Microsoft Employee Resource Groups: Creating Community and Celebrating Diversity Across Silicon Valley and San Francisco

 |   Bay Area Staff

Microsoft Employee Resource Groups: Creating Community and Celebrating Diversity Across Silicon Valley and San Francisco

This February, dozens of teens from the Bay Area converged in San Francisco for the Microsoft and LinkedIn jointly held Minority Student Day event. For most of the students, it was their first time to experience the world of high tech and to interact with software professionals who looked and talked like them.

Minority Student Day is one of the many ways our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) connect employees with the greater Bay Area community. Regional ERG chapters create a deep sense of belonging to Microsoft by bringing people together — not only within each ERG, but across Microsoft Silicon Valley and San Francisco. ERGs frequently collaborate with each other across events to create an even larger impact.

Meet a few of the ERG superstars helping to foster inclusion and diversity on our campus.

Safiya Miller, account executive, US Northwest Enterprise Commercial at Microsoft.
Safiya Miller, account executive, US Northwest Enterprise Commercial at Microsoft.

BAM hits the mark

Safiya Miller is the daughter of Jamaican parents who instilled in her the value of education above everything else. Today, as account executive, U.S. Northwest Enterprise Commercial at Microsoft, Safiya brings her life experiences to the work she does as a co-chair for the Bay Area chapter of Blacks@Microsoft (BAM).

That work extends from Minority Student Day to social and educational gatherings to internal events that help employees build presence and public speaking skills through direct practice and exercises. Safiya recognizes the importance of expanding leadership opportunities for colleagues in BAM and giving members tangible tools that they can use to help grow their careers.

The Bay Area Microsoft BAM and LinkedIn BIG teams hosted Minority Student Day 2018 at LinkedIn.
The Bay Area Blacks@Microsoft and LinkedIn’s Black Inclusion Group hosted Minority Student Day 2018 at LinkedIn.

Those activities contribute to a strong sense of self and pride in the workplace — something strongly supported by Microsoft’s leadership team.

“It’s important to work at a company where you have a supportive team and great leadership that sees a lot of potential in you.” — Safiya

Emily Tohir is co-chair of the regional chapter of Women at Microsoft (W@M).
Emily Tohir, program manager II, PowerPoint at Microsoft.

W@M breaks the glass ceiling

Emily Tohir, program manager II, PowerPoint at Microsoft, went to an all-women’s college. After graduation, she was disappointed with the often disproportionate male-to-female ratio in the tech industry, so she pursued opportunities to promote women in tech. Today, she’s a co-chair of the regional chapter of Women at Microsoft (W@M).

W@M conducts multiple events throughout the year to connect women on our campus to each other and the broader community and to help develop professional skills. For example, W@M brought the Dale Carnegie Skills for Success program to our campus in San Francisco and Sunnyvale last year. The program used interactive exercises designed to help employee participants achieve their professional goals.

W@M hosted happy hour at the Computer History Museum in 2017.
W@M hosted happy hour at the Computer History Museum in 2017.

Emily recognizes the value of the work W@M does, not only for others but for herself.

“Being a part of Silicon Valley W@M has given me the chance to meet women who are very successful and have impressive careers. It’s given me the chance to learn from them and develop personal relationships with them that I couldn’t have if I weren’t involved in this.” — Emily

Emma Gutierrez, HR manager, Experiences and Devices/Artificial Intelligence and Research Groups at Microsoft.
Emma Gutierrez, HR manager, Experiences and Devices/Artificial Intelligence and Research Groups at Microsoft.

Say hello to HOLA

Emma Gutierrez is a native of Guadalajara, Mexico. Her family immigrated to the United States when she was 11 months old. Through perseverance, family sacrifice, and financial aid, she was able to excel in college and graduate school and eventually start a career at Microsoft.

As HR manager, Experiences and Devices/Artificial Intelligence and Research Groups at Microsoft, Emma shares her own success and experiences with others as a board member of Hispanic Organization of Leaders in Action (HOLA) Microsoft Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

HOLA hosted an event for Hispanic Heritage Month in 2017.
HOLA hosted an event for Hispanic Heritage Month in 2017.

The regional ERG hosts several social gatherings, educational activities, and outreach events each year. HOLA recently hosted a booth at a Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) event, created to motivate students from diverse high schools across the Bay Area to pursue computer science in college and as a career path.

“That’s the kind of outreach that excites me because it’s reaching out to youth who might not have a role model at home in the tech field. They can actually engage with someone who looks like them so they can envision this dream for themselves and know that it is possible.” — Emma

Geoff Burkhart, sales director with the Bing team in San Francisco
Geoff Burkhart, sales director with the Bing team in San Francisco.

GLEAM creates a sense of pride

Geoff Burkhart is a Bay Area transplant who grew up and attended college in central Florida. Today, he’s sales director with the Bing team in San Francisco and is one of the driving forces behind GLEAM (Gay and Lesbian Employees at Microsoft) NorCal, the Microsoft Search Advertising GLEAM chapter, and San Francisco Pride.

GLEAM participates in the annual San Francisco Pride events
GLEAM participates in the annual San Francisco Pride events.

Through the work of GLEAM and Microsoft, LGBTQ employees can feel accepted and celebrate who they are at the office and in the region. Last year, Geoff and other GLEAM members took that spirit of celebration to the Pride parade. The ERG joined forces with LinkedIn ERG team members to represent our company with a large, inclusive presence at the parade.

To Geoff, that collective presence and support is deeply meaningful, and it carries over to the office, where he feels valued as a contributor to diversity and company success.

“You need to know that by raising your hand, you’re not limiting yourself. You’re creating a community for all.” — Geoff

Jie Li, senior software engineer, Bing Ads Marketplace and Serving Dev in Sunnyvale.
Jie Li, senior software engineer, Bing Ads Marketplace and Serving Dev in Sunnyvale.

Diversity and inclusion through music and food

Local ERGs also know how to put on a great party. Just ask Jie Li, senior software engineer, Bing Ads Marketplace and Serving Dev in Sunnyvale, who is an active member of the Chinese Microsoft Employees (CHIME) group in Silicon Valley.

CHIME is known to our Sunnyvale employees for its two annual events: the Lunar New Year celebration in late January or early February, and the Moon Festival in September. The events — featuring food, music, and even a lion dance — are fun for everyone, but they also present an opportunity for employees to interact, ask questions about traditions, and learn more about the people they work with every day.

CHIME hosted the Lunar New Year 2018 event.
CHIME hosted the Lunar New Year 2018 event.

Leading by example

ERGs are helping create more diverse teams that foster inclusion through acceptance, respect, and support. As Emma says, “Microsoft is a great place to work. You can come here and find people who can relate to you, who want to learn more about you, who appreciate your differences and want to hear about your unique background.”

And that’s the true definition of inclusion.

Clockwise, from lower left: Emily Tohir, Geoff Burkhart, Jie Li, Emma Gutierrez, and Safiya Miller.
Clockwise, from lower left: Emily Tohir, Geoff Burkhart, Jie Li, Emma Gutierrez, and Safiya Miller.

At Microsoft, we believe our continued success depends on the diverse skills, experiences, and backgrounds that our employees bring to the company. Learn about Microsoft’s community of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that help to foster diversity and inclusion.