Your heart can’t be in the right place if you never move your feet.
That’s the message that Amy Waninger prepared for attendees at the National Association of Health Underwriters virtual convention in her presentation, “Network Beyond Bias.”
Waninger, CEO of Lead At Any Level, presented two sessions during Monday’s NAHU Convention “Knowledge Channels.”
On networking, Waninger said that even though we say we believe in diversity and inclusion, we tend to network with people who are from the same ethnic or cultural group as we are.
“We all want to believe that our hearts are in the right place,” she said. “And as we go about our workday, we make decisions that we don't realize we're making. We connect with people, we talk to people, we hire people, we recommend people. But if we don’t pay attention, we end up only helping people who look like us.”
If your professional network is not as diverse as the workforce and community around you, you could miss important opportunities for your career and your company, Waninger said.
“When you show up at an event – back when we used to be able to go to real events -- you tend to talk to the people you know. You walk up to the people that you think you might have the most in common with. So even if we're not doing it consciously, we are making decisions that limit our ability to connect with people who are different from us.”
The first step in changing that way of thinking, Waninger said, is to notice that we’re doing it and notice when we’re doing it. Waninger walked attendees through the steps of assessing their personal and professional networks. “Once you see it on paper, it’s a little easier to see where you need to be more intentional,” she said.
Waninger also planned to focus on how women can reach out to women of different cultures and help them succeed in their careers in the presentation “Women As Cross-Cultural Allies.”
Many organizations have emphasized gender parity as their primary diversity and inclusion strategy, Waninger said. But white women have been the main beneficiaries of that strategy, she contended.
“Women often see themselves as more inclusive leaders because we are usually out there promoting causes for women,” she said. “The problem is that a lot of white women get into positions of power and don't advocate for their black and brown female colleagues.”
“We tend to stay where we're comfortable. We tend to be around people who will affirm us. And if we spend too much time in that space, it makes it really difficult to connect authentically, even with other women.”
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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