Marcela Aldaz-Matos was invested in corporate diversity and inclusion (D&I) long before it was in her job description. The fact of the matter is, her background has been a differentiating source of strength throughout her career.
Today Aldaz-Matos is the assistant vice president for diversity and inclusion at MassMutual, setting the strategic direction for the company’s employee resource groups (ERG) and developing strategies to help them bring value to MassMutual. In September 2015, she was also appointed to oversee MassMutual’s diversity education strategy and is responsible for developing tools and resources for the vice president and other leadership, as well as for managers and employees to elevate cultural competency and inclusive leadership skills throughout the organization.
Originally from Colombia, Aldaz-Matos began her career in financial services with Banco Santander. It was there she first got to experience working with people from not just different business units, but also countries and cultures. That exposure combined with growing up in a diverse, global community clued her in to the importance of the subject she specializes in today.
“Early in my career, I began to understand the importance of diversity and inclusion,” Aldaz-Matos says, “as well as the ability to navigate through the cultural differences between communities, business units, and countries.”
From there, Aldaz-Matos moved to the United States and quickly became involved with organizations like the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA), the largest Latino professional association in the country. She became vice president of the organization’s Boston chapter, helping its membership grow from 800 to 1,500. She also chaired the National Women of ALPFA strategy development committee and currently sits on ALPFA’s national board.
Aldaz-Matos admits it was working with ALPFA that got her thinking strategically about how to get companies to recognize the importance of D&I. She honed her strategy through various steps in her career with top national and international global health insurance companies, where she directly oversaw the cultural area of client services.
“Understanding the importance of the core elements of D&I helped me understand that it isn’t as much understanding it, but providing the necessary leadership to execute strategies to impact the success of a company,” she says. “I was able to execute a program not just because of my background, but because of my knowledge of diversity and inclusion and my ability to develop different programs.”
By the time Aldaz-Matos joined MassMutual in 2013, she already had leadership aspirations on her mind. During her interview, she was asked about her long-term goals, and she answered honestly: to be CEO. That still remains Aldaz-Matos’ long-term goal, and her plan to achieve it is through developing intercultural competence, successfully influencing change, and knowing how to leverage D&I to help the business grow and prosper.
“I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far at MassMutual,” Aldaz-Matos said. “It has something very unique; diversity and inclusion is taken very seriously by the leadership. The reason I was hired was to help with the transformation of the employee groups to what we call Business Employee Resource Groups (BERGs). We want our ERGs to bring their activity to a level that has more of an impact on the business of the organization.”
In order for execute the transformation from ERGs to more business-oriented groups within MassMutual, Aldaz-Matos and her colleagues on the diversity and inclusion team put group members through real-life, business challenges. Appointed ERG leaders have to run their group as if it were an actual business unit. This includes creating and presenting a business plan to their executive sponsors and overseeing budgets, dashboards, and tactical plans.
“We are using our ERGs to create a pipeline of future leaders for the company by running the groups like business units. ERG members are mirroring what an executive is expected to be doing when running an actual corporate business unit,” she says enthusiastically. For Mass Mutual, ERGs are central to the business growth strategy, and for Aldaz-Matos, a key part of the path to leadership .