How our ERGs created change in our company and community in 2020

How our ERGs created change in our company and community in 2020

Kacie Hughes's Layout avatar

Flywheel has always held Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as a top company priority in years past, but we wanted to make an even bigger impact in 2020. At the beginning of the year a group of Flywheelers from across the company united to create a DEI board to discuss how we could make a real difference for our company and community. These individuals met whenever they had a few minutes to take a break from their full-time jobs and dreamed about how Flywheel could better support its employees. We decided that creating employee resource groups (ERGs) was the first step we needed to take.

While ERGs aren’t necessarily a new concept, what separates ours from the rest is the thought and intentionality behind them. Our marketing and design teams spent hours brainstorming and iterating with our ERG leaders until three ERGs (and Flywheel sub-brands) were born. After two months of work, we then unveiled Hue, Rise, and Roar to the company in February.

Hue is Flywheel’s ERG dedicated to LGBTQ+ people and allies. Inspired by our value of Design Matters, the name originates from color theory, and to us, represents the many identities within the LGBTQ+ community. Hue’s brand plays on the colors represented in the various identity flags, and sets the tone that any gender identity, expression, and orientation are welcome at Flywheel.

Rise is Flywheel’s ERG dedicated to Black, Indigenous, people of color (also called BIPOC), and allies to BIPOC. The name, inspired by a Maya Angelou poem, reflects the never ending obstacles that Black, Indigenous, and other people of color have to face, and how they always rise above.

Roar is Flywheel’s ERG for anyone who identifies as a woman and allies. Roar’s name is meant to empower women’s voices to be heard in industries, roles, or communities where they are typically overlooked.

Once we publicly shared the news about our new ERGs on social media, these groups got right to work to support our employees and our community. Keep reading to learn everything they accomplished in 2020:


Hue

Truman Gerholdt, a Global Accounting Operations Analyst, and Ellie Bruckner, a Technical Onboarding Specialist, are Hue’s co-founders and leaders. They worked at other companies prior to Flywheel that never celebrated queer culture, and while they knew Flywheel embraced them for who they were, they also knew that we could be doing even more to support our LGBTQIA+ Flywheelers.

Planning Pride Week

Anyone who has been to Pride knows how incredible of an experience it is, but festivals around the world were a little different this year due to COVID-19. But, that didn’t stop Hue from planning a spectacular, remote Pride Week!

“This year we had to be creative. Although Pride Week was fully virtual due to the pandemic, being able to host a safe place where our employees could be engaged was a total win for Hue!” – Truman

From June 15-19, Hue planned a series of activities for Flywheelers around the world to participate in. They held a queer trivia game night, a Zoom roulette that invited conversation and connection between Hue members, Pride-themed DJ sessions and talent shows, and a panel of LGBTQIA+ employees and allies that discussed the topic, “What does pride mean to you?” 

Although none of this was able to happen in person, Hue still had an impressive 350 attendees participate on Zoom throughout Pride Week!

Fundraising for our community

One of the most important pillars of Hue’s mission is giving back to its local communities. 

“For Hue, it is imperative we invest in the future of the LGBTQIA+ community. Many of our members have a first-hand or second-hand experience with the issues or communities our partner organizations address. By doing our part in uplifting those organizations, we can help ensure those resources are available to the next generation of LGBTQIA+ people.” – Ellie

In 2020 alone, Hue raised nearly $6,000 for nonprofits that impact LGBTQIA+ people through several different fundraisers, the first one being Hue’s first ever t-shirt drive! These shirts were designed in-house, and then purchased by Flywheelers and their friends and family. Hue sold more than 200 shirts, resulting in more than $4,300! 

Another event that Hue organized was providing Youth Emergency Services meals for its youth every month from August through December. The money was raised by its members in less than 24 hours! Lastly, Hue raised an additional $200 through the citywide event, Omaha Gives!, in May. All of the proceeds from these fundraisers went to organizations like Black & Pink, Youth Emergency Services, ILGA-Europe, and Equality Australia.

