It wasn’t long after Katie McEllistrim started working at Fivetran that she was asked to help lead the Denver chapter of the company’s employee resource group (ERG) dedicated to women. McEllistrim said the automated data integration provider encouraged her to use learnings gleaned from spearheading ERGs at previous workplaces to lead a similar support group for its Denver office.
It was a reflection of Fivetran’s core value of inclusion, which states, “We seek out teammates who share our values and drive, not people who are exactly like us.”
Every company knows diversity and inclusion are necessary values, and that they should serve as guideposts for how to achieve a welcoming workplace for both employees and customers. But there isn’t a single, correct path for implementing these initiatives. The most impactful ones are actually a mix of top-down and bottom-up approaches, according to D&I expert Dr. Ella Washington. That’s the approach Fivetran is taking, actively hiring employees from marginalized backgrounds who exhibit core values and pushing them to employ their unique expertise to make a mark on company culture.
Fivetran Women, or FTW — which also happens to be a play on the acronym “for the win” — has made an undeniable impression on the company. Thanks to some of the women in the group, Fivetran now has three women in executive positions, serving different areas of the business.
Some of the ERG members noted the lack of diversity at the executive level and wrote a letter to leadership explaining why diversity in leadership is important for multiple reasons, including having internal mentors that reflect the multiformity of employees and for taking multiple perspectives into account for decision-making.
“The women’s ERG knows that people want to work in a place where they can see themselves being supported long-term,” McEllistrim told Built In Colorado recently.
She said FTW has a four-prong approach to long-lasting support for all female-identifying people and their allies at Fivetran: social impact, professional development, intersectional support and advocacy.
The ERG’s monthly education sessions feature speakers who share expertise like financial management tips, or provide professional training like public speaking. McEllistrim said FTW collaborates with other ERGs for Black and LGTBTQ+ employees to ensure speakers represent women across all races and sexual orientations, and that their topics are relevant for all women and allies at Fivetran.
Along with educating the Fivetran team, FTW engages with the community to educate and empower women outside the company. Members serve as mentors for a coding bootcamp for teen girls and share their career journeys to students at local high schools.
Through FTW and the company’s other ERGs for Black and LGTBQ+ employees, McEllistrim told Built In that Fivetran aims to provide a safe space for members and allies to share experiences, grow personally and professionally, strengthen bonds with each other and contribute to women’s empowerment in a broader sense.
Why are ERGs necessary — for both group members and allies?
At their core, ERGs are a great way to create a safe space for members and allies. For members specifically, they can find the community they may be looking for within their company. For allies, it can be both a way to support those in the group as well as a non-judgemental space for learning themselves. For both group members and allies, it can simply function as a fun way to make new connections and strengthen relationships with co-workers.
How did Fivetran support your efforts in setting up a women’s ERG at the Denver office?
I launched the women’s ERG in Denver just after starting at Fivetran and was encouraged to use my experience from previous companies where I led similar efforts. I also sought advice from leaders of the women’s ERG in the Oakland office. I was supported by HR, office administration and finance to hold in-person group discussions before COVID-19 shifted us to work from home as a company. Since the shift to hold these events virtually, I have received even more support in the form of funds and executive sponsorship as our network of ERGs continues to grow. We’ve invited everyone from financial advisors to athletic coaches to speak at our virtual events.
Can you describe the process of bringing topics discussed in ERGs to action outside the group?
We work with our executive sponsor and other company leaders within the group to help us decide on the best way to bring action to topics we discuss, like advocating for yourself to be considered for a new role or a promotion.
How did the women’s ERG land on increasing the number of women in leadership across the company as a priority?
The women’s ERG knows that people want to work in a place where they can see themselves being supported long-term. Part of this is having a role model or mentor within your organization, which is one area where diversity in leadership becomes very important. Additionally, having diverse leaders means that more perspectives are taken into account when important decisions are being made.
What impact has this change had, especially on company culture?
Seeing more diversity in leadership has been really exciting for me, and I believe it has definitely made a positive impact on the company culture. There have been a few key leaders at the organization that are experts in their fields who have influenced quite a bit of change for Fivetran and brought forth new perspectives and expertise. This change is crucial to our growth as a company and these leaders are well respected for their efforts.
How did you approach and persuade leadership to rally behind this cause?
A group of Fivetran employees noticed there was a lack of diversity across our executives and wrote a letter to leadership, explaining why it was important for them to see diverse representation at the executive level. The letter was well-received, talked about as a company and changes were made accordingly. Now, Fivetran has three female members at the executive level, all serving different areas of the business and making strong impacts across the company.
How does the ERG plan to advise leadership to support women after they are hired into these positions?
This has been a topic of conversation brought up in our small discussion groups, held twice monthly to support members of the women’s ERG. We plan to consult our executive sponsor, Petek Hawkins (head of learning, enablement, & development) on the best path forward for this.
What are the future priorities of the Women’s ERG for policy changes or concrete actions?
One of our priorities as an ERG is to plan our events and initiatives with intersectionality in mind. If we notice any need for policy changes in the future, we feel comfortable communicating directly with leadership. Fivetran encourages every employee to take initiative at work, and bringing ideas for change to leadership would not be an exception.
How does the women’s ERG take intersectionality into account to include race, sexual orientation, etc.?
The women’s ERG aims to amplify the voices of women across all races and sexual orientations. When planning events, we aim to deliver topics that are relevant for all women at the company, like wellness, financial independence, motherhood and more. We also try to include diverse perspectives when choosing speakers for Fivetran women ERG events. As leaders of the women’s ERG, we regularly collaborate with leaders of other ERGs, including our Black Fivetranners Network and 7erg, to identify ways we can join our efforts.
How is the ERG delivering on its mission despite the challenge of social distancing?
Like everything else at Fivetran, our ERGs have transitioned to a virtual setting. With this new change, the Denver, Oakland and EMEA women’s ERG leaders have been more proactive about collaboratively planning events and initiatives, like a coding bootcamp for girls. If anything, we hope that this has given the women across our global offices a chance to connect more than they would have under normal circumstances.
What other ERGs are planned for the future?
There is an initiative underway to create an ERG to support employees who identify as Latinx at Fivetran. This group is in the beginning stages and will be up and running before the end of the year.