This week, we’ve been breaking down the results of our survey into women and family support groups at companies. (Called “employee resource groups” or ERGs.)

We talked what’s good about them. (They have a dramatic impact on moral, retention and recruitment.) We talked what’s bad about them. (In the vast majority of cases, women aren’t paid to run them.)

Today, I want to talk about what women we surveyed want from ERGs and how companies can pretty easily do better. And there’s a lot of upside potential even for the 28% of companies that have an ERG. Even though nearly 90% of women aged 18-60 said being part of an ERG had made their lives better at work, only half of them felt that companies did enough now to support ERGs. Imagine the impact if more companies properly supported these groups!

First off, we listed some of the common ERG activities and asked which ones women found the most important. We asked women to rank each of them on a scale of 1-to-10 and then scored the results.

  • “Host regular networking events” scored the highest, but just barely with a 4.19 average ranking.
  • “Pair me with mentors or new hires in need of mentoring” scored just slightly lower with a 4.12 average ranking.
  • “Host regular events featuring outside speakers” scored 3.37.
  • “Provide inspiration for women and families” scored 3.25.
  • “Offer an internal Slack channel or listserv where members can connect digitally” scored 3.19.
  • “Provide help when the company isn’t being supportive of women and families” scored 3.09.

In other words: Women want all those things pretty equally. There are a lot of other things these ERGs do that we could have put into that list. To me, it shows how much low-hanging fruit there is to make life better for women at companies. But it also shows how overwhelmed the women running these unpaid groups can become. Nothing they do in their free side hustles, it seems, can ever be quite enough to address all those needs.

We also gave respondents an open field to list the one thing they wish their ERGs did or the best thing they do. The vast majority had high expectations of ERGs to go to bat for them in getting better benefits and opportunities inside the organization. A large number of the women who wrote in answers were clear: They want these leaders to be their advocates to senior management, pushing for and achieving real change. Almost like union leaders. (Love to the one woman who said the best thing her ERG did was simply “exist”…)

A lot of the written in requests for what ERGs could do more of had to do with the challenges of being a woman that don’t fall into the 9-to-5 world. Things like:

  • “Help with families of deployed military service members”
  • “Financial assistance and Christmas gifts to low income families”
  • “Helping through troubled times with families”
  • “Provide resources to pursue opportunities that support our personal lives/ identities as mothers”

Being as inclusive as possible matters. Several people requested more diverse speakers at events. One woman said that it wasn’t “geared towards single parents like [herself].” Many complained about events held during not-so-family-friendly times. And others added that including more men was key.

Another added this: “There is strength in numbers but the focus in our company is on just the professional aspect – somehow it always feels like we can’t bring our whole self to work.” We even got a shout out when one woman said her ERG was “too cheery” noting she wanted more “real talk (like Chairman Mom).”

If ERG leaders are going to be making big asks of management, there are also things they can deliver. They can help with recruiting and retention of diverse employees, but they can also identify new products and services that companies can be offering to a more diverse customer base to increase revenues and market share.

The high expectations and massive diversity in all the things women want from ERGs shows how thankless the job can be.

And finally, thousands of words into writing about all we’ve learned about ERGs, this is where Chairman Mom comes in. We can help with almost all of this, and we are cheap as sh*t to deploy company wide.

This is what really excites me about all this data: ERGs have a massive impact on women’s lives, the women running them are insanely understaffed, and we have all the tools to help with the things women want most from these groups.

What if a company is too small or employs too few women to get critical mass in its own internal Slack channels or events? It can create a chicken-and-egg problem, where women don’t see women at the company, and so they go elsewhere, and that makes it even harder to build a diverse team. These companies can essentially get an outsourced ERG with Chairman Mom that’s laser focused not on feel-good messages but real problem-solving.

Lastly, in terms of “providing help when a company is being unsupportive”—we are big believers that you can get more help outside your company, in a safe, supportive, and anonymous environment where there’s no risk of retaliation.

So far it’s working better than we could have hoped. Here’s what existing customers have to say.

  • “Having the opportunity to partner with Chairman Mom has been a game-changer,” said Shalie Jonker, the co-founder of Families at Box, the first ERG we’ve worked with. “Unless you’re going to hire someone to run a women’s or family-focused ERG full-time, I’m convinced it’s the only scalable way to provide these services to the employees who need it most.
  • Amanda Schwartz from PayPal added, “Chairman Mom is my virtual tribe professionally and personally. It’s the equivalent to the group text that you hit up when you need a boost. It’s also the coffee with your mentor that allows you to see the way things could be.”

If you want to learn more about how Chairman Mom can maximize or help start an ERG or you, ping me directly at sarah@chairmanmom.com. I was already excited to build a company that was helping women solve the hardest problems the face. But the ability to turbo-charge our scale via these badass internal warriors is more than we could have hoped for.

Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:

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