The Amber Stitt Show

Focus on Community: What is DEI Really?

November 29, 2022 Amber Stitt
The Amber Stitt Show
Focus on Community: What is DEI Really?
Show Notes Transcript

In today's episode of #TheAmberStittShow, we shed some light on a question many have out there: What is DEI?

What is this concept of Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion?

My guest Lined Mason shares the story of her transition to the financial services industry over 30+ years ago and what she has learned along the way. 

She talks about how DEI is really the glue that maintains a welcoming environment at work! In this episode we cover:

💡 What DEI means to her and her role as an executive at Ameritas.

💡 She talks about ways to change your mindset to step outside your comfort zone.

💡We discuss ways anyone can volunteer to participate in activities that bring awareness to this topic.

💡We challenge you to think of ways to continue learning and advocating for others.

Want to get more involved? I would be happy to point you in the right direction! 

Whether you are generally looking for information or are in the financial services industry and want to get involved with DEI more on the legislative side, please let me know. I can connect you to different organizations where you can make a difference!

#buildcommunity #takeactiontoday #diversityandinclusion #diversity #diversitymatters #inclusion #inclusionmatters #representationmatters #equality #leadership #equity #diversityequityinclusion #community  #diversityisbeautiful #dei #education #lgbtq #disability #genderequality #inclusivity #socialjustice #inclusionanddiversity #NAIFA #NAIFAPhoenix

Amber 0:01
Welcome to Today's Show. I am very excited to introduce my friend Lined Mason, the Vice President of Service and Individual Operations over at Ameritas. She and I have known each other since I started working with Ameritas life and disability insurance products almost a decade ago and are close to that. So Lynette I think you've been at Ameritas for about 30 years now.

Lined 0:23
That's right. Yeah. 30 years 33 years in the industry.

Amber 0:29
Well, congratulations and welcome to the Show! I am so happy that you're here because I want to shed some light on this diversity, equality, and inclusion conversation, otherwise known as DEI. 

I would love to today to just answer the question, what is DEI? And this topic has been trending. I think in the last 12 months it's been I've been hearing about it more. But the feedback from this topic can swing a couple of different ways. It can go from really enthusiastic and we're excited. And then I'll talk about it and sometimes I'll get this little pushback. And I just, I think some of that comes from people maybe being afraid of changing or being forced to change. But today, I would just love to cover some just points that from your perspective, I know that you've done a ton over the last, I want to say at least a year or at least it feels like that. 
Since I've been doing a lot of advocacy. I know that you have to and one of my first congressional meetings with NAIFA, one of the insurance organizations that supports legislative changes and financial services back in May at the Washington DC trip. I don't know if that was your first time I think it might have been because you opened up with some other friends discussing DEI and that was my first time really hearing about it. And so I appreciated that and I instantly had some takeaways and things that I could do better in my life. So that was awesome to see you. But I know that that wasn't the only time I feel like you're being asked regularly to speak now about that. So between you and my friend Toni Gonzalez that you know works with women and insurance and financial services. This is becoming more popular and it's important to be out there. This information is important to have out there. So I would like to before I pass the mic, have you answer a couple of questions just to kick this off. So first, just a little bit about you for the audience that doesn't know you yet. Give a little background but then I also wanted to know how did you stumbled into this advocacy role. Is it something that you always thought you'd be doing? So I'll pass the mic to you?

Lined 2:45
Right? Well, first of all, thank you so much, Amber, for having me here on this podcast. I appreciate you and what you do for our customers and for the company. You're awesome and just appreciate being able to talk about this with everyone. So how I started with this is I think I've always had the desire to bring awareness of just you know that people are different, right and you just appreciate people you get to know them or you listen like to me that is when I think of inclusion. That is the number one item that I think is the most important takeaway listening. You know, I think a lot of what happens today is we're so engrossed in our own world. Right? We're busy we have responsibilities at work and home or kids are at school or running around. And so we're just siloed in our environment that we don't realize this whole world outside of our world. We thought that people look different and people act different and people talk differently people have different skills, right? So it's all of that that I think that we're missing out on so the more we are educated on our differences, right, the more we can tap into all this stuff. I'll also share with you my background, right so we talked about I've been in this industry for 33 years, with one company for 30 years, which is crazy. Yeah, crazy in this day and age, and Time flies when you're having fun. But um, you know, I started in this industry when I was 18 years old. And so I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. You know, we grew up in the projects. My parents didn't have a lot of money, right? I'm Puerto Rican and my parents have a second-grade and sixth-grade education. Why they had to work farms in Puerto Rico. They moved to New York City to have a better life. You know, they got factory jobs. They brought up me and my sister the best they could and that environment which you know, I adore them and think they did a fantastic job. When I graduated from high school, I had to make a decision and with that decision was I had I knew I wanted to go to college, right? I just didn't want them to pay for it. And I also didn't want to take any wall. So I went on this I call it an adventure to try to find an employer that would hire this 18-year-old kid. With me see the mailroom background and great tale, right? And so I probably went on like 20 interviews before I had to answer for for my classes. So I had to decide, am I doing day classes full time or am I doing night classes because I found a job that would pay for my school. And luckily, I my very last interview was with Manhattan life insurance. And this woman I'll never forget Terry interviewed me and she actually gave me the job right she took a chance on me. And I was able to get my college degree and my Manhattan life insurance paid for it, for which I was totally grateful. But so that's amazing. So not only right did I get my college degree, but I also learned a lot right? I am now in this industry that I had no clue even existed, right? Insurance being used for financial planning like it blew my mind. And I remember going home to my parents after I got to learn a little bit about it and asking them I'm like, do you guys have life insurance and now like, we have a door employer, right, which is I'm like, Oh my gosh, what did you guys lose your job? Like then you know, what