Hosting LGBTQIA+ History Month

October is LGBTQIA+ History Month, and after the success of Pride Week, Hue worked with WP Engine’s ERG, Pride, to bring more entertainment to the masses. This included a virtual viewing of Paris is Burning, a presentation dedicated to LGBTQIA+ history, and an extremely moving “Coming Out Day” newsletter, which shared the stories of 10 employees across the company and their coming out experiences. This newsletter moved dozens of employees, who reached out to Hue members for days after about how impactful the stories they read were.

In addition to these three initiatives, Hue also held monthly meetings where topics varied from pronoun and LGBTQ+ terminology, privilege, and even the importance of voting and being LGBTQIA+ in politics, hosted by Nebraska State Senator Megan Hunt.


Rise

Say hello to Bre Carodine, a Happiness Engineer, and Jazmyn Brown, our Content Coordinator, Rise’s co-leaders! Bre, Jazmyn, and their members spent the year guiding conversations about racial inequity, creating a newsletter to highlight Flywheel’s own BIPOC employees, and collaborated with a local nonprofit to set up an art installation at Flywheel’s new office.

Tackling civil unrest in our own backyard

In early June, protests in response to George Floyd’s death spread like wildfire across the country (and the world) with one mission and statement: Black Lives Matter. Rise stepped in during this momentous time to help coordinate, facilitate, and guide the entire company.

External messaging and donation

Rise helped coordinate and craft Flywheel’s external messaging about systemic racism in early June. They also worked with our leadership team and suggested that Flywheel donate $10,000 to the ACLU of Nebraska, a nonprofit that actively works to protect the rights of BIPOC and works towards fighting systemic racism every single day. Our leaders happily obliged. You can view our statement here.

The team worked together quickly to create a website that housed resources such as local and national organizations to donate to, books to read to learn more, and a directory to find and support local Black-owned businesses. They also worked with other Flywheelers to create a Rise-inspired mural that was displayed in downtown Omaha.

Rise’s Mural in Downtown Omaha

Lunch and Learn

In June, the Rise leadership team facilitated a Lunch and Learn around what was happening in the world. There were lots of questions and opinions, but the goal was to address what was happening, why it was happening, and share ways that we as Flywheelers could help, whether you’re a BIPOC or an ally. The conversation proved productive and helpful, many stating that the conversation ignited a fire in them to donate to a local organization, find resources to learn more about the experiences of BIPOC to create a sense of empathy, or to challenge racism the minute they see it.

Manager trainings

On top of the Lunch and Learn, Rise knew it was important that our BIPOC employees feel seen, heard, and supported during this difficult time. They knew that employees were feeling emotionally exhausted and in some cases, personally affected by the civil unrest happening. Rise leaders joined five manager meetings in June, including one with our executive leadership team to provide resources on how to facilitate these difficult conversations and to offer the chance to ask questions and get answers in a safe space. 

Newsletter: Shining a light on those who shine

When Rise was merely a concept in early 2020, one thing Bre had her heart set on was creating a bi-annual newsletter that shared the stories, challenges, and successes of BIPOC working in the tech industry. The goal was to interview someone within the company, in the area, and someone outside of Nebraska. 

“We are often provided more limitations than opportunities, and when you see someone who looks like you doing something great, you are more inspired to think outside of the box and chase greatness.” – Bre

Members of Rise reached out to potential interviewees, shared what Rise was, and asked if they’d be willing to share their stories with the world. Every time, they received a yes with no hesitation.

Rise’s first meeting (in a Pre-COVID world)

“If you aren’t a person of color, it can be hard to imagine life in another’s shoes, especially in a field that’s predominantly white; what their daily struggles are in the workplace, how biases can affect judgements, and how hard someone (with pigment in their skin) has to work just to reach that next level in their career or even be seen as an equal in the tech industry. Every person we interviewed shared their individual story but all had one common theme: They worked their butts off to get where they are and they’re working to be that role model for the young BIPOC generation.” – Jazmyn

In 2020, Rise published and released two newsletters, highlighting and telling the stories of seven BIPOC. You can read some of those stories in our July edition here. 

Creating Community Canvas

One project both Rise leaders were equally passionate and excited about was the Community Canvas program, a new program that intersects art and design located in our brand new office, the Ashton Building!

