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While our annual conference is going virtual this year, one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to bringing an incredible line-up of inspirational speakers to share their expertise and unique insights. Over the next few weeks we’ll be introducing you to these dynamic and engaging leaders by sharing some of their personal and career advice.

Today, we are honored to introduce Susan Neely, President & CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). Susan is our 2020 Luminary Award honoree and she has an impressive background which includes senior positions in the George W. Bush White House and the first U.S. Homeland Security Department, advising Members of Congress, and more recently at the helm of the American Beverage Association. She has also been recognized as the Trade Association CEO of the Year by CEO Update, one of Washingtonian’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington, Washington Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business, as well as the first woman president of the Washington Rotary Club and The University Club of Washington.

We are so excited to hear Susan’s insights and advice during her “fireside chat” with Manar Morales, and know that you’ll be inspired by Susan’s commitment to gender parity and diversity and inclusion.

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: What was the most meaningful piece of leadership advice you have received? Who has had the most influence on your career?

Susan Neely: My dad always preached the benefit of taking calculated risks. From my own career experience, I can now attest that Dad was right. Usually the bigger the risk I’ve taken, the greater the success. That being said, I have never found it easy to make a decision to take a risk, particularly if the risk involved impact on my family. I’m satisfied that I have made the right choices for me, but none of them have been easy.

I am also thankful for trusted advisers who understood me and were wise about career paths. Different advisers with varied expertise have helped me at different points in the journey.

Always be on the lookout for who can be part of your own kitchen cabinet. These individuals should be champions and provocateurs who have your best interests at heart and aren’t afraid to challenge your thinking.

DFA: What have you learned during COVID that has changed your perspective?

SN: My first video-enabled speech via computer was in mid-March. I was able to share perspective with over 3,000 people without getting on an airplane or staying in a hotel. We don’t want to lose the opportunity for personal interaction, but the time savings that technology provides is powerful. How much easier would my life as a working mother have been if we had technological tools like this?

DFA: How do you recharge? Where and when are you most content?

SN: One of my favorite mantras is work hard, play hard. I’m energized by my work, but I’m also equally energized by taking time to recharge. My family is so important to me, so any time I spend with them – especially if we are experiencing new things together – I feel recharged. During the pandemic, my two young adult children have been back home for this season. We’ve been purposeful about doing things we would normally not made time to do … like bake dozens of cookies and deliver them to front doors of friends in the neighborhood. We cleaned closets and boxed up fun packages of outgrown toys, jewelry and hair bows to send to young families we know. We also did a 15 hour road trip to Iowa to pick up my 92-year old mother and bring her back with us.

DFA: What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

SN: It’s taken me a long time to learn to be kinder to myself and cut myself some slack. In my zeal for making all aspects of life perfect, I too often would beat myself up about what wasn’t going as well and not savor the many things that were. Counting your blessings does not mean you don’t aspire to learn and grow. It just means valuing what you have.

DFA: How do you pay it forward?

SN: I believe the cycle of lifting others up is contagious. If you empower someone, they will empower someone else. I’ll share one story with you. I was well into my career and I held a role at the Department of Homeland Security. I was on a strategy call with a lot of top brass leaders, including Condoleezza Rice when she was National Security Advisor. I was the new member of the group, and when I offered a point of view, another leader who was an old timer in the group brushed me off. Secretary Rice jumped in, validated my point, and lifted up my voice. She didn’t have to do that. But that small action established my right to be in the group. It also inspired me to do the same for others. Now when I’m in the room, I always listen for the voices of others and look for ways I might be able to validate their right to be there. As leaders, it costs us nothing, but it can be a powerful way to ensure a diverse set of views and ideas are heard.

DFA: What can we be doing to create more inclusive organizations?

SN: When I became a senior executive and now a CEO for 16 years, I realized it was my responsibility to set the tone at the top. I believe we bring our whole selves to work. Achieving diversity is not enough. Belonging should be our goal, and people feel like they belong when they can be their whole selves at work. That’s when we are making progress. We can have a productive work environment that encourages and supports our employees in their personal priorities. A good leader must make this a priority.

DFA: How has flexibility impacted your life?

SN: Motherhood will always be the greatest privilege of my life and thus the role that is the most important to me. I have certainly made career decisions based on how it would affect my family and time with my children. At the same time I have done meaningful professional work and earned an impactful leadership platform that allows me to make a difference in the ways that are important to me. This has required calibration of my time more than sacrifice of opportunities. (Unless you count reduction in sleep as a sacrifice.)

Getting the work-life balance right has also required me to find employers that allow me the ability to calibrate. I never missed doing something that I thought was important for my children. Nor have I shirked professional responsibilities. Sometimes this means that I am answering emails early or late or catching a red eye flight from a meeting to get home in time. Flexibility allows people to include what matters most in their lives.

DFA: What book is on your nightstand?

SN: Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. I love beautiful writing and think we learn from stories like Gyasi’s about race in America. Gyasi is the award-winning author of Homegoing and was a student in the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

Don’t miss your opportunity to hear more from Susan Neely and all of our dynamic and inspirational speakers on November 5.

Award to be presented at the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance Virtual Conference on November 5

Washington, DC – October 21, 2020 – The Diversity and Flexibility Alliance will honor Susan K. Neely, President & CEO of the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), with its 2020 Luminary Award. This award recognizes a global thought leader who is consistently and uniquely devoted to the advancement of diversity and whose vision is leaving a lasting legacy of inclusivity for future leaders. The Alliance will present the award to Ms. Neely on Thursday, November 5, 2020, during its virtual annual conference Moments of Impact: Transforming Organizational Culture. Registration is available here.

Ms. Neely is being recognized for her significant contributions to the advancement of women and diverse professionals within her industry and beyond. Throughout her career, she has consistently demonstrated a deep commitment to volunteering her time and leadership skills to initiatives aimed at impacting gender parity as well as diversity and inclusion. She recently announced the launch of the ACLI Economic Empowerment and Racial Equity initiative aimed at helping all Americans access tools and resources to help them thrive and succeed. In addition, she currently serves on the Steering Committee of the US Chamber of Commerce’s Equality of Opportunity Initiative, which is developing solutions to bridge opportunity gaps to ensure that people of color have greater opportunities to succeed. As President & CEO of ACLI, Ms. Neely also helped lead the first-ever Women & Diversity in Insurance Conference last February, which focused on the economic empowerment of women, the advancement of women in leadership, family medical leave and diversity and inclusion within the industry.

In addition to her impressive career, which includes senior positions in the George W. Bush White House and the first U.S. Homeland Security Department, advising Members of Congress, and more recently at the helm of the American Beverage Association, Ms. Neely has been recognized as the Trade Association CEO of the Year by CEO Update, one of Washingtonian’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington, Washington Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business, as well as the first woman president of the Washington Rotary Club and The University Club of Washington.

“The Alliance is thrilled to present Susan with our Luminary Award,” said Manar Morales, President & CEO of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance. “Susan embodies everything this award represents. In the organizations she has led and the positions she has held, Susan has demonstrated a strong commitment to the economic empowerment of women and to creating a flexible and inclusive workplace that values everyone. Her forward thinking approach to diversity, inclusion and workplace flexibility is an inspiration, and we are honored to name Susan as our 2020 Luminary Award recipient.”

“I’m honored to receive this award from the Alliance and commend their work in support of inclusive work cultures and helping more women advance into leadership positions,” Neely said. “I’m also proud to work for an industry whose leaders are committed to addressing economic and racial inequities that have challenged our nation for far too long. Last week, we reaffirmed this commitment with the launch of our Economic Empowerment and Racial Equity initiative. The kick-off of this work is marked by ACLI’s Board of Directors being among the first association boards to have all its members sign the Pledge for CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion. Together, we will help all Americans build habits and knowledge that lead to financial security.”

The Diversity and Flexibility Alliance is a think tank that collaborates with organizations to develop non-stigmatized flexible work policies that promote inclusive work cultures and help to advance more women into leadership positions. The Alliance provides practical research-based solutions, training workshops, and strategic advisory services that increase organizational effectiveness through diversity and flexibility.

