By Mary Stork, President, Financial Planning and Advice, USAA
Just as diversifying a financial portfolio makes it stronger, building and promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion make an organization stronger and benefit all involved. I believe that wholeheartedly, not only because I’m a financial planner at heart, but because I’ve seen the value and power that diversity and inclusion bring both in my personal and professional life.
Many times when we talk about diversity, we tend to focus on a person’s outward appearance—race, gender. But even more important in terms of diversity are each person’s unique perspective, experiences, expertise and skills. Diversity is about people. Inclusive organizations focus on the unique differences of their people and encourage collaboration to unlock creativity, innovation and potential. Some of the most successful businesses apply this mindset to deliver the best possible service to their customers, better grow their portfolio, and develop talent.
Learning to Appreciate People’s Differences
I grew up in a military family in a very diverse part of North Carolina. I attended historically African American schools from elementary school through college, even receiving a minority scholarship. When I began working for another large, well-known investment company in the late 1990s, I was one of only a handful of women in a region that covered the most populous parts of North Carolina. Needless to say, I have been and know how it feels to be the minority in a room, not only from a gender perspective but across the board. I’ve seen the negative results that come from bias and lack of diversity. But my experiences gave me the opportunity to learn and appreciate the value of different perspectives, break stereotypes and experience the amazing benefits diversity brings to life. And they’re the reason I’m so passionate about diversity and inclusion and helping others see the value in it.
After reflecting on our recent Veteran’s Day observance and as a military spouse, I am proud to work at USAA, where diversity and inclusion are essential components of how we do business. I have a deep passion to serve our members and help ensure they are making the best financial decisions to have the life they deserve. For many of our members, the one making financial decisions is now the one left at home while many spouses are deployed. This growing population, along with all our members, is why I’m fully supportive of speaking in our members’ terms. Our goal is to simplify financial planning and make the experience easy so we can serve our members every time they need us. Our employees’ unique perspectives and experiences are how we make this possible.
Requiring Inclusive Policies at Work
USAA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and focus on purposefully mirroring the military demographics is why USAA has been named one of the “Top Companies for Women Technologists.” It’s why we were named one of Fortune’s “Top 10 Best Workplaces for Diversity.” It’s why we have been honored by 2020 Women on Boards as a “Winning W Company.” It’s why for 14 consecutive years, we were named one of the “50 Best Companies for Latinas to Work For” by Latina Style. And it’s why we hold our contractors and business partners to high standards in terms of diversity and inclusion at their businesses. It’s the right thing to do.
Seeking Out Diversity for Other Aspects of Life
Personally, I continue to work to bring diverse experiences into my life. I found so much value in my own experience growing up that now, with my own children, I look for schools that have diverse populations, because I know they will get a lot more out of life learning to get along with and appreciate people with different backgrounds and perspectives. Professionally, I continue to challenge myself to bring in new perspectives as we work through complex business concepts. We will find a better solution when we have different voices.
So my parting advice to you is to seek out and embrace the diverse ideas, perspectives and voices of those around you. You’ll be better, personally and professionally, because of it.