A few years ago, Shawn L., USAA employee, senior vice president and chief actuary for the USAA Life Insurance Company, felt compelled to explore diversity, equity and inclusion on a deeper level. This self-reflection turned into an urgency to act, and eventually led him to become an ally.
“I was raised in a military family, and we were always taught to never treat anyone differently on the basis of anything,” explains Shawn. “However, a few years ago, I started coming to the realization of a couple things – even though I was raised this way, I realized I still have biases and I wanted to work on them.”
Shawn says he started reading books like Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink,” which examines unconscious reflexes and split-second decisions.
“The other realization I had, and the more important one, is that it is not adequate for me, especially as a straight, white male in this society, to not actively fight racism and discrimination,” explains Shawn. “I need to get off the sidelines and actively participate in being part of the solution.”
There are a multitude of outlets for people to utilize to learn about these topics, he says, including webinars, books, social media and diversity, equity and inclusion business groups (DBGs) at USAA. Eventually, Shawn went on to lead diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) for USAA Life.
“Find your passion; that really allowed me to dive in and be an ally,” explains Shawn. “Listening and learning is doing something. We are trying to impact hearts and minds.”
One of the first steps to being an ally, he says, is realizing how racism and discrimination affect society.
“Be aware that there is a problem in the wider world,” says Shawn. “Acknowledge that the problem and then do something about it. Get up and engage in whatever way you can – everyone can help in their own way.”
In addition to learning, listening and educating yourself about the impact of racism and discrimination in our society, he says there are simple things you can do to be an ally.
“If someone is trying to get a word in or being talked over and ignored, make it a point to pull them into the conversation,” says Shawn. “We each have to ensure all 36,000 USAA employees are able to give their most and reach their full potential. From a member standpoint, if all of us are not giving our best, the members won’t be served as well as they could be.”
Shawn says focusing on DE&I solidified USAA’s commitment . “I do feel like something is changing in our society and in our company – I see that, I’m hopeful that this is not temporary,” says Shawn.