Contact: Manar Morales

manar@dfalliance.com

202-957-9650

AARP’s Jo Ann Jenkins to Receive Diversity Luminary Award

Washington, DC – October 1, 2019 – The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance will hold its Annual Conference, Inspire. Innovate. Ignite! on Thursday, November 7 in Washington, DC. This interactive, one-day event is widely known as one of the DC area’s largest gatherings of prominent leaders committed to improving diversity and inclusion, as well as workplace flexibility and leave policies. Registration is open to non-members and more information is available here.

“Our conference is designed to provide executives with everything they need to incorporate diversity and flexible working programs into their organizational culture,” said Manar Morales, President & CEO of the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance. “Attendees will be inspired by our impressive line-up of speakers and diversity visionaries, they’ll hear about the latest trends in flexible working and leave policies, and they’ll connect with a community of senior leaders passionate about diversity and inclusion efforts,” she added. “By attending our one-day conference, attendees will be equipped to transform their workplaces and meet the needs of the 2020 workforce.”

Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP will receive the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance’s inaugural Luminary Award which honors a global thought leader who is consistently and uniquely devoted to the advancement of diversity and who’s vision is leaving a lasting legacy of inclusivity for future leaders. Ms. Jenkins will also present this year’s keynote and will share her unique perspective on the value that diversity brings to the culture and success of her organization and the workplace in general.

 

“I’m honored to receive this award because it reflects my belief that great leaders will emerge from creating workplaces where diverse voices thrive and are provided the opportunity to be taken seriously from the outset,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO or AARP. “It is incumbent on all leaders in the organization to carve out those spaces and to build a pipeline that draws on talent representative of the world we live in. That’s why at AARP, we see diversity and inclusion as a business imperative. It’s not just a part of our business strategy, it is our business strategy,” she added.

This year’s newest agenda item, Meet the Influencers, highlights compelling 20-minute presentations featuring three exceptional visionaries – Texas Judge, the Honorable Tonya Parker, Lily Zheng, Co-Author of Gender Ambiguity in the Workplace, and Dia Simms, President, Combs Enterprises — who will share their unique perspectives on improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Leaders, General Counsel, Diversity Directors and Chairs from corporations like Mercedes-Benz, PwC, Deloitte, The Boston Consulting Group, and Capital One, along with countless prominent law firms, will share personal experiences and valuable insights into the evolution of their organizations’ diversity and flexible working initiatives. The Alliance will share the latest research and trends in diversity & inclusion and work flexibility as well as innovative leave policies.

The Alliance will also present the following awards to individuals, leaders, and organizations that are leading the way in successfully implementing flexible work:

  • The 2019 Flex Impact Award, which recognizes initiatives that are poised to have a significant impact on the culture of flexibility, will be presented to: global consulting financial services firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) and international law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. (See detailed press release here.)
  • The 2019 Flex Leader Award will be presented to Jennifer M. Flynn, Managing Vice President, Head of the Small Business Bank (SBB) Division at Capital One for her leadership role in helping to create an organizational culture that focuses on inclusivity, encouraging authenticity, investing in future leaders, embracing differences and promoting flexible working options. (See detailed press release here.)
  • The 2019 Flex Success Award, acknowledges law firm partners who achieve success while working a reduced hours schedule and their clients who have been integral to making their flexibility a success. This year’s honorees are Danielle Katzir, Partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, and her client Darren Drake of Stockbridge Real Estate Funds; and Stacy Bunck, Kansas City Office Managing Shareholder at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, and her client, the late Rafael Medina of McDonald’s Corporation. (See detailed press release here.)

The Diversity & Flexibility Alliance is a think tank that collaborates with organizations to develop non-stigmatized flexible work policies that promote inclusive work cultures and help to advance more women into leadership positions. The Alliance provides practical research-based solutions, training workshops, and strategic advisory services that increase organizational effectiveness through diversity and flexibility.

Contact Manar Morales at 202-957-9650 or manar@dfalliance.com for more information.