D&I COVID-19 Recording: Cruise's Brian Fishbone & Astellas Pharma's Eloiza Domingo 5-12-20

In response to the rapidly developing coronavirus outbreak and its unprecedented impact to business and employers, i4cp has launched a series of weekly standing calls specific to Diversity & Inclusion Leaders. 

Two special guests joined the May 12 D&I Action Call for a conversation with i4cp CDO Board Chair Jacqui Robertson: Eloiza Domingo, Executive Director and Head of Engagement Diversity & Inclusion at Astellas Pharma, and Brian Fishbone, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at San Francisco-based autonomous vehicle firm Cruise, shared insights into the roles of employee resource groups (ERGs) in their organizations and responded to audience questions.

Key Takeaways: 

  1. ERGs rise to the COVID-19 challenge. At Cruise, employee resource groups have been instrumental in multiple ways during the current health crisis. For example: Families at Cruise is a group for working parents and others with familial responsibilities. Active before the pandemic with an internal communications channel where members interacted, the group mobilized to spread word of local school and daycare closings. Group leaders escalated issues to the CEO and his direct reports, driving helpful communication from the CHRO about policies and support for employees with parents. An HR business partner also spoke to the group about topics of interest to parents. At the end of one call, group members took turns unmuting and introducing their children, reinforcing inclusion and authenticity.
  2. Bring Work to Your Family Day puts a virtual spin on a workplace tradition.  Business professionals are familiar with Bring Your Son/Daughter to Work days, but Cruise adapted the idea for a work world relegated to home offices. Bring Work to Your Family Day saw Families at Cruise members posting pictures of their “coworkers” (employees’ kids at home with them) and sharing family experiences. The event enhanced appreciation for colleagues and their situations, again reinforcing authenticity. 
  3. Post-pandemic return to the workplace could offer an opportunity to strengthen D&I and its roles. Fishbone shared two benefits he sees for D&I when then health crisis subsides:
    • Greater adaptation to and de-stigmatization of working from home, enabling more remote work and greater acceptance of it by companies that may have been hesitant in the past.
    • Big win for working parents by opening a window into the sense of belonging those employees need in the workplace and greater acceptance and openness about melding their family care responsibilities with work.
  4. A name tweak links ERGs to the results they produce. At Astellas, ERGs are known as EIGs – Employee Impact Groups. The company’s Diversity and Inclusion Governance Council, composed of senior leaders across global Astellas, drove rebranding of ERG as EIGs. As an evidence-based institution employing many physicians and engineers, the pharmaceutical firm focused its groups on creating impactful and measurable outcomes. The name change for its groups reflects that element of organizational culture. In a similar vein, a call attendee noted that their organization uses the title Associate Impact Group. 
  5. Groups act on the pandemic-driven need for greater focus on mental health. Astellas’ Abilities EIG took a leadership role by partnering with Aetna to provide 4 and 8-hour training (in-person prior to the pandemic and virtual now) designed to elevate visibility of mental health issues, such as depression and how it shows up at work. The sessions aren’t meant to be diagnostic in nature, but rather provide instruction on recognizing symptoms of emotional issues (an i4cp-identified next practice in workforce well-being). They empower employees and leaders with tools, scripts, and resources, teaching them how to take action and provide constructive help when needed. 
  6. Employee groups are helping bridge the intersections in workers’ lives. At Cruise, the company’s Asian Pacific Islander Group commemorated National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by sponsoring an Origami Night for Cruise employees and invited their children. The group had materials shipped to participants’ homes. The event explored the history of origami and enabled individuals to create and show the items they made while also celebrating culture and emphasizing the intersection of the group with parenting. 

Other topics from the call: 

  • A Fortune article noted that women are suffering extreme expectations to complete work, be available to family, help with schooling, etc., resulting in the equivalent of a 71-hour week. Domingo shared the link: https://fortune.com/2020/05/07/coronavirus-women-sheryl-sandberg-lean-in-employers-covid-19/
  • EIGs/ERGs/BRGs have more opportunities now to drive inclusion and belonging and to help transform workplace cultures.
  • An attendee says his organization began COVID-19 conversations around intersectional identities in order to spark dialogue about differences in impact.
  • Comments on the necessity to understand and address root causes (privilege, bias, etc.) in order to tackle equity issues.
  • Cruise is creating a Harvey Milk and Cookies event, profiling historical figures in LGBTQ history over cookies and is shipping cookies to participants' homes in a show of virtual PRIDE support.
  • Ways employee resource groups promote belonging and whether they or senior leaders are more responsible for doing so sparked conversation. Importance of executive sponsorships in groups is noted.

In addition to this recording, please see these resources: