Get ready for a delightful journey into the world of WInstrumental – the Women’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Instrumental! Today, we’re in for a treat as we sit down with two incredible trailblazers, Adeeti and Reilly, the dynamic duo behind this empowering community. We’ll dive into their reason behind starting WInstrumental, highlight their favorite events, and uncover their audacious goals for WInstrumental. This conversation unveils the secret sauce behind this remarkable ERG, igniting personal growth, fostering inclusivity, and championing women’s empowerment at Instrumental. So, join us in this Q&A format blog as we celebrate the indomitable spirit of WInstrumental and the incredible women who make it shine!
Heather: What is WInstrumental? What are the pillars or values of this ERG?
Reilly: WInstrumental is an internal ERG at Instrumental – the “W” at the front stands for women [cis & trans] within Instrumental. The goal of the ERG is twofold: To support women within the group as well as within our larger community in Silicon Valley.
Within the company, we focus on creating a comfortable, supportive community that gives women the space to work with joy(!), as that is one of Instrumental’s main tenets. Tech hasn’t historically been the most inclusive space, and we want to make sure that we are deliberately creating room for women within our company.
Heather: Why did you decide to start or lead WInstrumental here? What from your previous experience influenced your decision to create this ERG?
Adeeti: Reilly and I actually worked at a company together before! We’ve both experienced different types of ERGs throughout our careers.
Usually the intention of a women’s ERG is to make sure that women feel included, have a space to talk about any women-centric issues that would be important within the company, and hold greater access to mentors. But the actual structure to make that happen can be a little bit lackluster. A lot of what I believe makes an ERG successful is having a leadership team that really supports it, alongside a real budget plus a couple of thoughtful key champions.
I think that’s one of the primary reasons that ERGs actually don’t achieve their goals. Sometimes you won’t have support from a leadership team or the events end up being very like “oh let’s have a really fancy dinner”. This could be a lovely event if structured intentionally! But often, that’s not the case – it becomes an event just for the sake of holding one. There are times where I think ERGs for me, felt like fun experiences but I didn’t actually get anything tangible out of it.
Reilly: The thing I want to double down on is that word: “intentional”. It is the one area that we were really specific about when we started the group. As we’re leading it, we’ve made sure that we come back to “what are we actually doing for women at Instrumental and in the community”.
It was extremely deliberate in the planning of the group. Even just doing the fun things, like having tea and talking about our problems, serves a purpose. We want to make sure we’re not limiting what we do as a group to social events.
Adeeti: To add onto that, the thing we did at Instrumental to ensure a specific purpose was to create three major types of events: giving back to the community, social connection, and formal topic discussion. That way we have three different ways of talking about issues that can resonate with many different types of people.
We’ve held discussions on women’s experiences across generations! And also created science kits for kids that are in foster care (which also brings the community together!).
Heather: After leading this ERG, what has been the biggest learning that you have encountered with WInstrumental?
Reilly: The biggest learning I’ve had is – once you have the structure & message in place, and everyone is bought in, it is much better for the group if you take a step back. Having other people within WInstrumental lead events and come up with discussion topics, is far more impactful than if Adeeti and I were leading it ourselves. It makes the group stronger!
We have a deliberate call for people to lead events, to come up with ideas; that is what makes Winstrumental successful. That the rest of the women within the company are willing to put their mark on the group. Otherwise, it’s just a pet project for Adeeti and myself to plan events, which is not the goal.
Adeeti: For me, it’s around having greater inclusivity for women who have different types of experiences. We were particularly thoughtful about formats that worked best for remote women or women with kids who might need to leave early for childcare.
We’ve decided to do more events during the day and particularly during in-person onsites so our remote team can join live. We also partner with our Shenzhen-office every year for an event – it’s a great forum for picking an interesting discussion topic! Last year we did “global experiences within the workplace” to understand the major differences in women’s experiences across countries.
Heather: What has been your favorite event or memory since joining WInstrumental?
Adeeti: I really liked going to the food bank!
Reilly: Same! I feel so silly but I think the food bank was really fun because it was a way to get out of the office and be together as a group. The impact we had was really tangible, and the reason we were doing it was incredibly clear – that was very exciting.
Adeeti: Yeah, me too! It was the combination of building our own supply chain with all women while lifting heavy objects for two hours. This included our pregnant VP of People, who is amazing! We built around 200 – 300 boxes. So we put together the food for that many families to have enough produce for at least a month – so many happy endorphins.
Heather: What are some of the achievements, milestones, or a great impact you’ve seen with WInstrumental?
Reilly: We had a dinner recently where a coworker brought up something that was really upsetting her with a male colleague. It was an achievement for the group because: 1) She felt comfortable enough with the group to say it, and 2) that the group existed and was there to support her during that time.
Seeing everyone’s kind, supportive reaction was the reason we created the group! The community checked in on her and helped her through that tough situation, and I had essentially no hand in it. I saw this outpouring of advice at an event that someone else had planned, held by the ERG that we had started; it was a full circle moment for me, honestly.
Adeeti: For me, I immediately think about the level of honesty we’ve been able to cultivate. The most powerful has been hearing from our leadership team with them conveying “We’ve also had these experiences and this is how we’ve dealt with them”. Whereas, I feel like at other companies you have ERGs where you still can’t totally be honest and may be thinking in the back of your mind “What is the leadership team going to think of me?”. “I can’t totally say this because I don’t know if I feel totally safe to completely share what I’m going through”.
I really feel like it’s a combination of the culture of Instrumental and the greater access Winstrumental gives to having those conversations, plus follow-ups! I’ve personally had some transformative advice conversations with our VPs and CEO.
Heather: What are some of the future goals you have for WInstrumental? How do you see it evolving?
Reilly: In a perfect world, I wouldn’t be involved as much in running the group. In a few years, I hope that we establish a structure that allows people to ask for more events. Winstrumental would become a well-known group within Instrumental beyond, “oh that’s just the women’s group”. We could have events every other week, and so many more women will have joined Instrumental who can volunteer more time to the group.
Possibly a closer goal is that the Slack channel becomes very loud; someone is posting every other day saying “I have this thing that happened. Does anyone have any advice?” – within minutes they’d get a response like, “Let’s Zoom really quick and talk about it”. That’s my eutopia for the ERG.
Adeeti: That’s amazing! The other thing I would add is that it would be great if Winstrumental became the go-to safe place for new women at the company. It would be incredible to see it evolve in that way. The second thing that comes to mind is Anna’s nonprofit: WISIMP. The program connects women that have recently graduated to a mentor that is 5 or 10 years into their career – as one of the primary reasons women end up leaving STEM professions is due to a lack of support within their role. I’d love for us to be more involved there too!