How this NYC Company is Empowering ERG Leaders Through Diversity, Inclusion and Success

Cityblock Health’s DEI manager shares what the company does to elevate its employee resource groups while building a safe and inclusive workplace.
Written by Zach Baliva
August 16, 2023Updated: August 28, 2023

In today’s dynamic landscape, those in people teams, management, C-suite positions and recruiting must possess a deep understanding of diversity and representation. Leaders armed with accurate information about workplace diversity can build effective teams that align closely with corporate values and truly reflect the demographics of their communities. This, in turn, leads to more satisfied employees, better job performance, higher returns and improved outcomes. 

In fact, we know that diverse management can increase revenue by nearly 20 percent. As we look ahead, the composition of our communities is shifting - the majority won’t be dominated by a single group beyond 2045. Notably, 75 percent of employees and potential candidates express a preference for diverse work environments.

That’s why strong employee resource groups are so important. ERGs are safe communities where colleagues can find networking, development and mentoring opportunities with others who share their backgrounds, characteristics and/or life experiences. Cityblock Health has eight ERGs representing the individuals and perspectives from communities such as black, AAPI, faith-based, LGBTQIA+, disability and others. 

According to an internal 2023 Equity in Action report, these employee-led working groups “aim to create safe spaces for all individuals belonging to underrepresented groups, and for causes that matter to our employees.”

Cara Watson is Cityblock Health’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Program Manager. She recently shared with Built In what it takes to celebrate diversity and build bridges at the growing company. 


Cara Watson
Program Manager, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion • Cityblock

Cityblock Health is a healthcare company that provides radically human healthcare to marginalized communities.


How do you support your ERG leads? 

One of the key ways we support our ERG leads is by compensating them for going above and beyond in this leadership role and creating an inclusive environment for all Cityfolx. We work diligently to ensure that our ERGs have executive sponsors who can help to push their initiatives and goals. The leads not only have the endorsement of their executive sponsors, but they also receive mentorship from them. 

We consider ERG leads key business partners. For example, we include them in the pilots of company-wide DEI training as their early input and perspectives help us identify opportunities for improvement. Additionally, we amplify ERG leads’ voices and faces by featuring them in various platforms, including in our company newsletters, monthly company-wide meetings, external blog posts and our People Team portal. At the beginning of the year, we send a warm welcome email to the new leads and send them a special end of year thank you from our executive team in recognition for their hard work and impact.


Being an ERG lead means taking hours out of one's day and focus away from their core role. How do you help leads carve out the time to maintain a sustainable balance between their ERG work and their primary role?

Prior to an individual becoming an ERG lead, we reach out to their managers to ensure everyone is aware of and aligned with the expected time commitment, responsibilities and how a manager can support their employee in this role. This approach also allows an ERG lead and their manager to incorporate their ERG responsibilities and impact into their performance management or personal/professional developmental goals.


As the program manager for DEI, I check in with folx in advance when it comes to their heritage month celebrations so that I protect their time and know where I can lean in to support them.”


Another way we support ERG leads is giving them autonomy and flexibility in this role, whether that’s scheduling regular ERG meetings, planning with their co-leads or hosting ERG events. My role is to guide them and help them understand different options, while encouraging their creativity. For example, as the program manager for DEI, I check in with folx in advance when it comes to their heritage month celebrations so that I protect their time and know where I can lean in to support them. 


How do you maintain open lines of communication with your ERG leads to make sure they feel valued and supported through their work?  

ERG leads have a dedicated Slack channel so that they can communicate with me and the other leads. We also have monthly ERG leads meetings where I update them on any important information and supply them with resources such as tips on psychological safety, inclusive language and free workshop opportunities. ERG leads are free to set additional meetings or to Slack or email me as the program manager at any time during the business day. 

One of the ways we show our appreciation of the co-leads is by highlighting their celebratory moments throughout the month. These celebrations include their ability to join forces and showing the power of intersectionality, pulling in the voices of their ERG members and the action steps they are taking to improve policies and procedures. 

We will continue to send out surveys to all of the ERGs at the end of the year to assess potential changes, improvements and opportunities to better support them. One of the changes that folx requested was having more support with planning events and budgeting. We have worked to improve those areas so that our leads feel their best. 


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