PG&E’s Women’s Network won because of the variety of ways its’ members positively influenced their community. Last year, this employee resource group (ERG) partnered with Watermark, a nonprofit whose mission is to increase the representation of women in leadership positions, and Girls Inc., an organization dedicated to inspiring girls to be strong, smart and bold. They also awarded grants to Rape Counseling Services of Fresno, Dress for Success San Francisco, Haven Women’s Center of Stanislaus County, Girls on the Run of the Bay Area and Bay Area Crisis Nursery. The Women’s Network also raised funds to award eighteen scholarships to high school students for their college education in science, technology, math or engineering (STEM), areas sorely needing more women graduates.
Recently, Diversity Best Practices sat down with Women’s Network Advisor Kristin Gallagher and the Women’s Network President Miyuki Iwahashi to hear how their ERG has also been able to influence change within PG&E.
First, feedback from Women’s Network membership and women leaders led to PG&E strengthening its parental leave offerings and resources for working parents. The feedback came from an extensive employee survey the Women’s Network conducted to better understand the interests and needs of working and prospective parents. The findings resulted in three major recommendations: improve the internal process for parental leave, provide accommodations for breast-feeding mothers and re-evaluate the company’s parental leave policy. The ERG shared these findings with its executive sponsor, Executive Vice President for Corporate Services and Human Resources John Simon, and as a result, a lean six sigma green belt project was conducted to better understand the employee experience and to implement improvements to the parental leave process. PG&E also developed a design standard for a mothers’ rooms program, including ergonomic chairs and tables, and hospital-grade pumps, among other things. Currently, PG&E is creating and updating over 60 mothers’ rooms in its service territory so nursing employees have access to a quiet, private and comfortable facility.
A second accomplishment in 2015 was a leadership program created by the Women’s Network to identify high potential PG&E employees and to support developing the skills they need to advance at the company. The selection process includes letters of recommendation, a personal statement with a detailed application and an in-person interview conducted with an objective scoring rubric. Three participants were selected who committed to an eight month program that includes formal mentoring and features an executive-sponsored project where the participants present recommendations to high-level executives. The cornerstone of last year’s program was the executive sponsored project. Based on the recommendations from the Women’s Network survey, the project that was selected was an external benchmarking of parental leave policies and benefits at other companies. Those results were presented to the ERG’s executive sponsors and the Women’s Network is working with Simon, to refresh its parental leave policy and benefits based on the results of industry benchmarks and employee feedback. In the next few years, the Leadership Program will track past candidates to see how their careers have progressed post-program. Success of the program is already evident in the 2015 class, with a candidate who entered the program as an individual contributor who recently received a promotion to a director role.
One reason the Women’s Network has an impact at PG&E is because the ERG’s president and vice president meet at least quarterly with their executive sponsor to discuss the status, goals and roadblocks on the organization’s progress in impacting positive change at the company. Senior leadership’s active engagement provided the visibility and active sponsorship that the parental leave effort needed to be successful.
The Women’s Network has membership of nearly 1,700 PG&E employees, and last year celebrated its 40th anniversary. PG&E’s Women’s Network shows how an employee resource group can contribute to and drive real change within a company. As Iwahashi commented, “The Women’s Network is not just a voice of our members, but a voice for women at the company.”