue the gap in breast cancer screenings.
From this event, eight participants received mammogram screenings free of charge, of which five participants were uninsured equaling relief of $330 (average cost of mammogram) per participant. All of the women received a Breast Cancer educational awareness and screening results letter and if they didn’t have a primary care physician, were connected with a medical provider if results returned abnormal. For those that could not attend the screening event, the Cigna team was able to reschedule their mammograms at a later date.
WINNER: Military & Veterans Business Resource Group, Booz Allen Hamilton
The Military Spouse Network—one of two employee-led groups within Booz Allen’s Military & Veterans Business Resource Group—paved the way for Booz Allen to break down employment barriers for military spouses who regularly relocate every 1 to 3 years due to their spouses’ service in the U.S. military.
The Military Spouse Network developed practical career resources and programming to support career mobility (retention and development) for military spouse employees. Resources included a Military Spouse Handbook and fact sheets for managers who want to hire and employ military spouses. Programming included sending welcome packages and hosting events to share best practices for keeping their jobs at Booz Allen as they relocated.
As a result of their efforts, military spouse hires have significantly increased over the last several years and have a retention rate on par with or better than the rest of the firm despite their regular relocation. The network’s efforts have also generated significant and positive brand recognition contributing to Booz Allen’s reputation as a top military employer validated by Military Times, Monster, LinkedIn, and others.
In 2017, Booz Allen was recognized for the second time as the Hiring Our Heroes military spouse employer of the year by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. And in 2020, an independent study performed by IPSOS, a global market and opinion firm, specifically cited practices in military spouse hiring as a reason Booz Allen is a great place to work.
Honorable Mention: Muslim Employee Business Resource Group (MEBRG), American Airlines
In an effort to ensuring American Airlines’ culture has a competitive advantage, the Muslim Employee Business Resource Group sought to improve the work environment for their front-line employees. As one way to address improvements, the Muslim EBRG partnered with American’s uniform department and began an initiative to design and introduce new uniforms to improve the comfort, safety and durability of the uniforms but also met the needs of women from the Islamic faith.
The collaboration between the uniform team and the Muslim EBRG resulted in a solution that was groundbreaking, innovative and a historic first for the US airline industry. ‘The Modesty Collection’ was created and included pieces that front-line facing employees could select from that adhered to their religious beliefs. This collection not only serves the needs of current team members it also makes it easier to recruit and hire new staff from a more culturally diverse population of workers.
WINNER: Medtronic Women’s Network – Minnesota Hub
The Medtronic Women’s Network Minnesota Hub (MWN-MN) has the vision to build a respected talent pool that achieves business results.
Two programs within MWN-MN that enable this vision are Empower Your Voice and Business Challenge Revolution. Empower Your Voice (EYV) came from an employee engagement data analysis showing that only 53 percent of women at Medtronic felt that their voice was heard within Medtronic. The workshop MWN-MN developed offers skills, processes, and support for Medtronic women to make their voices heard —and be able to drive business results.
One R&D employee recently said that after the training she was able to successfully quiet her “inner critic.” She used the tools to have a conversation with her supervisor, which resulted in the creation of a new position — a promotion — for her.
As a result of expanding this training program more broadly beyond Minnesota and across the global company, MWN-MN has driven tremendous gains in women’s “voice” scores in their Organizational Health Survey — from 53 percent in May 2016 to 62 percent in November 2018, a 9 percent point increase. EYV has now been delivered over 50 times across 10 countries to 1400 individuals. The team is now working to create Empower Your Voice 2.0, which will incorporate feedback from past participants to allow for more focused time on the lessons learned in the first workshop.
The Business Challenge Revolution (BCR) is a program designed to develop and showcase members who undertake real business problems for six-month stretch assignments. BCR targets leaders who have strategic business problems and matches them with participants. Through a full-day onboarding experience, participants are given the foundation to tackle these real-world challenges. The program culminates with the participant teams offering a strategic recommendation back to the business in a project deep dive as well as a capstone presentation, demonstrating their business acumen growth.
