Without a doubt, women have been the heroes of this pandemic world.
When school classrooms went remote, many mothers became teachers, guidance counselors, and IT Support all at once for their children. When assisted living centers locked down to visitors and in-home health care workers limited their visits, many daughters became full-time caregivers to their elderly parents. And when the struggles of juggling children, aging parents, and a demanding career became too much, women were largely the ones who sacrificed their place in the workforce when something had to give.
To spotlight women that find balance in a chaotic world, we sat down with four women at Brighthouse Financial to share their experiences. Brighthouse Financial presents these BRIGHT LEADERS, women who embody a multifaceted approach to success. These team leaders bring intelligence — both intellectual and emotional, understanding of the market, and servant leadership to their careers.
Creating More Flexible Flexible-Scheduling
Chief Brand Officer Yogini Biswas understands not all flexible schedules are created equal as she actively manages a multi-generational household of elders and children.
“For the many working parents with children doing remote schooling, juggling responsibilities has been grueling,” Biswas says.
While working remotely has afforded some flexibility to take care of pressing matters at home during the pandemic, Biswas recognizes that doesn’t always go far enough for the demands she and her team are facing. She has these three tips for managing the challenges of working remotely:
1. Focused Activity
“We encourage employees to focus on actions that make the biggest impact. With so many distractions, starting one’s day with focus is key to ending the year with meaningful accomplishments.”
2. Flexible Schedules
“Beyond the traditional flexible schedules, we’ve implemented ‘flexibility within schedules,’ where employees block time during the day to manage personal and family needs for lunch, homework, or self-care. We share our schedules so that team members can be considerate of each other. For example, my team knows when I need to step away to take care of my toddler!”
3. Empathetic Leadership
“I believe that being empathetic is the most important contribution that leaders can make right now. Proactively seeking to understand others and to share enough to be understood is the most human of qualities. And right now, that’s more important than ever before.”
Leading With Authenticity
Authenticity is more than a buzzword at Brighthouse Financial; it’s part of the culture at the Charlotte-based annuity and life insurance solutions company. Audit Practices Leader Krystal Magazine led audit teams at large insurance and accounting firms before joining Brighthouse Financial, but discovered one of the most important traits of success is the vulnerability of authenticity.
“We can be vulnerable when talking about stress and the need for self-care,” Magazine says. She asks her team to prioritize self-care and in turn, when Magazine is returning emails late at night, they hold their boss accountable to listen to her own advice, too. Magazine opens up about the importance of authenticity.
What is your strongest skill in management that has made you successful?
“I’ve worked really hard on being open and transparent because I want my team to come to me as they are. I’ve noticed that I learn so much more about people when I meet them where they are and prioritize transparency in all of my conversations.”
How have you overcome obstacles in your life and work?
“Something I’m still working on is using my voice and advocating for myself. How this manifests at work is I might internalize something when I should speak up. It’s very easy for me to advocate for my team or when someone I care about is wronged, but when it comes to my own needs, it can be hard to speak on my own behalf. But I’m always learning and continuing my work on building that skill.”
Doing It Right First and Foremost
Chief Accounting Officer Lynn Dumais is a seasoned insurance industry veteran, with more than 20 years in the industry, including four at Brighthouse Financial. She came from a different era of management styles, where sameness and ridged adherence to policies and practices was the norm.
“In the early 1990s, the accounting company I worked for required women to wear a matching jacket and skirt set to the office,” Dumais says. “One day, I decided to wear a matching pantsuit instead. I was called into human resources and told to leave because ‘women need to wear skirts.’ Fortunately, I didn’t lose my job and my boss and coworkers also saw the absurdity in the policy. A few years later the dress code was amended to be more inclusive.”
Dumais shares how she’s balanced getting ahead with being an authentic leader.
How have you overcome obstacles in your life and work?
“With hard work! My first paying job was in a grocery store. I wanted to be the most accurate, fastest, and friendliest, and I tackled them in that order. You must do things right first. When I graduated from college and started my career in accounting, I went back to that principle of doing things right first. Doing it right helps you keep your job, but how you do it helps you get ahead.”
What do you mean by how you do it?
“It’s important to stand up for what’s right. As a leader, you want to create an environment where your team is willing to open up, even if that means sharing unpopular truths. And that comes from building trust.”
Trustworthy companies attract top talent because their leadership teams are willing to share those unpopular truths. Rather than doing things “because we’ve always done it that way,” top-tier companies like Brighthouse Financial adapt and grow with the times, and the times dictate the importance of inclusion. Vanessa Tafoya-Smith, Head of the Transformation Management Office and Technology Security Delivery, entered the workforce through an innovative diversity and inclusion program called INROADS.
Why are diversity and inclusion important to you?
“INROADS, which focused on investing time and training in my skills, helped me successfully navigate both college and the workforce as a diverse person. I know if I didn’t have the privilege of the program’s support, my hard work alone would not have given me these same opportunities.”
Do corporate diversity programs go far enough to promote actual diversity in a company?
“It takes more than just having the desire to create opportunities; it takes time, thoughtful planning, and investment. Because I know firsthand the benefits that come from creating programs and forums for diverse groups, I am committed to championing and supporting these initiatives at Brighthouse Financial.”
With compassion, authenticity, and a focus on inclusion, Brighthouse Financial has emerged as a champion of doing things right in difficult times. “Brighthouse Financial is dedicated to fostering an inclusive culture where diverse backgrounds are celebrated and all of our employees feel welcomed, heard, and respected,” Biswas, the chief brand officer, says. “We are focused on increasing representation of underrepresented groups across our company, and our journey continues.”