As part of our commitment to the growing need to support women in the workplace, several of Assurant’s female leaders recently shared their stories on LinkedIn under the #ThisLittleGirlIsMe hashtag.
Our workforce is strongest when we’re made up of the people we serve. This includes having a workforce comprised of people of all abilities.
We’re striving daily to be a more Diverse, Equitable and Inclusive organization. We’re also working to be a better company for our employees and a better partner within the communities we interact with.
The CDC estimates that one in four adults in the United States has a disability, which broadly includes physical, neurological and mental health conditions. Yet, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2020 that just under 18% of persons with a disability were employed compared to about 62% of persons without a disability.
Employees deserve workplaces that welcome them and enable them to do their best work. An inclusive workforce can impact how we perform, grow, engage with employees and drive superior customer experiences.
Earlier this fall, the Assurant Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) team held a Courageous Conversations panel series. Nearly 2,000 employees dialed in from 22 different countries to learn more about what it means to make Assurant a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace through disability inclusion.
While some panelists brought direct perspectives in dealing with their own disability in the workplace, some also addressed what it means to be an ally for those who may be silently suffering.
Here are a few of their perspectives:
Andy L., VP, Lending Solutions Operations
A Courageous Conversations panelist, reflects on his son's legacy and encourages others to take the time to get to know people with disabilities.
I’ve been lucky to work at Assurant for 8 years and have continually been impressed by the openness and inclusion that our culture strives to foster. Over the past couple years, our company has engaged in multiple “Courageous Conversations,” which is a virtual platform for employees across the globe to candidly discuss various topics.
During National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I was honored to be part of the diverse panel that discussed our personal journeys with disabilities. That conversation has spawned so many positive interactions that I wanted to share my family’s story in the hopes it encourages others to better understand the challenges faced by families with disabilities and the opportunity they have to grow from actively being a part of their journeys.
Our son Kelson was born in 2011 with profound physical and developmental disabilities. He spent his first months in the hospital in Tallahassee and then in Jacksonville in the NICU. We spent so many hours those first few months wondering if our son would ever have a “normal” life. Over the years, we have often discussed being babies ourselves at that point of our journey. We had no idea what to expect but hoped and prayed that we would be able to find the answer or “answers” for what was wrong with our wonderful boy.
Through the many years of countless surgeries, hospital stays, and visits to specialists around the country, we realized we would never get those answers. But during that same time, our acceptance grew, and we learned to appreciate the blessing we had been given to be part of such a special life.
The lows were low, but the highs were higher on our journey with Kelson. The small things and fleeting joyful moments during the constant pressure of caring for a child with disabilities, made them sweeter. Our son taught us so many things, but most importantly he taught us how to love others no matter their differences or disabilities, and to take the time to understand what everyone is carrying and struggling with each and every day.
After overcoming so much in his life and living well past when many doctors thought he would, our superhero left us in May 2020. He never spoke a word, never walked, never did any of the things so many of us take for granted every day, but in the almost 9 years Kelson spent here, he impacted more lives that I could ever hope to. So many folks around the world followed our family on our journey and were changed for the better, and we were blessed by their love for us. This is the magic superpower of children with disabilities, they inspire us all to be better, if we take the time to be part of their lives.
I challenge you to think about those you come across with disabilities, and to take the time to get to know them and their families, be it at work or in your personal life. Encourage your children to interact with children with disabilities; you can’t imagine the difference it will make. I can promise you the time you spend with those superheroes will change you for the better, and their families will be eternally grateful for it as well.
I’ll share what my father said in closing at my son’s memorial service, “Here was a boy that never said a word but has literally impacted people around the world, what will your legacy be?”
Anne P., Assistant Vice President for the People Business Partners
Stood up the STARS program at Assurant, which connects people with disabilities to job opportunities at Assurant.
Based in Lewisville, Texas, Anne supports more than 2,500 employees located in New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas. These Assurant depots focus on light manufacturing of cell phones for major mobile carriers, including trade-ins and mobile phone repairs and logistics.
Anne says these STARS are committed to their work and other employees take notice of that commitment. She calls their presence a “powerful motivator” for all their coworkers.
“They're here every day and they want to learn,” Anne says. “They’re excited about being part of a team which includes them in the workplace and doesn’t treat anyone differently because of their disability.”
Read Anne’s full feature here.
Khristie P., Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Manager
Moderated the Courageous Conversations panel and discusses her own insights on the importance of disability inclusion.
Creating conversations which are vulnerable, raw and empathetic are incredibly important to me. It’s through sharing our lived experiences that we can connect with each other on a deeper level which in turn drives incredible feelings of belonging, inclusion and performance within the workplace. Conversations about our emotions and abilities can be empowering to others.
