Blog Post

From Corporate Blah Blah to Action: Transforming Talk into Impact at Our Inaugural Global EmERGe Conference

By Krista Lindsey
May 30, 2024

Imagine this: you hold a DEI-related position and crave an event that transcends international boundaries, offering sessions led by seasoned professionals, opportunities for regional networking, and insights into executing ERG strategies across different areas. Now, add to this a central UK menu and a rousing performance by a renowned choir. That’s precisely the dynam2ic and engaging atmosphere at our April Global EmERGe conference.

On April 15, DEI and ERG leaders from across the globe trekked to London, UK, for the Global EmERGe conference, appropriately themed “Beyond Borders: ERGs Shaping Global Narratives.” This inaugural event kicked off with Seramount President Subha Barry highlighting the pivotal role that ERGs play in fostering inclusivity within the workplace. The insights gained from our 2023 Global Inclusion Index revealed key trends among global companies with active ERGs:

  • The majority participate in both a global corporate network and regional ERG networks.
  • Many ERGs focus on addressing mental health concerns prevalent among underrepresented groups.
  • Approximately half of these companies have ERG executive sponsors based in their own country.
  • Typically, corporate DEI offices manage ERG oversight within their respective countries.
  • Most companies acknowledge the efforts of ERG volunteer leaders, primarily through public recognition or awards, and occasionally through additional leadership training. However, extra compensation for ERG leaders remains relatively rare.

President Subha Barry giving her opening remarks at Global EmERGe

This conference not only served as a platform for shared learning and connection but also demonstrated the impactful work that can arise when boundaries are crossed and diverse voices are united. Here are a few highlights from this impactful conference:

Breaking Barriers with Dame Inga Beale: A Path Less Linear

Dame Inga Beale captivated our audience with her personal journey, illustrating that the road to success is often winding and can be carved from resilience and anger. As the first woman to head Lloyd’s—a global insurance agency founded in 1689—Beale shared how she had battled with feelings of alienation since her youth. This sense of estrangement fueled her transformation of anger into success.

Beale also made a profound statement that resonated deeply with everyone present: it’s time to eliminate unnecessary jargon when addressing serious issues, often referred to dismissively as “corporate blah blah.” She emphasized that such language does not serve us and only portrays leaders as out of touch with their teams, detracting from the important work that ERGs are meant to accomplish. This declaration set the perfect tone for the rest of the conference, leading into breakout sessions focused on developing practical strategies to enhance ERG effectiveness, even amid the pervasive corporate jargon.

Left: Dame Inga Beale speaking to Global EmERGe attendees. Right: Dame Inga Beale delivering her morning keynote to in-person and virtual attendees at Global EmERGe.

Breakout Session Highlights

The Global EmERGe morning session focused on topics such as “Prospects and Insights on ERGs’ Influence,” where discussions revolved around the strategic integration of ERGs with executive sponsors and DEI leaders from The Adecco Group and Kellanova. Panelists highlighted effective models and strategies that adapt to regional differences and enhance employee engagement, demonstrating how ERGs can serve as pivotal links between diverse workforce needs and overarching corporate goals.

In midday and afternoon sessions, participants had opportunities to hear about the operational aspects of ERGs. Sessions such as “Measurement and Governance” and “Launching Global ERGs While Deploying a Local Approach” offered insights on balancing global strategies with local nuances to ensure the effectiveness of ERGs across different cultural landscapes. Another key discussion, “Elevating Your ERG to a BRG,” outlined the transformative steps for aligning ERGs with business objectives, illustrating their potential to impact business outcomes significantly. These sessions provided attendees with actionable strategies and a better understanding of the critical role ERGs play in fostering inclusive and effective workplaces.

Top Left (from L to R): Morning panel discussion featuring Joan Sheridan LaBarge (moderator), Managing Director at Seramount; Bruce Roch, Head of Inclusion, The Adecco Group; Camilla Carvalho, ED&I Consultant, The Adecco Group; Samantha Thomas-Berry, VP, Global Talent & Chief Diversity Officer, Kellanova; Lesley Salmon, Sr. VP, Chief Digital & Information Officer, Kellanova

Top Right: Marcelo Vasquez Lopez, Assistant Director and Partnering Consultant Global Office of DEI, Liberty Mutual Insurance, delivering his session Launching Global ERGs while Deploying a Local Approach

Bottom Left: Global EmERGe attendees listening to an afternoon session

Bottom Right (from L to R): Participants in the Measurement and Governance session featuring Jack Guest, Senior Group Inclusion Advisor, HSBC; and Carol Watson, Global Chief Inclusion Officer, BCW Global answer questions from the audience.

