After serving in the first Gulf War, Chris Martin transitioned into civilian life and began working with Discover Financial Services in a variety of roles. In 2015, he decided to help launch a Chicago-based Employee Resource Group (ERG) called “Honoring Military & Veterans.”
“When somebody is in the reserves and gets called up for active duty, which is something that happens more often now, you take a nuclear family and turn it into a single-parent household, and that has an impact,” Martin told us.
Considering Discover’s robust employee population of veterans and military families, this seemed like a logical initiative. Martin recognized the value of having a supportive and inclusive workplace, in building long-term culture and sustainability. With a veteran-focused ERG, it showed employees there is strength in differences and diversity and inclusion is part of the corporate DNA.
From the beginning of “Honoring Military & Veterans,”(HMV) the group included service-disabled veterans. By using an intersectional approach of both veterans and disability, the ERG’s efforts became more encompassing and personal. Members were included as their whole selves, rather than just one aspect of their identity. In 2018, members of HMV surprised The Michigan Warriors, an ice hockey team of service-disabled veterans, with a visit from the Stanley Cup® and a donation from Discover.
However, for an ERG to evolve and make an impact, leadership engagement is necessary. “In a nutshell, you want what you’re doing within each ERG to make change across the company. Getting senior management on board is a must. If you don’t have buy-in from the executive group, it’s probably not going to go anywhere,” says Martin.
Sarah Helm, Senior Manager, Diversity & Inclusion at Discover, knew exactly how to do that. She invited representatives from their Talent Management & Development and Diversity & Inclusion leadership to attend just one day of the Disability:IN Annual Conference. After hearing other executives talk about disability inclusion efforts and learning from breakout sessions, it was clear Discover would be IN.
“We are recruiting people with disabilities all the time. It’s such a big population, considering 18% of all people in Illinois and 23% of Chicagoans have a disability of some type,” says Helm. This data supported yet another reason to invest in the ERG as Discover’s headquarters are in Riverwoods, Illinois, just outside of Chicago.
Discover also supports the career development for leaders with disabilities. As a leader with a disability, Kareem Dale, Director and Senior Counsel, understands the importance of having more people with disabilities serving in leadership roles.
For people with disabilities to truly be represented in leadership, employees who actually have a disability must have a seat at the table. Decisions shouldn’t be made about us without us having a voice,” Dale says.
Discover’s journey is just starting, but they have taken a strong step forward. Through collaborative ERGs and inclusive leadership, Discover is better positioned to invest in their inclusion strategy. Helm is on the Board of Directors for Disability:IN Chicagoland affiliate and Discover has joined Disability:IN’s Inclusion Works program.
Discover Financial Services is IN. Are you IN?
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