I was at the SWE regional conference last weekend, and talking with someone about women's networking groups at big corporations. She shared an idea with me that I just really want to remember so here it is, paraphrased.
This year our Employee Resource Group (ERG) really hit its stride because we had both grassroots enthusiasts and upper management support at the same time.
That’s never happened before; it was always one or the other. Some years it was all top down: VPs wanted a group to happen, but as soon as there was a re-org or the end of the year goal came to a close the group fizzled out. Other years it was all grassroots efforts with no senior leadership team participation and we had a hard time growing the group. Everyone was “too busy” to come to the meetings. I now think that “too busy” is a code for “people will question my value and priorities if I attend a development program”.
When senior leaders took the time to support what the grassroots enthusiasts were doing by attending events and directly helping with publicity, it sent a message that taking time for these employee development programs was important. If the busiest people in the company can take a whole hour to go to a diversity group meeting 4-6 times a year, nobody is too busy.