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Disability Inclusion: What it Means to Enable the Assurant Workforce

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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:

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."

#VeteranStoriesAtAssurant #InclusionMeansMe

 

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.

 

 

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