ERGs, assemble! Autodesk’s employee resource groups gather in person for first-ever leadership summit

5 min read

A large group of Autodesk's employee resource group (ERG) members stands in a large room at a convention center. Most of them have their hands up in the air with happy expressions. and are wearing Mardi Gras-style masks.

Autodesk’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) leaders recently convened in New Orleans, Louisiana for our first-ever global ERG Leadership Summit! Over two days, more than 30 leaders representing Autodesk’s nine ERGs connected with one another to learn and build together.

ERGs are voluntary groups made up of and led by Autodeskers who come together based on common backgrounds or dimensions of human diversity that align with our Autodesk Diversity and Belonging Strategy to hire and retain a diverse workforce. ERGs provide opportunities outside of your everyday work to shape the world and your future. The participants at the summit included our incoming global leads, outgoing leads, and board members. 

During the summit, we developed our global ERG strategy, focused on operational scale, and acquired new skills in leadership focused on empathy. We challenged each other to “lead with humility,” to stay present, and to lean into Courage, one of the values in Autodesk’s Culture Code. Attendees came from San Francisco to Barcelona, offering unique perspectives informed by identity, career, and life experience.

Participants completed the Intercultural Development Inventory with the guidance of the Diversity & Belonging team, established a grant-making strategy with the Autodesk Foundation, learned about the best ways to respond in a crisis from Autodesk’s Crisis Management Team, and had the opportunity to connect directly with our Chief People Officer, Rebecca Pearce. By connecting these dots across Autodesk functions, it’s clear that Autodesk is invested in our ERG program as a critical driver to meet our people and business goals.

We also did a very cool exercise from the Center for Creative Leadership – a visualization of each of the attendees’ “Why” behind the work they do. And in addition to all this incredibly valuable work, we were able to have a lot of fun exploring the city of New Orleans, including a delicious group dinner to try the city’s unique cuisine, and a walking tour to learn about the history and legacy of Black architects’ influence in the city.

I am so happy and grateful for the successful outcome of our hard work. I learned so many things over those two days, but the main takeaway was that there is just never enough time together! What an incredible experience we can have when we are all together in the same room.

Onward and upward

Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of leading our ERGs program as the Senior Manager of Diversity & Belonging Programs. I’ve seen time and time again the impact being part of an ERG can have on an employee’s experience – for the better. Not only can folks build community, but they can also take on stretch projects, develop new skills and build their networks to advance their careers. Our D&B team supports them by providing financial support, coaching, and structure.

We are growing and building an ERG program that will continue to be best-in-class — this summit was just the start. Autodesk’s Diversity & Belonging team, in partnership with ERG leadership, plan to roll out new structured learning for ERG boards and leads. We are also looking to partner more closely with our executive ERG sponsors to better engage and support the groups and sponsors in the coming two-year cycle. And last, but definitely not least, we have two brand-new ERGs launching in February 2023: the Autodesk Indigenous Network and Autodesk MIND Network (Mental Inclusion, Neurodiversity, and Disability). And I have no doubt this is just the beginning.

Passing the torch

I have been humbled to partner with the incredibly inspirational people who lead and participate in our ERGs. They have shown me the meaning of resilience, courage, and humility in service to our diverse Autodesk communities. We have been through quite a lot together – a continuing pandemic, racially motivated violence, the reversal of Roe v. Wade in the United States, transphobic and homophobic legislation across the world, and the conflict in Ukraine, to name a few. Our ERGs have been a place for Autodeskers to find communal reprieve through it all.

They’ve also been a place to celebrate the heritage and history of the identities represented by our ERGs. Just this year, we hosted 12 global events, more than 70 member events, and five heritage and history months. We also grew our overall membership by 40% and selected new ERG leads through a fair and transparent process. Throughout it all, our courageous ERG leads, their boards, and their members kept learning and stretching themselves, all while maintaining their day-to-day work responsibilities. Inspired yet?

During the summit, I thanked them for all they have taught me. It has truly been an honor. But now it’s time for me to pass the baton to my new colleague, Cordero Davis, who joins Autodesk as the Senior Manager of Global Employee Resource Groups. Cordero is a global DE&I practitioner who has spent the past decade supporting inclusive cultures. We’re so excited to have him on board, and I can’t wait to see what’s next! I’m looking forward to my evolved role, which will focus on expanding our global strategy and leading global programs and initiatives.

Mitch Davis and Cordero Davis in New Orleans, Louisiana

While it’s been exciting to lead this incredible program over the past year, it’s also been challenging to witness what marginalized communities face both inside and outside of the workplace. Diversity & Belonging and ERGs exist at Autodesk because there is still more work to be done. As a DEI practitioner, I am always reminded to lead with humility to reach better outcomes.  

Acting with humility does not mean we don’t celebrate our achievements and abilities; it means we recognize our challenges and stay open to improving where we fall short. With the support of our communities, we have what we need to face those challenges head-on and with a growth mindset.

After all, at Autodesk, we are on a mission toward a better world designed and made for all. Our ERG leadership and D&B team will continue to work to ensure “for all” remains central to that aim. We hope you’ll join us!

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ERG Diversity