To date, 179 participants have completed 36 projects across 15 different business units under the supervision of over 50 business leaders.
Past participants have used their BCR experience to build their resumes and land new roles. Not only benefitting participants, 100 percent of leaders agreed that BCR has added value to their business, with BCR projects recommending a new therapy or therapy market, as examples.
Honorable Mention: Next Gen Network (NGN), Merck and Co.
To ensure cutting-edge knowledge in areas critical to the business, Merck’s Next Gen Network (NGN) Employee Business Resources Group (EBRG) conducted research among its global members and collaborated with HR Talent Management and Compensation and Benefits to design a two-pronged plan to “upskill” the workforce.
This plan, based on a survey of over 3,000 members from around the globe, consisted of
(1) expanding financial assistance to eligible employees for advanced education; and
(2) streamlining the application process and accelerating the “readiness” of the workforce for special assignments.
Over 90 percent of employees surveyed believed an advanced degree could help them perform better; however, the tuition cost was a limitation. NGN members collaborated with HR Talent Management to change the US Corporate Policy to increase educational assistance benefits. Through external benchmarking and economic modeling, employee benefits increased 240 percent. The policy was also expanded to help employees navigate the graduate school application process.
NGN insights and research also identified that many employees wanted to develop skillsets outside of their core capabilities through special assignment work, but the traditional three to six-month special assignment time frame would not always be aligned with current role requirements or be accessible to different divisions or geographies.
NGN collaborated with the Global HR Team to launch the Project Opportunity Portal (POP). This portal expanded the range of special assignments to include project-based work varying from one week to six months. Empowering employees to work onsite or remotely also expanded the access to these opportunities for people working in different divisions and countries.
The POP has made a significant impact with more than 60 special assignment opportunities posted, 200 applications sent, and 2000 unique users visiting during the three-country pilot phase with plans for global expansion later this year.
Honorable Mention: Women’s Professional Network (WPN), Unum
The WPN at Unum has developed many programs to advance opportunities for women and more deeply embed inclusion and diversity into Unum’s culture and its businesses.
One such initiative is their sponsorship program. A team of six non-officer women built this year-long program including researching sponsorship programs and best practices; building and delivering monthly curriculum, recruiting senior leader sponsors, screening and selecting eighteen sponsees, hosting networking and speaker sessions, conducting separate monthly feedback sessions with sponsors and sponsees and making program adjustments based on feedback.
Key tenets of the program were the inclusion of a business problem that provided an opportunity for the sponsor and sponsee to work together and the target sponsee group. Unlike most corporate sponsorship programs, this program was focused on the inception of the leak in the “leaky pipeline,” the high potential individual contributors on the cusp of management.
Sixteen women completed the program. Within three months of completion, nine women had received promotions, one had expanded job responsibilities, and two were chosen to attend Unum’s premier recognition conference. A survey of senior leader sponsors reported that 100 percent would advocate for their sponsee in a leadership setting.
WINNER: Val Walls, Co-Chair, Pride ERG, Scotiabank
Val Walls has advanced the Bank’s global efforts to support the inclusion of gender identity and gender expression by developing and delivering a focused strategy. This has included aligning event and campaign activations across the bank, developing education sessions and implementing resources. Scotiabank has embedded the inclusion of gender identity and expression into global policies and procedures.
To that end, Val has championed multiple initiatives including the addition of a learning module about gender identity and gender expression into the Bank’s global mandatory inclusion training and launching a global Gender Identity and Gender Expression Toolkit and Resources Hub. Val has also been instrumental to the addition of gender-neutral and accessible washrooms.
Val develops ERG members by leveraging the Bank’s iLead mentoring program to strengthen leadership capabilities and build capacity across the ERG. Through mentoring and coaching, Val ensures that LGBT+ team members are involved in all aspects of the ERGs work, developing their capacity to lead and to be accountable.
