Maceo Owens teaches HR how to support their ERGs

Owens tells HR Brew how she launched a career in the ERG space, without prior HR experience or a college degree.
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Maceo Owens

· 4 min read

Maceo Owens was ready to quit her job. It was late 2019, and the dasher experience specialist at DoorDash felt ready to move on. Then, she stumbled upon the company’s Black employee resource group (ERG) and suddenly felt as though she had found her community.

By early 2020, she had become a co-chair of Black@DoorDash, but her excitement was quelled by the social upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and police murder of George Floyd. DoorDash wanted the Black ERG’s guidance, and Owens didn’t quite know what to do.

“With DoorDash, they donated $500,000 to Black Lives Matter, and then they gave another $500,000 to the Black ERG to donate to wherever they wanted, and it was like, ‘How do we do [that]?’” Owens told HR Brew. “Being basically told [to] determine how we’re going to donate $500,000 was like…what?”

DoorDash wasn’t the only company paying more attention to its ERGs. In 2020, despite 31% of companies offering ERGs, according to Sequoia, many ERG leaders were not compensated, didn’t receive administrative support, and didn’t have a sustained budget, Forbes reported.

As a result, Owens said she taught herself how to lead an ERG. At the time, she had no idea then that she would someday use this knowledge to start her own business, the ERG Movement, to help companies build effective ERGs.

Rewind. After graduating from high school in 2015, Owens worked in customer service at companies including UPS and Hilton before landing a support agent job at DoorDash in 2018.

It was when she joined the Black ERG that she learned the sheer amount of time it takes to support an ERG. ERG leaders, she found, are rarely given specific direction and are expected to prove their impact on the organization. This, she said, can make leaders feel overworked and undervalued.

“I was given a project…like, ‘Oh, figure out what’s the data for the ERGs’...and I was like, ‘What does that mean?’” she said. “From there, I was just like, if I’m not going to be given specific direction, I’m just going to come up with something myself.”

Using software like Google Sheets and Google Data Studios (now called Looker Studio), Owens created dashboards to show how many ERG members attended events and for how long, how many employees were involved with ERGs, and how many join ERG events, but are not in ERGs themselves.

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“I learned it on YouTube…I didn’t have any data skills,” she said. “I don’t even think that they really expected for me to pull all of that together.” She said that her work as an ERG leader didn’t translate to recognition or a promotion, so, in late 2020, she quit her job at DoorDash.

The next day, she said the Black ERG’s executive sponsor reached out and wanted her to come back to work for DoorDash’s people team. Within the month, Owens said she started a new job, her first in HR, as the employee connections program coordinator overseeing all ERGs.

Bona fide expert. In 2022, Owens became the ERG community manager at sister companies OpenTable and Kayak, and “was able to turn their ERG program around in one quarter from being in that Wild West state to everyone [being] on the same playbook.” In 2023, she was promoted to senior ERG program manager.

Owens soon developed a reputation in the HR community as a bona fide ERG expert, and people pros from other companies started reaching out for her help. “I probably had, in 2021, like 300 Zoom calls with people across industries…by the end of that, I was just like, I have to really scale this,” she said.

That year, the ERG Movement was born. In September 2023, she left OpenTable and Kayak to dedicate herself to the Detroit-based business.

The movement. Through her business, Owens said she is hired for speaking engagements—at both conferences and companies—and consulting work. She also creates free ERG resources, including how-to videos, guides, and kits. Alaska Airlines, Intuit, and Comcast are among her clients, as are former employers OpenTable and Kayak. (Morning Brew’s ERGs have also worked with Owens.)

While Owens said it was scary taking the leap to launch the ERG Movement, it was worthwhile as she sees the need and potential for her work. “There’s no shortage of work when it comes to supporting ERGs,” she said. “I feel like it is a good place to be in, and it’s work that I can feel good about.”

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.