One year into the pandemic, everyone was desperately craving connections. It seemed that even veteran remote workers—like us—felt like small islands, relegated to home offices and laptops, juggling personal pressures and professional lives. We needed something. Anything.

Early 2021 saw the genesis of the Women’s ERG, open to all genders. After an overwhelming expression of interest from Elevaters (with nearly 100 colleagues volunteering to be members), the three of us—Katie Dappen (Senior Director – Enterprise Systems), Meghan Koller (VP – Med Legal), and Jeannie Gasiewski (Director – Strategic Projects)—stepped up and began creating something out of nothing.

Through previous collaborations, we already knew and respected each other’s creativity, style, and ability to get sh*t done. That led to an early magical experience: the ease of collaboration when participants engage authentically. We quickly realised we had numerous shared experiences that enabled us to support each other, share invaluable feedback and guidance, and listen with vulnerability.

We became energised to share that same magic with the larger group and designed a community that fostered being authentic and honest with each other. From the initial planning session, we asked our members for honesty. What were women at Elevate missing? What were they searching for? What did they seek in a Women’s ERG?

The resounding themes within our answers were connections and development.

Our women colleagues wanted to progress professionally and engage with real women in real positions, but they weren’t sure if this was possible. Many felt overwhelmed and uncertain about where to start and how to create connections. Some found reaching out intimidating, even as they desired to engage with other women at Elevate about shared experiences and to learn how other departments operated.

And so, at launch in 2022, we focused on connections, learning, and development, careful that our plans for events and content were manageable given our existing workloads. First came monthly ‘No-Host Coffee Bars’ open to all ERG members. These meetups generated intimate and fun conversations about everything from great restaurants to weekend plans, pet preferences, and family stories.

We also continued a 2021 roundtable series, ‘The Pressure To Do It All.’ ERG members shared our passion for the topic, and the series produced thought-provoking and inspirational conversations that validated, connected, and inspired participants. The conversations went beyond sharing complaints; instead, they centered on supporting other women, helpful tips, and the psychology of gender in society.

The prized jewel of 2022 was our ‘HerStory’ series, featuring female Elevate leaders sharing their unique stories about their personal and professional journeys. Our work responsibilities made launching a formal mentorship program impossible, but we knew having inspiring women present to the group would be an informal mentoring opportunity for attendees. Kunoor Chopra (VP – Legal Services), Nicole Auerbach (VP – ElevateNext), and Nancy Michalski (VP – Med Legal) generously shared their stories, lessons they have learned, and advice they had for ERG members. Each presentation was entertaining and left members reinvigorated.

For 2023, we have many ideas for content and programs beyond continuing the programs launched last year: a panel series involving Elevate women discussing a specific challenge, drop-in office hours and mentoring circles, DE&I benchmarking, and partnering with Elevate People Operations on policies that affect women.

Meanwhile, we remain awed by the brain power of the ERG’s members—and we are excited to continue building on these invaluable connections.