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ASHRAE’s Member Resource Groups

ASHRAE’s Member Resource Groups

Have you ever felt alone at a conference of thousands of attendees because you are struggling to find others like you within the crowd?

Have you ever wished there was a way to more easily connect with ASHRAE members like you? 

As part of the 2024-2025 Society Theme, incoming ASHRAE President Dennis Knight has created an initiative to expand and simplify the process of connecting members by launching Member Resource Groups (MRGs).  Groups such as this are not a new concept in the corporate sector, though they have many new modern names such as employee resource groups (ERGs), affinity networks, affinity groups, and business resource groups. They are formed to connect people with the same self-defined attributes and interests such as professionals with young families, first-time (1 or 2 years) members, small firm professionals, language preference (Spanish, French, etc.), race, religion, community service, environmental concerns, wellness, ASHRAE industry classification, and other attributes.  ASHRAE currently has two groups that serve this function - Women in ASHRAE (WiA) and Young Engineers in ASHRAE (YEA). These are a subset of ASHRAE membership that have a common self-defined attribute with the goal of advancing ASHRAE’s core values. Based on the success of these two groups, ASHRAE plans to introduce two new MRGs in June at the Annual Conference: 1) new members and 2) professionals with young families. The goal of these MRGs is to provide a more efficient way for members to make connections, network, and share information.  This article describes the benefits of MRGs to an organization’s success and the general activities and goals of an MRG.

What is the purpose of member resource groups (MRGs)?

Affinity groups have become fairly common throughout the business community in an effort to increase inclusivity for employees and to create a healthier and more inviting space for everyone.  As a result, in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) diversity and minority affinity groups have been a focus. These groups are commonly aligned with the organization’s goals and programs as opposed to just social clubs within the organization. They are volunteer led and are meant to act as a resource for the members and the organization.

In addition to creating a healthier, more inviting space, MRGs seek to address the perceived lack of support and camaraderie felt by some of our members (2, 3). Without the intentional development of a community, the isolation experienced by those who cannot easily identify a way to connect with others may not be as engaged.  This negatively impacts the likelihood of their participation and retention in the organization. MRGs not only address this isolation but also encourage networking across every level of the organization leading to natural mentoring relationships (2). MRGs present an opportunity for dialog on topics that affect the individual.  By coming together, these issues or challenges can be seen as normal rather than unique to the individual, helping relieve stress and anxiety and address the feeling of isolation (2). The normalization of these challenges and the bonds formed when combating them, create community and a sense of belonging (2).

            The community achieved by MRGs contributes to the sponsoring organization in multiple areas: increasing retention, greater engagement, growing optimism for success, inspiring innovation, and broadening awareness (5). The goal of the MRG for the members is to create bonds from sharing and acknowledging similar experiences directly related to the identifying trait of the MRG. Once MRG members establish community within the group, they begin to extend their network to other parts of the organization which spreads ideas, creates connections, and increases productivity (4). Additionally, the communities formed by MRGs increase optimism for success by introducing examples of other successful members. This normalizes the challenges to success and can lead to both mentoring and sponsorship of members by other members for advancement within the organization. As more members succeed and share their success stories within the MRG, the more optimism grows. This optimism is not confined to the MRG but spreads within the organization growing awareness and support. The effect of a successful MRG is a better functioning, more vibrant and connected organization and its members.


What do member resource groups (MRGs) do?

Each new ASHRAE MRG will have a time and location defined to meet at both the ASHRAE Society Conferences starting at the Annual Conference in Indianapolis.  It will be up to the group to decide the frequency and platform for interaction between conferences. Effective MRGs provide opportunities for activities that promote community building, sharing of knowledge or lessons learned, initiating discussions, and providing education about issues and concerns specific to the MRG subset. For example, a small firm MRG may have a seminar on key business practices such as what to consider when selecting insurance. The events not only increase the chances to network and find a community but also help to uncover and solve problems within the MRG and organization. Essentially, an MRG creates a space where the members feel valued by the organization and therefore have a stronger identity within it.

To attain the greatest benefit to the organization, MRGs must extend their interaction beyond their subset to the general membership of the organization.  This can occur by initiating forums or seminars relating to the common attribute of the MRG or addressing a common concern of the MRG (1). A great example would be hosting a forum on the structure of ASHRAE and how to get involved for new members followed by a networking event in which representatives from ASHRAE committees could be present to engage the new members. Other activities could include professional development events, seminars, mentoring, and discussions (1). Essentially, any activity that brings the group together or creates an identity within the organization is a successful and valuable activity for an MRG to sponsor or host.

            Affinity groups have a history of success in connecting people within organizations and businesses to improve the sense of belonging and identity among the members. They can provide a community that helps retain, welcome, and inspire membership through events and networking (1). The organization then benefits from the MRG and the community it creates within the organization. The benefits can include retention, recruitment, growing optimism, increasing connectivity, escalating productivity, improving the sense of belonging, and cultivating diversity. The hope is these two MRGs (new members and professionals with young families) are just the start and that ASHRAE members will identify other MRGs that they would like to initiate.  If you are excited about an idea for an MRG, beyond these two, please reach out to the Membership Promotion Committee at to get more information on the process of proposing a new MRG.


1) ERG = Diversity: Top Companies Share the Value of their Employee Resource Groups

               By Career Communications Group

2) Don’t Underestimate the Power of Women Supporting Each Other at Work

               By Anne Welsh McNulty

3) “Amplification”: The Clever Method Women in the White House Use to be Heard

               By Laurie Vazquez

4) Employee Resource Groups: Examining a Viable and Valuable Crisis Response Structure

               By Theresa M. Welbourne and Seth Butler

5) The Effectiveness of Diversity Networks

               By Carolin Amelie Schmidt

 Making the Business Case for Employee Resource Groups

               By Theresa M. Welbourne and Lacey Leone Mclaughlin

 The Case for Employee Resource Groups: A Review and Social Identity Theory Based Research Agenda

               By Theresa M. Welbourne, Steven Schlachter, Skylar Rolf