Late last year my world fell apart after my partner was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer, 6 months after his 40th birthday. In January 2021 we were told he had 3 months to live. It’s through sheer GRIT that we’ve made it through this last year. That, and 6 months of intensive chemotherapy. Throughout the last year I’ve been in and out of counselling and CBT to treat the catastrophic thoughts which were crippling me from the moment we knew he had cancer. The worst part for me was the harsh reality that I couldn’t do anything to fix this. I’m a fixer and this was not fixable by me, but I needed to get comfortable being uncomfortable and learn to stay in the present.
I’ve always been transparent about my feelings towards “rumbling with vulnerability” in the words of Brene Brown. So here we are almost 12 months later… continuing to “adapt and overcome” just as he kept telling me during the tough times.
#InclusionMeansMe #LifeatAssurant #assurantproud
John F., Mgr, Software Engineering
Bravely addressed the challenges in being a veteran and living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
On Veterans Day, I often reflect on my years in the military. I remember the good times with people who, like me, put their lives on the line to secure the blessings of liberty and freedom that we often take for granted.
The part of the service that most people don’t see is the nightmares, the constant state of looking over one’s shoulder and the anger and guilt for not having done enough to save those who lost their lives in service of their country. They don’t see the impact that this service has on our minds, bodies and our loved ones.
To many of us combat vets who suffer from PTSD, we are terrified to reveal the pain that we feel. We are terrified about the prospect of being labeled. Instead, we relive the pain in our minds repeatedly and, often, alone. Sadly, approximately 20 veterans a day take their own lives as a result of this pain and loneliness.
On Veteran’s Day, this day when we honor those served, let us embrace our veterans in more ways than simply saying thank you for your service or by offering them a free meal. Let us be there for our veterans by checking with them to make sure that they know they are not alone. Let us make sure that no vet ever feels like they are alone and have no hope.
I once heard a quote that really resonated with me, “You cannot patch a wounded soul with a band aid.” It is up to us to provide the support and healing vets need. Together, we can make sure that no vet ever feels the alone and hopeless."
Francesca L., Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer
Spoke about her experience in being a mother and her experience in relearning the word, “different”.
Motherhood has been different from what I originally envisioned. I remember the excitement waiting for my sons to be born and the stark contrast of those first few hours after their birth - the fear, and ultimately the confirmation that motherhood would be “different.” “Different” due to the countless rounds of doctors’ visits, the ever-present pit in my stomach, the missed milestones. “Different” by the kinship with fellow parents, dedicated doctors and unexpected guides, who all shared their lessons of science and compassion.
Cerebral Palsy has not necessarily defined us as a family, but in many ways, “different” has - from learning to lean on others to navigate the unknowns, to developing our emotional muscle to manage uncertainty and appreciate the everyday moments that might otherwise go unnoticed. Through the years, I found strength from my son’s courage and optimism, and also in the voices of leaders like Satya Nadella and organizations including National Ability Center.
Overall, the “different” has helped our family find our way as human beings - stronger, empathic and real. To all those who are finding their way especially during these challenging times, you are not alone – as much as we all are different, you and we are the same.
By having conversations about diversity and by creating job opportunities for people with disabilities, we want people in the communities we serve to have a place where they feel supported and valued and can fully contribute.
If there’s anything we learned in reflection from the Courageous Conversations, we learned the importance of making a loved one’s voice or your own voice heard. Because chances are, there are those out there looking to find the strength in their own voice.
Some insights from the panel chat:
“Thank you to all of the brave and strong people on this panel for your willingness to share your journeys with us and to educate us on what CAN be accomplished. Having grown up with a disabled brother who was born in the 60's and died young, I wish my parents had had the means and resources available to do more for him. This Courageous Conversation is very emotional and inspiring!”
“My mom ended up in a wheelchair in her 40's due to cancer. She is paralyzed from the waist down. She is now 89. I tried to teach whoever I meet to treat individuals with disability with respect. Francesca, thank YOU for sharing your heart with us.”
“Thank you for being so vulnerable to share your personal journey about yourself and your son and daughter… both the ongoing challenges and successes! This has been very enlightening and inspirational to so many.”
“Thank you for sharing your story. There is so much we can learn from you and your experiences. So many are going through similar experiences and suffer in silence. You have been very encouraging. THANK YOU!”
If you’d like to discuss disability inclusion as an ally or reflect on your own experiences, we’d like to hear your story. Share it on social media using #InclusionMeansMe.