In our ongoing series of case study interviews with exceptional leaders in the field of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), we had the privilege of sitting down with Jazmin Eusebio (she/her). She serves as the Diversity Inclusion and Belonging Program Manager and PR Manager at Highwire PR. Not only that, but she is a driving force behind not one but two ERGs at her organization. These conversations provide a unique window into the world of the ERGs at Highwire PR, the challenges they face, and the remarkable initiatives they undertake to make workplaces more inclusive and equitable.
Today, Jazmin shares her experiences and wisdom, navigating the complex terrain of leading ERGs. She delves into topics ranging from the initial struggles of gaining leadership buy-in to the creative strategies employed to make a substantial impact without a dedicated budget.
Joelle Clayborne: Is it difficult to lead two ERGs and also be the program manager for all five ERGs?
Jazmin Eusebio: Yeah, it's definitely hard – it’s the whole “being scrappy” mindset when you are part of a small organization.
We just launched our ERGs about two years ago. Our current five ERGs meet monthly, and then the BIPOC Collective – our Black, Indigenous, People of Color ERG – meets quarterly so I think the balance makes it more manageable because it doesn't feel like I am stretching myself too thin. But it definitely can be a lot to manage at times, and I wish that there were more things that I was able to do.
Joelle Clayborne: What is your goal for the ERGs at Highwire?
Jazmin Eusebio: One of my goals has been to launch training for our ERG members, but again it's one of those things where it's a little bit challenging when you don't have a budget and have limited bandwidth. For instance, I am co-leading two ERGs and overseeing five ERGs. My focus has been to support the ERGs with one-on-one problem-solving, events and activities brainstorming, and program management. But it is my goal to prioritize training in 2024.
Joelle Clayborne: What has been the most successful ERG event or initiative at your company?
Jazmin Eusebio: There are a couple, I think one that I will highlight is an event from our Black women ERG named “Have Several Seats.” One of the discussions they led was inspired by a situation where one of the ERG members had a client who would consistently, during team meetings, make comments about her hair because she was switching hairstyles. While the comments had no ill intentions, our colleague felt really uncomfortable, and she didn't know how to approach the situation. So she turned to this space, the affinity group. She brought it up to the group and learned, that it's a common occurrence for Black women. We as a company leaned into this, and decided to host a larger open discussion titled, “An Emancipation Proclamation for Black Women & Our Hair.”
We partnered with hair activists such as the founder of the #FreeTheHair movement, D. Wendy Greene, and other peers to facilitate the conversation. We invited our clients and opened the webinar up to the public. The webinar focused on strategies for finding freedom in the workplace when it comes to cultural identity and hair expression, and allyship when it comes to honoring Black women in their hair journey.
Another initiative I will highlight is our most recent project for Hispanic Heritage Month. Más Sabor, our Latine ERG wanted to get really creative. The team partnered with an illustrator to develop a children's book. It followed the protagonist, Maya, meeting other Latine people in her neighborhood, and realizing that despite coming from the same culture – they each had something that made them unique.
We received a lot of great feedback from across the company. It was so awesome to see. They were like: “Y'all wrote a book!”
Joelle Clayborne: What is the biggest challenge you face being a PM?
Jazmin Eusebio: I think my biggest challenge in the beginning was showcasing the culture and business value of ERGs. The idea for starting our ERGs came at a time when racial diversity representation across our offices was much lower than it is today. For example, showcasing the need for a Latine ERG when there were so few Latine folks at the company was a challenge. To me, it was a no-brainer that starting these dedicated affinity groups was the first step in creating a culture of inclusion and belonging, and I learned that not everyone felt the same. It’s not easy to convince people who don’t have the lived experience of feeling marginalized to understand the importance in having dedicated safe spaces.
That's when I started networking and meeting with other ERG leaders across other companies and organizations. As well as turning to groups like Chezie for resources and guidance. And so, through some ongoing conversations with leadership, we eventually were able to start building and formalizing our now five ERGs.
And so that was the challenge, just getting the buy-in. And now that we have the buy-in, I think my next challenge is just continuing to show the value our ERGs bring.
Joelle Clayborne: Do your ERGs have individual budgets?
Jazmin Eusebio: No, we don’t have a formal or set budget. However, we do receive support from the DIBs Council because there's a lot of overlap in some of the events we do. Overall, we try to get creative so that we’re still developing awesome programming.
Joelle Clayborne: What's next for the ERGs at your company?
Jazmin Eusebio: What’s next is to continue to grow and scale our ERGs, including finding ways to provide additional resources such as dedicated ERG leadership trainings and eventually dedicated budgets.
Joelle Clayborne: So you don't have a budget at all. What advice would you have for ERGs who also don't have a budget or are operating on a limited budget?
Jazmin Eusebio: Yeah, I mean it, definitely means having a scrappy mentality, but I will say that organizations like Chezie really help. I would have never been able to do this if I was just by myself and didn't have anything or anybody beyond the DIBs leader at my company. I definitely have turned to organizations like Chezie, to meet other like-minded people. My advice is for folks to not be afraid to set up coffee chats with ERG leaders at other companies. It’s great to hear from others about how they’ve overcome challenges you may be experiencing.
The other thing is to try to be very strategic when it comes to budget. So like at our company, we have various practice groups, such as our cybersecurity practice group and healthcare practice group. So I try to get creative on like, okay, how can we do a partnership with our cybersecurity team and because it's involved with that side of the business, we can collaborate on budget.
Joelle Clayborne: How do you foster and sustain engagement among ERG members?
Jazmin Eusebio: Yeah, I think a lot of it is leveraging tools like Slack. Keeping our Slack channels engaged by sharing relevant articles, thought starters, and other engaging content. And we just had our ERG leads meeting last week and discussed seeing an uptick in engagement – in part as a result of our ERG survey, which helped guide the type of content we published based on the topics that are top of mind for our members. Our jobs are stressful, and what our members want from ERG meetings is to build relationships and to have fun and dynamic conversations.
Joelle Clayborne: Last Question. What is one piece of advice that you have for other ERG program managers or other ERG leads?
Jazmin Eusebio: I think one of my biggest pieces of advice is that there's a lot of value in growing your network outside of your workplace. It's always good to just have that external gut check, or even just a view of what other ERGs are doing. I take time multiple times a week to dedicate to that. I'm part of other organizations outside of the workplace, too. Just networking constantly and fostering those relationships because it is important when it comes to ERGs. Networking is key, and not just setting up a conversation to have one but maintaining that and making sure it's authentic.
In this engaging conversation with Jazmin Eusebio, we were given a peak into their world. While leading two ERGs and overseeing the collective efforts of five affinity groups may seem like a daunting task, Jazmin's dedication and creative approach have made a profound impact. The challenges she faced, from convincing leadership of the value of ERGs to managing without a dedicated budget, have paved the way for innovative solutions.
For other ERG leaders and program managers, Jazmin's advice is invaluable. Building a network beyond your workplace, seeking external guidance, and fostering authentic relationships can be instrumental in navigating a workplace without internal support. As ERGs continue to evolve and drive change in organizations, Jazmin's story serves as a testament to the power of determination, resourcefulness, and collaboration. Or, in her words, being scrappy.