ERGs and BRGs: Fostering Inclusive Organizations

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and Business Resource Groups (BRGs), also known as affinity groups, play a vital role in fostering inclusion, community and belonging within organizations. Join moderator Makda Fessahaye and our panel of affinity group leaders for a frank discussion of how ERGs and BRGS can be leveraged to achieve goals for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. We will explore best practices for building effective ERGs and BRGs, strategies for aligning ERG/BRG activities with corporate DEI goals and discuss challenges our panelists have faced in their work. You will take away suggestions on how to start or expand affinity groups in your organization.


Makda Fessahaye

Makda Fessahaye is the Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Human Resources Officer for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she works closely with the Vice Chancellor for the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to find ways to support and engage the workforce. She previously served as the City of Milwaukee’s Chief Human Resources Officer and supported the employee resource groups and advocated and created an annual budget for their events and initiatives. Prior to that role, served in Governor Evers’ administration as the Administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections’ Division of Adult Institutions. She served as the executive sponsor for the DOC’s Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee. Before stepping into leadership roles, Makda worked as an attorney for the Department of Corrections.

Currently, Makda serves on the board of directors for the Milwaukee Tennis & Education Foundation, MENTOR Greater Milwaukee, and City Year Milwaukee. She also serves on the Girls Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. She is a past president of the Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers (WAAL).
Makda has been recognized for her various accomplishments by her peers; her recognitions include Wisconsin Women in Government Rising Star Award, Madison365’s Most Influential Black Leaders, In Business Greater Madison’s 40 Under 40, and Milwaukee Business Journal’s 40 Under 40.

Makda received her undergraduate degree in Communication Studies from Northwestern University in 2011, and Juris Doctor from Marquette University Law School in 2014.

Dominique Hyatt-Oates

Dominique Hyatt-Oates is a public health nurse manager for the City of Milwaukee’s Health Department Breast and Cervical Cancer Awareness Program. Prior to becoming a nurse, she received a bachelor’s degree in athletic training at Washington State University. She returned to the Midwest to work at a bilingual physical therapy clinic that predominately served the Hispanic/Latino community. Dominique then joined Marquette University’s Direct Entry Master’s of Science in Nursing program, graduating in 2018. She started her nursing career in bedside and through her experience felt drawn to work more directly and intimately with the Milwaukee community which lead her to pursue public health. Dominique has served as an adjunct instructor for Alverno College and initiated a Black African American Employee Resource Group for the City of Milwaukee. She is the immediate past president of the Greater Milwaukee chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses. In 2022 Dominique started a brand CREAM Unity which is known for its acronym “Community Rules Everything Around Me.” The brand serves to be an anthem of solidarity, invest in the community and bring awareness to organizations doing valuable work in our city to combat barriers and inequities in Milwaukee.

Therese Klein

Therese Klein is the Director of Business Operations and Project Management for the Motion Control Business at Rockwell Automation. She began her 30-year engineering career in power electronics and now leads global teams developing new industrial control products. Therese earned her Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Marquette University and Master of Science in Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has held a PMP Project Management certification since 2005. 

Antoinette Thomas

Antoinette Thomas is the assistant director of enroll client experience at Northwestern Mutual. Her professional interests and skills include change management, business consulting, strategy development, project management and community advocacy. She has served in a variety of client-focused positions at NM.. Previously, Antoinette worked in management and executive roles at Victoria’s Secret and Target. In addition to serving on the UWM Women Leaders Advisory Committee, she is a LINC board member for the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County. Antoinette served as Honorary Co-Chair for the 2022 UWM Women Leaders Conference with Lalia Valters.