7 Key Tips for Executive Sponsors of ERGs

At Catalyst enERGize, HR and DEI leaders shared valuable lessons.

The strategic importance of executive sponsors for employee resource groups (ERGs) was front and center at enERGize, a virtual conference for ERG leaders, members, and sponsors, as well as other DEI leaders. In a panel moderated by Aby Combs, Inclusive Diversity Program Manager, Granite Construction, speakers offered actionable strategies for executive sponsors to support ERGs and transform them into influential change agents within organizations. Panelists included Jorge A. Quezada, Chief Inclusion Officer, Granite Construction; Stephanie Roldan, VP of People, Rosendin; and Kelly Montes, Executive Director, US at Catalyst.

Whether you are already an executive sponsor or considering becoming one, here are seven key tips to excel in this valuable role:

Shift perspective from “me” to “all.” “When you join an ERG as an individual, your initial focus is often on personal gains (‘me’),” observed Quezada. “However, this perspective rapidly evolves when you join an ERG (‘we’). As the ERG expands, it creates a collective ‘us’ mindset, aiming to drive company-wide impact (‘all’) and extend its influence into the broader community.”

Know what you’re getting into. “As an executive sponsor, be sure you understand what you’re signing up for,” Montes advised. “Having a clear job description helps manage expectations. Passion is key, but commitment is equally important. While not every event requires attendance, sponsors should focus on two or three strategic ways to support the ERG effectively. Leveraging their power and influence to promote new programs can greatly boost participation.”
Build communication opportunities. “Create channels for ERG members to share their ideas with organizational leaders, who can then build on those ideas,” suggested Roldan.

Recognize your capability and limits. “Consider the ERG’s maturity level; some have potential but lack execution capability. Sponsors should ensure initiatives drive awareness, participation, engagement, and transformative impact,” said Quezada. “Take a holistic view to maximize program success.”
Embrace allyship. “Sponsorship doesn’t always require personal identification,” noted Roldan. “In industries like construction, finding executive sponsors who align with marginalized groups can be challenging. Yet allies can fill the gap. It requires open-mindedness, education, and advocacy for marginalized communities, regardless of personal identification.”
Remain open to learning. “Don’t assume you know everything about your own affinity group; you may have a lot to learn,” said Quezada. “I didn’t realize [the extent of the] colorism that exists within my community and that I was avoiding my own Blackness. This journey taught me the importance of embracing differences while identifying similarities.”
Be humble and offer grace. “Understand that this is an ongoing, iterative process; mistakes will happen,” Montes said. “Offer grace when errors occur and strive to improve when you know better. Recovery is key.” Quezada added, “Champion teaching others to notice, understand, and act on conversations around ERGs. As sponsors, it’s essential to guide people from theory to practice to mastery. Be kind, be good, be better, be inclusive, and continuously challenge others to improve.”


By incorporating these strategies, executive sponsors can effectively support ERGs and help them drive meaningful change within their organizations.

Listen to the full session on Construction DEI Talks, a Granite-sponsored podcast, later this year. 

Check out Catalyst resources for ERGs.

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