Diversity a core focus at this large southeast Michigan company
Many LGBTQ+ workers seem to live double lives. Off the clock, they might feel comfortable to relax and express themselves freely, but once the workday begins, they seem to embody different people, completely separate from who they really are. For some LGBTQ+ workers, this can mean masking their gender or identity to sidestep the very real prospect of harassment, ostracization or stunting their career growth.
United Wholesale Mortgage (UWM) in Pontiac, wants to erase the line between work and “real life” identity. Here, diversity and inclusion are more than buzzwords or bullet points in a job posting. The company has poured resources into developing a vibrant, comprehensive diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) program that is deeply connected to each individual employee, across all business areas.
UWM is a workplace that not only promotes diversity, it values it as a core focus.
United Pride: Connecting and Affirming UWM LGBTQ+ Team Members and Allies
Adam Smock, Underwriting Trainer, leads UWM’s United Pride group, one of the company’s resource groups, (known elsewhere as employee resource groups or ERG’s). He says the group was initially founded to provide a safe, friendly way for employees to connect with other members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community at UWM.
While the United Pride group is still in its early stages, the group plans to make it a resource for news, information and resources specific to the LGBTQ+ community. “We are building a forum for unity, safety, partnership and personal, as well as professional, growth,” he says.
The group hosts periodic social events and other activities that bring people together to build relationships and enhance understanding of the LGBTQ+community at UWM. During Pride Month, United Pride will ramp up its efforts by putting together internal charity events, partnering with Affirmations, hosting a Pride Walk and providing opportunities for education across the company’s campus.
Rhyan Frost, Senior Underwriter, considers United Pride a “safe, inclusive space for individuals to come together in pride and love.” The group’s outreach efforts, she says, “celebrate the different cultural communities at UWM.”
United Pride plays an integral role in increasing representation among all team members. For example, Frost says a recent meeting focused on ways the community can increase the representation of trans team members. “It warms my heart that leadership from our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team were already working on getting with some team members from this community just to check in with them, to see if there is anything UWM could be doing better, or more of, in this regard,” she says.
UWM Resource Groups Provide Links to Larger Community, Deliver Valuable Business Insights and Promote Career Growth
UWM team members have several resource groups available to them on a daily basis, all of which serve as forums for education, celebrating diversity and act as bridges between team members from different backgrounds.
Aaron Sims, Diversity and Inclusion Coach says one of the main goals for these groups is to provide networks where people who are part of different communities can network and see representation of their community across different areas of the business. “We want all of our team members to be put in a position where they can excel and grow in the workplace,” he says. “We hope these groups not only serve as educational and acceptance tools, but also foster professional growth and leadership opportunities for folks at any stage in their careers.”
Sims mentioned they also want to provide spaces for team members who aren’t part of a specific community to join and learn more about the people around them. “Most people are open to learning about other communities,” he says. “Our resource groups are like open invitations to start these conversations and dialogues around the workplace, further fostering the goal of true inclusion at UWM.”
UWM resource groups also provide valuable business insights for the company. “There are things about our business, both internally and externally, that can be learned by getting feedback from these communities,” he explains. “Our company is truly dedicated to getting better every day, so having collective feedback and perspective from these communities allows us to learn more about supporting our team members better, as well as how we can better serve our clients.”
Sims says UWM’s involvement in the community sends a positive message that the company is an advocate for its people. “I truly believe the most impactful way to make a difference is by growing the people in the company by expanding their perspectives and challenging mindsets,” he says. “We’re a large company and our reach extends not just to UWM team members, but to the people they interact with on a day-to-day basis. The awareness and lessons you learn in our workplace will spill into your everyday life and impact others around you.”
Sims notes that the biggest connecting factor between millions of people in the U.S. is that most people spend a significant part of their lives at work. “It just makes sense that the workplace is the best, most impactful place to grow people,” he says.
“I am safe to stand strong.”
For Smock, “Be You Here” encompasses who he is, inside and outside of work. “It’s about my ability to be a proud gay man, father, colleague, friend and teacher all in one place, without the need to hide or make excuses,” he explains. “‘Be You Here’ gives me the feeling that I am safe to bring my full self to work.” At UWM, he says, people are encouraged to seek out coaching and education about acceptance and unity — a stark contrast to the way many companies approach issues in the workplace around diversity.
Frost considers UWM’s “Be You Here” motto something she feels on a deeply personal level. “As someone who has dealt with discrimination in the workplace, this effort is huge to me,” she says. “For me, it means I can come into work with my locs down, in my boots, button-up, and wooden bowtie, and talk to my coworkers about what my wife and I did over the weekend.”
Frost recalls one of the first moments when she realized she was working somewhere special — a true example of “Be You Here” in action. “There were about 3,000 of us at my first All Underwriting meeting, and at one point, a VP at UWM took the stage,” she says. “This was the first time in my life that I had the privilege to listen to someone in leadership — a VP at this new company I’d joined — get up in front of thousands of team members and tell a story about him and his husband.” Frost considers this experience the most empowering moment she has had as a gay woman.
Anthony Dunkley, Operations Specialist, says that to him, “Be You Here” means he can be himself, especially as a Jamaican transgender man. “We have a wide variety of opportunities to experience different cultures, from food in our UCafe to different events like our dance parties, where we often celebrate different heritages such as Diwali and Hispanic Heritage Month,” he says.
Diversity and Inclusion Are at the Heart of What Makes UWM Unique
Frost says that UWM’s culture is set apart from other workplaces in large part because the company actually follows through on its promise to protect diversity and inclusion. “Many places I’ve worked for in the past have claimed to have a ‘family mentality’ or ‘promote diversity,’ but shortly after becoming employed, the façade begins to fade,” she recalls. “You realize soon that you are right back in the same boat. At UWM, we burn the boats and help each other on a path to success, professionally and personally. Not every day is easy, but it’s the people around me that help support me and get me through it, and ultimately make UWM a great place to work.”
Dunkley says UWM is unique in the way it celebrates diversity in various ways, with a focus on celebrating people. “My team lead once told me that when you invest more into people, success will follow,” he says.
“Our differences make us unique and should be embraced,” Frost adds. “We want to know what holidays you celebrate, what food you make, why you sing the songs that you do, what your childhood was like... We want you to dress in the clothes you like, we want you to be called what you want to be called.”
“Our people are our greatest asset, and you can’t be the best ‘you’ if you aren’t given room to be yourself.”
Photo: United Wholesale Mortgage[/caption]This article is a sponsored editorial produced in collaboration with United Wholesale Mortgage. Between The Lines’s journalism is made possible with the support and partnership of advertisers like UWM. Learn more at www.uwm.com.