A Harmonious Conclusion: Networking and Musical Celebrations to End the Day

What would an all-day conference be without networking, food, and entertainment? Our event staff orchestrated a brilliant networking lunch, providing an opportunity for attendees to connect, share experiences, and forge relationships with peers from various organizations. This interactive experience allowed participants to choose seating arrangements by different world regions led by a trusted advisor as listed below.

APAC: Jack Guest, Senior Group Inclusion Advisor, Global ERG Lead, HSBC

EMEA: Richard Thompson, Global Employee Network Lead, Capgemini

LatAm: Marcelo Vásquez López, Associate Director and Partnering Consultant Global Office of DEI, Liberty Mutual

North America: Molly Deakins, Corporate Responsibility PMO (ERG Governance Lead), Capgemini

The day concluded with our ERG Center of Excellence leader, Kamina Young, recapping the day’s highlights—from Dame Inga Beale’s keynote, which focused on cutting through corporate “blah blah” to the introduction of a new ERG Leader Certification in the afternoon sessions. As attendees exited through the conference double doors, they were greeted by the harmonious sounds of the London International Gospel Choir, singing songs that have transcended oceans and decades, bringing everyone together in a memorable and unified celebration.

Top Left: Attendees interacting at the networking lunch

Bottom Left: Seramount Senior Director Kamina Young recapping the conference at the end of the day

Middle: Attendees clapping and enjoying the entertainment

Right: Members of the choir engaging our audience with song

Reflecting on EmERGe NYC’s Impact

On May 6–7, we also hosted our sold-out EmERGe conference in NYC, an event ERG leaders eagerly anticipated. Similar to Global EmERGe, the networking opportunities, insights, and incredible community impact activities made joy illuminate throughout every room. The conference featured Farzana Nayani, a renowned DEI consultant, ERG specialist, and executive coach, who shared her extensive experience working with Fortune 500 companies, public agencies, and educational institutions. Farzana’s keynote highlighted the power of Employee Resource Groups in fostering belonging and driving authentic change within organizations. Additionally, V Spehar, the creator of Under the Desk News, captivated the audience with their engaging approach to making news media more accessible. V’s keynote addressed the importance of inclusive reporting and shared their journey from TikTok to hosting major events and receiving a special achievement Webby for their impactful work.

Top Left: Seramount employees at the Disney Executive Lunch

Top Middle: Community Impact activity for attendees

Top Right: Buttons that attendees could decorate their event lanyards with

Bottom Left: V Spehar delivering their Day 2 keynote

Bottom Middle: Conference attendees pictured together

Bottom Right: Day 1 keynote Farzana Nayani pictured holding her book with a conference attendee

We also honored our 2023 ERG Impact Award winners. In 2023, we received nearly 300 submissions across eight categories. Each submission underwent a rigorous, multistage review process conducted by judges who are practitioners and thought leaders in diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as subject-matter experts and members of the Seramount team. The efforts of these ERG leaders and organizations within their workplaces and communities exemplify the critical role these groups play in closing gaps and fostering belonging within organizations.

Pictures feature some of our ERG Impact Award honorees with President Subha Barry.

Looking Ahead: Join Us for Future Events

We are thrilled to announce our return to London in 2025 for the second Global EmERGe conference. Nominations for the 2025 ERG Impact Awards will open in mid-June, so we encourage you to start considering whom you might nominate and for which category.

Our recent events have been incredibly impactful, with our inaugural Global EmERGe conference in London bringing together DEI and ERG leaders from around the world. Highlights included inspiring keynotes, such as Dame Inga Beale’s call to cut through corporate jargon and focus on genuine impact, and insightful breakout sessions on ERG strategies and effectiveness. Similarly, our sold-out EmERGe conference in NYC featured engaging talks by Farzana Nayani and V Spehar, offering valuable insights into fostering belonging and inclusive reporting.

As we continue moving forward this year, let’s remember to cut through the “corporate blah blah” and have authentic conversations that make the workplace a safe space for all. To all ERG leaders and members—we see you, we celebrate you, and we are here to support you. Please contact us if you would like to discuss advancing your ERGs for success. Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed about event dates, registration details, and more exciting updates. You can also reach out to us if you are interested in speaking to one of our ERG subject-matter experts. Together, let’s continue transforming talk into action and creating lasting impact within our organizations.

Seramount Global EmERGe staffers pictured together after the conference.

About the Author

Krista Lindsey
Krista Lindsey
Associate Director, Product Marketing