Through the development and implementation of a transparent strategy, work plan and defined metrics, Val ensures that all ERG members are accountable for outcomes and their performance as team members.
Honorable Mention: Geralyn Giorgio, Director, Change Management & Communications, Global Services, Talent Pillar Lead, Alliance for Diverse Abilities (ADA) , Johnson & Johnson
Geralyn Giorgio, Director of Change Management & Communications at Johnson & Johnson, led the creation and development of the “Mental Health Diplomats” (MhD) employee group, one of the fastest growing employee groups at Johnson & Johnson. As a first step, Geralyn and the MhDs launched Mental Health First Aid training for new members, which has already reached more than 400 employees.
Early on, Geralyn recognized the intersectionality of mental health with health challenges experienced by populations served by other ERGs at Johnson & Johnson and looked to partner to address, for example, the unique concerns of those with PTSD among veterans. She has since organized focus areas (or support groups) for veterans, grieving parents, addiction, eating disorders, and more.
To address more systemic barriers, Geralyn has partnered with employee benefits and the Human Resources team to improve manager training, insurance coverage, Employee Assistance Program response, short-term disability, reentry to work, and self-identification. On insurance coverage, for example, the company has raised its in-network coverage for behavioral health in the United States that puts mental health more on par with physical health.
Since its formation, MhD has become part of the Alliance for Diverse Abilities, the first ERG at a Fortune 500 company for employees living with mental illness as a patient or caregiver.
Honorable Mention: Julie Arloro-Mehta and Bonita Burke, Co-Chairs, Lincoln Laboratory Women’s Network (LLWN), MIT Lincoln Laboratory
Bonita and Julie’s leadership of Lincoln Laboratory Women’s Network (LLWN) has had a profound impact on both LLWN and the lab as a whole. Originally conceived of as a support and social network for women with technical backgrounds, Bonita and Julie developed a vision and strategic plan to remake the organization as a positive agent for changing Lab culture addressing long standing challenges for all employees.
The approach was to develop a curriculum to enhance lab leadership skills generally, while also redefining leadership to include traditionally neglected skillsets like emotional intelligence and inclusivity. This was accomplished by creating a “Wheel of Leadership” that included the development of open and inclusive leadership skills.
This model of leadership has since become the central model at the lab, which has recently committed to assessing leaders in all of the areas of the wheel. Effectively connecting the leadership and manager evaluation process to the culture that they inspire within their groups. Bonita and Julie also arranged an annual symposium to further develop these skills for all staff throughout their careers, encouraging them to value cultural leadership equally to scientific leadership.
Finally, Bonita and Julie developed a strategy to energize the members of LLWN and expand membership. The first stage was to extend membership to women working in non-technical roles. The second stage was to develop committees and subcommittees to manage tasks. By breaking their comprehensive strategic plan into tasks and subtasks, assigning those to committees, and developing systems necessary to execute tasks, Bonita and Julie created an environment that maximized LLWN’s success.
WINNER: Rob Silverman, Executive Sponsor, Multicultural BRG, Booz Allen Hamilton
Rob Silverman has used his platform to better position and bring together employees of historically underrepresented groups. He is a genuine and powerful advocate of diversity and inclusion. During his tenure as an Executive Sponsor of Booz Allen’s African American Network (AAN), the firm always called on Rob to support panels, workshops, and collaborative events among employee affinity groups. Rob was integral to the firm’s Forum Fest, initially led by the AAN in 2014 and which came to engage over 100 employees, family members, and volunteers annually. All affinity groups participated in this mega event to foster community, celebrate diversity, and promote inclusion.
Rob has also been willing to tackle the emotionally challenging issues that AAN members face. Rob provided leadership in times when AAN members voiced concerns about discord creeping into the workplace. At the time, election rhetoric sparked workplace discussions, generating divisiveness, angst, and anxiety.