Jazmyn and Bre touring Community Canvas

For the very first Community Canvas installation, Rise partnered with the Union for Contemporary Art, a nonprofit organization located in North Omaha that uses art as a vehicle to inspire positive social change. Both groups collaborated and installed a gallery wall of art created by young artists with the theme of hope during the pandemic. 

Rise members also coordinated social-distanced, masked-up private tours for the kids and their families so they could see their art displayed in a tech company, in their own city. The idea was for them to see their art represented in a place they never thought possible and to spark the idea that if they want to work at a tech company someday, they absolutely can.

Rise achieved so much in just a few short months. They were able to facilitate meaningful and important conversations during a difficult time, provide countless resources for Flywheelers and the local community by creating a public website, and be poised leaders for our company throughout it all.


Roar

Kelcie Stokes, Manager of Sales Operations, had been a part of ERGs at her former company and they had a profound impact on her, so when she heard that Flywheel was rolling them out, she knew she wanted to be involved! 

Kelcie Stokes, Roar’s leader

The first thing Kelcie did after becoming the leader of Roar was hold a meeting where attendees wrote down their hopes and dreams for the ERG under specific themes. From those themes, Inclusivity, Flywheel, Industry, Community, and Supporting Other ERG committees were created and committee leaders were appointed! Then, they got to work.

Roar’s first meeting (in a pre-COVID world)

Sharing experiences as women in tech

This summer, Roar members began presenting at the Emerging Ladies Academy’s SheCode Saturday Series. Each Saturday, they virtually spoke on a topic of their choosing to a group of young women in Omaha who were learning to code. The purpose of this was to let other women in tech know that it’s okay to dream big about their careers goals. By the end of the series, 12 Flywheelers spoke about their experiences as a woman in tech, and it even opened up other speaking opportunities that Roar participated in this fall, like speaking to the Quest Forward Academy

“I love this partnership so much because it allows us to inspire younger versions of ourselves with the incredible people we have here at Flywheel. It also gives Roar members experience speaking, which further develops our members as leaders and influences us all to dream a little bigger!” – Kelcie

The mission of Roar is to provide a safe, open environment to educate and advocate for women both at Flywheel and in Omaha in positions or industries where being a woman has historically been viewed as unfavorable or less than, so speaking out and engaging in the community will continue to be a huge initiative in 2021!

Lunching and learning with WCA

In May, Roar reached out to an Omaha nonprofit, the Women’s Center for Advancement (WCA), and asked them how Flywheel could help their cause. They expected to be asked to help with fundraising or donation efforts, but instead the WCA asked if they could host a lunch and learn at Flywheel about domestic violence. 

At this event, dozens of Flywheelers learned more about the realities of domestic violence that takes place around us every day. Given the size of our company, equipping all of us to be allies is really impactful in our community!

Announcing the She’s So Fly! awards

Roar did quite a bit of training with the #IAmRemarkable movement this year, and it taught its members about self-advocacy and empowerment. So, Roar introduced the She’s So Fly awards this fall. This quarterly initiative recognizes and gives visibility to women at Flywheel who support and encourage other women in their roles, serve as an inspiration to others, and make a positive impact towards our inclusive culture. Anyone at Flywheel is able to nominate a woman to spotlight, and three incredible women from three different teams were recognized this quarter!

Despite being entirely remote, Roar was able to accomplish so much in 2020! They spoke to organizations across the city, lifted up employees across the company, and even held a t-shirt fundraiser for Girls Inc. and started a Ted Talk book club! It just goes to show just how much women can get done when they’re put in charge. 


What’s next?

Even with living through a pandemic, crushing their full-time jobs, and working from home, our ERGs and their incredible team members were non-stop in 2020! They educated the company, impacted the community, and fundraised a combined $25,000 for local nonprofits. Even when they had a moment to pause, they pushed ahead and met with our parent company, WP Engine and their ERGs about how they could team up to do more good in the coming year. So, we’re excited to announce that Flywheel and WP Engine’s ERGs have officially merged and will continue to operate under the Hue, Rise, and Roar brands in 2021!

We’re so excited to see what the future holds for our ERGs next year, but if this year was any indication, we know they’ll continue to do incredible work for our company, community, and beyond.


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