Employee resource groups (ERGs) are important drivers of talent and business results. Whether called employee networks, business resource groups, or affinity groups, these groups can have considerable impact on your organization’s ability to develop future leaders, increase employee engagement, and expand marketplace reach. While some may regard these groups as exclusive, ERGs can build alliances across difference in the workplace. ERGs are also critical advocates of inclusive leadership.

The Employee Resource Leadership Initiative (ERLI) conference, ERLI 2017: Leveraging ERGs to Redefine Leadership, was held on May 8-9, 2017, at BMO’s world-class Institute for Learning located in Toronto. ERLI 2017's mission was to teach that employee resource groups (ERGs) have the power to redefine what organizational leadership looks like by being drivers of inclusion across the workplace.

May 8 


Registration Opens

6:45p.m. – 8:00p.m.

Opening Remarks and Reception

Vandana Juneja, Senior Regional Director, Central Canada, Catalyst

Tara John, Managing Director, Leadership Development & Enterprise Learning, BMO Institute for Learning


May 9

7:30a.m. – 8:00a.m.


8:00a.m. – 8:15a.m.

Welcome & Opening Remarks

Deborah Gillis, President & Chief Executive Officer, Catalyst

Sonya Kunkel, Chief Inclusion Officer and Vice President, People Strategies and Insights, Human Resources, BMO Financial Group

8:15a.m. – 9:00a.m.

Fireside Chat - The Changing Face of Business: Leveraging ERGs for Business Impact

Tanya van Biesen, Executive Director, Catalyst Canada

Simon A. Fish, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, BMO Financial Group

9:00a.m. – 9:15a.m.


9:15a.m. – 10:15a.m.


Trevor Gandy, Senior Vice President, Deputy Chief Culture Officer, Chubb

10:15a.m. – 11:30a.m.

Influencing Inclusion Across Your Organization: The Change Agent's Action Plan

Today more than ever ERGs can be leveraged to amplify inclusion across your organization. This hands-on, interactive session will take you through an inclusion change framework called “The 5Ds of Influencing Inclusion.”A case study will show you how to begin applying it to your organization, who to partner with to galvanize support, and how to sustain change for maximum impact in your workplace.  


Tolonda M. Tolbert, PhD, Senior Director of the Inclusive Leadership Initiative and Consultant, Global Member Services, Catalyst

11:30a.m. – 12:45p.m.


12:45p.m. – 2:00p.m.

Leading Through Change: Fostering Inclusive and Agile Cultures

Leaders constantly face business transformations, from internal organizational changes to societal shifts. Successfully responding to change requires agile, creative teams with members who feel that their voices and ideas have value. Join this panel of experts from leading organizations to hear stories and strategies about how they used ERGs to drive inclusive cultures where employees navigate change and overcome challenges.  


Julie S. Nugent, Vice President & Center Leader, Catalyst Research Center for Corporate Practice, Catalyst


Mia Hairston, Vice President, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Nationwide Insurance

Ana Kreacic, Chief Knowledge Officer, Oliver Wyman

Paul Noble, Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, BMO Financial Group

Marie-Hélène Sicard, Vice President, Marketing and Strategic Planning - Corporate Services, Sodexo North America

2:00p.m. - 2:15p.m.


2:15p.m. – 3:30p.m.

Concurrent Breakout Sessions (Please select one)

Fostering Leaders Through Sponsorship

ERGs often spur mentoring relationships that help develop ERG members for future positions within the organization. But while mentoring “prepares you for the role,” sponsorship can “get you there.” Catalyst research shows that sponsorship can better position individuals to be tapped for key positions, which can lead to a more diverse pipeline to leadership. Through practical information, tools, and tips, you will learn how to redefine leadership and expand opportunities for your members by adding a focus of sponsorship to your ERG.


Sarah Dinolfo, Director, Consulting Services, Catalyst

Rita Chhabra, Director, Corporate Relations, Northeast US, Catalyst


Gillian Noble, Head of Transformation, North American Customer Contact Centre, BMO Financial Group

Angela Sim, Vice President and Head, DevOps and Shared Services, BMO Financial Group

Vanessa Vidas, Associate Partner, Leader, Inclusion - Growth & Markets, Deloitte

Michelle Cherny, Audit Manager, Deloitte

Paul Hendrikse, Partner, Assurance, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP

Heather Neskas, National Senior Manager, Diversity and Inclusion, PwC Canada

Leading Conversations About Gender, Race, and Ethnicity

Communicating across differences is more important than ever before. Yet having conversations about gender, race, and ethnicity in the workplace can feel uncomfortable, accusatory, and potentially threatening. ERGs can be a bridge to communicating across difference, which can build inclusion and a workplace where everyone feels welcome. This session will equip your ERG leaders with the tools to work through communication roadblocks, create a safe space for courageous conversations, and move toward a more inclusive workplace.  


Vandana Juneja, Senior Regional Director, Central Canada, Catalyst

Alicia Sullivan, Senior Associate, Canada, Catalyst

Leading Global Insights: Measuring Climates of Inclusion

Catalyst has been on the forefront of measuring inclusion at all levels within organizations across the globe. This session offers critical insights into what creates an inclusive culture and shares actions you and your ERGs can take to redefine leadership as well as foster inclusion within your organization. 


Elizabeth R. Salib, PhD, Director, Research, Catalyst

Nikki Lamba, Director, US Strategy and Member Engagement, Catalyst

3:30p.m. – 3:45p.m.


3:45p.m. – 4:00p.m.

Closing Remarks

Tanya van Biesen, Executive Director, Catalyst Canada


Click on the image below to view the full conference workbook.

Click the image below to learn about the ERLI 2017 speakers.

ERLI 2017: Leveraging ERGs to Redefine Leadership brought together experts, business leaders, advisors, and other ERG leaders across companies to share knowledge, network, and participate in workshop sessions that provided ideas and tangible solutions to defining new models of leadership that turn diversity into a competitive advantage.


  • Discovered how ERGs can influence the context that defines leadership potential.

  • Heard from leading experts and professionals about the critical role ERGs play in fostering inclusion across difference in a rapidly changing world.

  • Learned why sponsorship is critical for advancement and how ERGs can pave the way to the top.

  • Explored how ERGs can be a bridge for communication across gender, race, and ethnicity.

  • Gained insights into how to create a culture of inclusion in your organization from Catalyst’s new model of measuring inclusion.

  • Networked with other ERG leaders and discussed best practices across different functions, industries, and geographies.

ERLI 2017 Participant Feedback:

This is my second time attending the conference and I continue to take away valuable information for my ERG and my organization as a whole. Thank you.

Great [Keynote] speaker... I took some valuable key takeaways that I can apply to our ERG.

Biggest takeaway:  Importance of reward and recognition of ERG leaders.

Biggest takeaway: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast" and the role that ERGs play in shifting that culture.

Biggest takeaway: ERGs cannot be simply top down nor can they be a grass roots effort, they need to be blended with some dedicated resources to support them.

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