In reflection and honor of Black History Month we sat down with PLUS board member and Chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Allyship Committee, La’Vonda McLean, to ask her about her thoughts, experience, and perspective on Black History Month, leadership, and DE&I in the professional liability industry.
Listen to La’Vonda introduce herself and the PLUS DEI&A Committee, and read her insightful answers below!
Q: What does Black History Month mean to you, especially as you take on your leadership role in the DE&I Committee at PLUS?
A: Black History is a time to celebrate our culture, celebrate achievements in the black community, continue to bring awareness and a time to pause and reflect on what we have achieved or not achieved as it pertains to the black community. Acknowledging this important month is another way that PLUS is moving in the right direction of embodying DE&I within the organization.
Q: What are your hopes for PLUS in advancing DE&I in the professional liability industry?
A: At PLUS we have an opportunity to create a safe space where everyone feels included and to be a model of how we want the professional liability industry to be perceived. I want our diverse members to feel as if PLUS is an organization for us as well. I want our diverse members to be acknowledged and highlighted for their accomplishments and for PLUS to a vehicle for us to be known and seen as experts within the industry. That means, making every effort to extend opportunities to me and our other diverse members, such as being part of the content committees, creating content, and speaking on panels. In order to embody the importance of DE&I, we recognize that me must live it as well and do something about it in the ways that we can.
Q: What advice do you have for other women of color as they aspire to leadership?
A: As a black woman, I have grown up being taught and knowing that 100% is not good enough, being great is not good enough. I have to be at 200%+ and exceptional just to be on the same playing field as the majority. I was told that certain predominately ethnic hairstyles are considered unprofessional, that I do not want to come off as “aggressive” if I assert myself, take on more work than my majority colleagues in order to prove I deserved a promotion I was more than qualified to receive. These lessons did not just come from my parents but also mentors and sponsors within the industry. Honestly, I have embodied this “advice,” but after the murder of George Floyd and the racial unrest we witnessed and I lived through, I knew that I could no longer subject myself to these principles and I had to just be me. So, I came to work and said, I am not okay, I want to talk about what is happening in the black community. I wear braids and I feel comfortable in my skin. Thus, my advice, do not hide who we are because who we are is what makes us great and exceptional and also what drives us to succeed.