Amber  6:43
was your first job though?

Lined 6:49
It was a new business processor. Okay, so we're okay

Amber 6:52
so like a transactional work coordinator. Did you have to get your insurance license right away?

Lined 6:57
No, I did not. Okay. I did not. Yeah. So, yeah. So that was interesting. And then I found myself having conversations with, you know, other family members and other people in the Hispanic community. And you know, telling them about this great tool and insurance and they all looked at me like I was crazy because, in their mind, insurance is just for final expenses. So why am I recording yours? Oh, why don't you tell me about that? I need insurance. Are you crazy? And you know, the crazy part Amber is that it is now what 33 years later, and I'm still having conversations with this Hispanic community and they still think the same about insurance.

Amber 7:35
Well, I mean, life happens organization, there are lots of statistics, that final expense myth. It's still it's not just I think the Hispanic culture either I think it's still so that's amazing that I love that hustle at the very beginning. I mean, there's a lot of competition now for people leaving high school, then going into an internship or maybe that first job, but a lot of people as we all know, are having those student loans and you just said no, I have a plan and I'm gonna go get after it. So that is, I never knew that. So I have known you for a long time. That's really cool. Working hard.

Lined 8:12
Yes. Yes. Right. And so it's, it's that and you know, and I also think about like my journey and insurance, right, there wasn't a lot of 18-year-old females and then you add Hispanic on top of that you're in the financial services. You're on the administration side of the house, and it wasn't easy for me, right? Like I don't think I was taken seriously, right? And so I had to ask for things I learned very early on in my career that if I wanted something, I just needed to ask for it. Right and make a point of wanting to do it and proving myself and, you know, I wish I would have had somebody that could have mentored me along the way. But I kind of had to figure it all out on my own. So you know, that's what I want to do. Like I want to be a mentor to people like I want to help women. You know, I want to help you know, young people come in into insurance or you know, any, you know, career and you know, and just help them out, right, because you don't know what you don't know and there's just a lot of opportunity.

Amber 9:20
Yeah, there's part of my story was you know, hiding from the insurance industry financial services for about a decade, my family's all in the business. I just thought I couldn't do it because my accounting grades and mathematics were not my things. But there are so many ways to be in financial services and help people serve people so for me that was huge after getting my business up and running. Then once that was established, I was like, Okay, how can I help I know that that's where your organization sponsors a lot of different things for inclusion advocacy. I know there are a lot more women in the work, place where you are, and I'm sure you have something to do with that too. But yeah, just helps the younger generation see that there's a place for them. And we need to help others. See how they can protect their families. So I know that you and I share that common ground and then a lot of my adult relationships with my colleagues that I see at conferences throughout the year. That's really what we're constantly doing. If we're not doing our day job. We're doing some of these other things out there. Hopefully to make a difference and so I know that within your organization, you guys do a lot with a couple. I think there are a couple personality assessments that you're doing some team engagement. So I think at the very beginning when you're explaining what inclusion is, I think, when you're really looking at and what I call focusing on talents, that's the number one step and pathways of peak performance through the podcast that I have, is really knowing who you are and how you work and where are you talented. So once you understand yourself and kind of see what maybe you're not trying to fix what you're not, but that also helps you understand if I work a certain way someone else might not be the same as me that I think could I didn't think about this even before we scheduled our time together. But that could completely help that shift of mindset for the inclusion piece. It's a lot of fun when you can recognize I tick this way and why is it Why am I not having the best interaction with this person over here? Well, people are different and so then if you can kind of challenge yourself to see it from their side of things. It can just make you a better human better teammate better individual, maybe better business partner, spouse, so back to the whole Dei. When people hear that acronym, they go okay, what is that? So, when you've done some speaking out there, what are some of the main points to share with the audience where people might say, Oh, I don't want you to have to I don't want you to make me have to change how I do things or how I think, what do you what are some takeaways for some of the people in the audience today that you could say you can start with this. So what are some of those, as you were speaking comments or something that people could implement today or kind of shift their mindset on the topic of Dei?

