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More than ever, companies across the country have prioritized diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Riding the momentum of a nationwide recalibration sparked by critical events surrounding COVID-19, the economy, and a racial and gender reckoning, companies created positions and departments for professionals skilled in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and set goals and pledges for attaining them.
Liberty Mutual Insurance has kept its promises. The company established its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) department in 2013, well before COVID, which laid the groundwork for a new multiyear DEI action plan in 2020 to increase representation of women and people of color at all levels in the US by 2025. As of December 2022, the company reached their near-term goals for Black and Latino employees.
More recently, the company launched a self-ID program that enables employees to self-identity across different dimensions of diversity such as veterans, LGBTQ+, and those with disabilities. By capturing how employees identify at a more granular level, Liberty Mutual can better understand their employee population and build programs that provide greater opportunities and support.
On top of those efforts, Liberty Mutual has empowered its leaders to set an example for what it means to exist in a culture of belonging, where diversity is about everyone and where differences are celebrated. Hispanic Executive sat down with three of those leaders: Henry Veguilla, vice president of sustainability strategy planning and engagement; Uzma Saghir, senior corporate counsel; and Brenda Ruiz, vice president and director of global DEI development, consulting, and coaching.
Each came to the company from winding career paths that armed them with different abilities, expertise, and ideas about what it means to belong and how to foster that. But they’re united by their ability to bring their authentic selves to work and their roles in shaping a culture where all employees feel seen, heard, and valued.
Henry Veguilla Leads with Vulnerability
Before coming to Liberty in 2011, Henry Veguilla spent his decades-long career in the financial services and insurance industries in a wide range of roles, including as a management consultant and a director of operations. During that time, he felt like he had to keep important parts of his identity to himself in the workplace.
“I never really felt comfortable talking about my background. Being Puerto Rican and having parents that really struggled to raise us was something I didn’t want others to know about me. I was also never comfortable being out as a gay man,” he says. “I always wanted to let the work speak for itself, work hard, move up and do well.”
Liberty’s culture changed that. As leaders started to spearhead diversity initiatives and talk authentically about their identities, Veguilla was inspired to do the same. Once he did, he felt like he became more productive, more successful, and a more authentic leader. Today, he works to give his team members opportunities to own their roles and their identities, setting the tone by telling his story.
“Leading with vulnerability, with the teams I work with, creates a space for people to feel psychologically safe,” he says. “Having that sense of ‘it is OK to be yourself’ impacts peoples’ performance. They feel less stressed about being themselves and that energy can be put to better use.”
Uzma Saghir Builds Enthusiasm for Uncertainty
As senior corporate counsel, Uzma Saghir provides counsel on a broad range of commercial and regulatory matters, while serving as a chair of Liberty’s legal DEI committee and managing counsel for the company’s DEI office. A finance degree and years of experience in private equity law set her up to take on those responsibilities, but she says traveling to visit family in her formative years was just as impactful.
“I got a chance to live in different countries for summers at a time, which meant I was speaking other languages, interacting with people of all ages and backgrounds,” says Saghir, who got a chance to spend summers in Jordan, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, and more. “Candidly, I was exposed to some really challenging economic situations in other countries. We’d stay at family members’ houses, and some of them were damaged from civil unrest or poverty. It was a contrast from the resources available in the US.
“Spending time abroad taught me to take advantage of opportunities that could provide broader judgement, perspective, and enthusiasm for uncertainty,” she adds.
Those experiences also instilled in her a need to continuously improve and to be an ethical legal leader and strong ally—values that align with Liberty Mutual.
“Liberty Mutual is committed to helping people, which is why they’ve focused on DEI,” she says. “They see the inherent worth and dignity of every individual, and they give people the freedom to grow, change practice areas, raise your hand for your interests, and work across all dimensions of diversity.”
Brenda Ruiz Appreciates Difference
Even before Brenda Ruiz became a DEI professional, she always had an interest in learning from different cultures and exploring them.
“I was always fascinated by the foreigners visiting my hometown in Ecuador,” she says. “They showed up differently with a different way of dressing, with the food they ate, observed different holidays. So, I grew up sure that in my life I wanted to travel as much as possible and to work in a multinational company that would expose me to people different than me.”
Her dreams came true when she moved to the US over twenty-five years ago. While adapting to a new culture was a challenge, it also was a catalyst to Ruiz’s career. She went on to spearhead diversity initiatives, to provide support to leaders implementing diversity and inclusion strategies, and to serve as a resource to ERGs at companies like Dell and Boston Scientific. Today, she’s proud to continue that work and to do so for a company as committed to those efforts as she is.
“To me, it’s crucial that we recognize and appreciate differences and that’s what I love about Liberty,” she says. “We say diversity is about all of us—we want you here and want you to be your full self because what you bring will bring value to others with different perspectives. If you’re able to express those points of view, people will learn from them. Valuing differences can create space for everyone to feel that their unique stories, styles, and talents are important, and can inspire others to voice their perspectives to promote innovation in the workplace.”
Representation at Liberty Mutual
Since setting its sights on advancing DEI goals across its US workforce, Liberty Mutual exceeded many of its goals pertaining to representation among people of color and women.
Source: Liberty Mutual