With the dispersion of employees across client sites and firm locations throughout the nation, it was imperative that employees felt supported. Rob was quick to organize a listening session with an outside facilitator to understand and develop a strategy to address concerns. Ultimately replicated across affinity groups and the firm, the “Bridging Differences” listening session exemplified Rob’s prompt attention to sensitive topics and epitomized his and the firm’s commitment to inclusion.
As one of the new executive sponsors of the Multicultural BRG, Rob has pushed the discourse of diversity and inclusion beyond conventional boundaries. Rob has articulated a vision for bringing diversity into the firm’s value proposition as a driver of business solutions. He has engaged senior leaders, expanding allies across geographies in the firm. Rob has focused on concrete ways to ground the Multicultural BRG work in business considerations.
Rob is adamant about bringing the value of diversity and inclusion to Booz Allen’s clients whether it’s through helping the National Institutes of Health improve the diversity representation of its clinical trials subjects and collaborations, teaming with government agencies like the Food and Drug Administration in efforts like STEM Girls for Social Good, or simply ensuring that his project teams empowered to bring their authentic selves and all of their gifts to their everyday client assignments.
Rob has established a standard for the Multicultural BRG to operationalize diversity by cultivating inclusive practices that affect all employees, and looks forward to the BRG modeling the way as the firm works to listen, learn, and act in ways that help to enact progress during this important time in our nation’s history.
Honorable Mention: Raymond F. Kerins, Jr, Executive Sponsor BRAVE and BLEND, Bayer US
Ray Kerins openly advocates for greater acceptance, understanding and support throughout the company, while at the same time engaging directly with his colleagues in Bayer’s LGBTQ+ Business Resource Group BLEND, as well as Bayer’s veterans’ BRG known as BRAVE – the two BRGs for which he has served as Executive Sponsor in recent years.
As Bayer’s top communications voice in the U.S., Kerins is a leader who personally has and continues to lobby the U.S. Congress and many states around the nation regarding issues of equality. Kerins has treated the cause of LGBTQ+ workplace equality as a personal mission through his work with BLEND.
In 2017, Kerins prioritized LGBTQ+ workplace issues in discussions with Bayer site leadership, relaying the personal concerns expressed to him by employees regarding site level concerns and driving a positive culture of inclusion.
Kerins has leveraged his position as Bayer’s top communications voice in the U.S. to openly promote the message and advance the mission of these BRGs, both within and outside the company. In 2016, with the support of BLEND, Kerins reinforced his reputation as a leader in LGBTQ+ diversity & inclusion in an appearance on CNBC, during which he spoke out on behalf of the company in opposition to House Bill 2 (HB2), the so-called anti-LGBT law in North Carolina – a piece of legislation which would have sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people and prohibited transgender people from using bathrooms of their choice.
Kerins has advocated with equal vigor for BRAVE. In addition to supporting and amplifying BRAVE’s events, more importantly, under Ray’s Executive Sponsorship, Bayer has significantly improved benefits and policies that support employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserves.
From expanding health benefits for family members while the employee is deployed, to providing employer-sponsored life insurance, to closing the pay gap between the employee’s military pay and Bayer pay for up to two years while deployed, Ray has been a strong advocate on the country leadership team.
Honorable Mention: Huub Lincklaen Arriens, Executive Sponsor, Pride and Allies, Stanley Black & Decker
Huub has been the key person in the creation of our LGBT+ ERG, Pride and Allies. Pride and Allies ERG was created in Warsaw, Poland where the political environment has been challenging for the LGBT community. As the group worked to find a way to establish themselves, Huub heard from other leadership about these efforts and immediately contacted the newly formed ERG.
Through regular meetings with Huub the ERG received the advice and support needed to communicate their efforts not only locally but globally as well and his input was instrumental in the success of their events. With his support, the Pride and Allies ERG’s volunteer base went from 4 to 75 within a year.
Furthermore, when any or all individuals who questioned or challenged their efforts, Huub responded without delay and highlighted the profound importance of diversity and Inclusion and the positive impact this has not only at work but in everyday life.