Lined 12:20
Yes, thank you. Um, so I would say number one is you know, understanding even like, what does DEI mean like to you, right, like, and to me, like out of the three like inclusion to me is just like the glue, you know, for everything, right? Because it's like making people feel comfortable. Making people feel like they belong as I mentioned early on listening to that, you know, that's just making a very welcoming environment to people. Right. And it's just also taking a step back and making sure that you're doing all those things. And number two also looks at your own personal environment like what is your circle of friends, like what did they write? What you know, I shared that article with you in regards to, you know, a study that was done in regards to how many people have their circle of friends that look like that, right? And I think white Americans were like, 90% white, right? So if you don't expose yourself and if your work life or you're, you know, maybe you're part of a, you know, organization, or you know, your job is the first place where you're actually exposed to, to a different type of individuals with different thoughts and different skills. Well, you're going to feel a little bit uncomfortable, right? I think that's just human nature to just, well, I don't understand that. I don't know it. You know, I'm just going to be a little bit off about and maybe I need to do a little bit more research. You know, I'm not going to be totally engaged out of the gate, but it's about it's okay to feel uncomfortable, right? Go ahead and ask questions. Get involved. Go join us a nonprofit, you know, to help out a community that you normally wouldn't be exposed to. Right. It's just taking all those steps to educate yourself and I would say another thing is, I think we're also a little bit too dependent on our organizations to help with these initiatives with, you know, the diversity, equity, and inclusion, and it really should be on the individual level, right? Sure. Your organization is providing you with literature, or, you know, online modules to learn more than yes, definitely take it right. You know, be part of is arg right, just to be able to you know, listen in and help and be part of the community that works with that, you know, arg. So, I mean, there's a lot of things that could be done, but I think the focus is educating yourself, exposing yourself to these different ways of thinking and, you know, listening, right, you know, listen, because if somebody brings something to your attention that's making them feel uncomfortable, or you know, maybe they have a concern that maybe you're not really understanding because you you're not part of that. Don't dismiss it, right? Right. Because therefore, you get into your attention for a reason right? I think those are the top takeaways I would share. Well, I

Amber 15:44
think I like your I like your ideas of I mean, this could be for a new person coming into the industry or any job it does not have to be financial services. But if you want to participate and you want to change, you physically have to go do that. That's why we went to DC I want to see what people are doing on the legislative side of things. The constituents to see what are these bills that are impacting families, okay. The only way to really figure that out is not to watch the TV to see what it's they're telling us but go out there and do it. So whether it doesn't necessarily need to be the DEI Task Force, but it could be that you're just participating with different outside of your bubble like you said, Is there something where you can put yourself in a different environment that you can help and then kind of establish that but you know, pick something that you enjoy some activity, whether it's a club or like an athletic team for kids or whatever it might be, there is a place especially post COVID. There are so many ways to network and I share with our colleagues all the time on even LinkedIn. There are so many friends that you can find that have similar mindsets or values where you're sharing, you know, maybe like-minded ideas, but you can also find different clubs and different webinars are different. There's so much out there that you can participate in. So there's a number of resources where if you're more of an introvert, you can maybe do more online but there are things you can do both ways. So I really think that they probably are no excuses there. There are resources and so I think for for for our my audience, and for us, I mean, we can be resources to anybody that's listening in because we participate not only in just female focus groups, but we have a number of other ones. So if you're looking for a place to begin, I'll definitely link up your contact information in the show notes. So that people can find you if they have a question, but I'm always happy to help. So any takeaways to kind of wrap it up today, just kind of on the general DEI conversation?

Lined 17:54
Yeah. So I would say you know, to piggyback with what you just said, you want to join these resource groups. You know, we have a couple here at work, you know, we have people with disabilities, you know, African American, you know, just like you know, a bunch of them where you could join and just learn more about it, but as I would say, number one, it's okay to be uncomfortable. Right? You should strive actually to be uncomfortable because it means you're taking the steps right as well. Emotions are

Unknown 18:28
a good thing we'll add emotions is part of the deal. If you can understand yourself and your emotions, that there's something your body's telling you something yeah, definitely there needs to be some change.

Lined 18:40
Yes And listen, right that I cannot begin to stress anymore. Please listen to what you're hearing, and not only firsthand, but even secondhand, right? There's something to what's being said out there. So make sure you listen and also act on it. Right. It just goes back to inclusion.

Amber 19:01
Yeah, that's great. Well, thanks so much. I really appreciate it. And we're gonna have a series of episodes with you to implement a little bit more of the DEI conversation. But I think this was a great way to kind of kick this off. So thanks so much for being here. And thanks to everybody that's listening. Have a great day.