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American Family’s Collier Effects Professional Change for Employees with Disabilities
Kate Collier, a technical project manager for American Family and the co-lead of the insurance company’s Abilities business resource group (ABRG), came to her leadership position via both personal interest and a prior professional focus, as she has an autistic son. She was also a teacher of students with special needs for 12 years.
So she collaborated with a colleague who, she explains, is hearing impaired, and approached American Family’s leadership about starting such a group. “American Family was enthusiastic because they were already working on the concept,” Collier relates.
Collier and her co-lead launched the ABRG in Summer 2018. According to Collier, American Family believed the time was right in Wisconsin, where it’s headquartered. In fact, just recently, it became a charter member of Disability:IN Wisconsin, the state chapter of a national non-profit network that works to advance, improve and expand employment outcomes for people with disabilities in Wisconsin.
“I’m really excited about our direction around disability in Wisconsin. There’s a lot of openness to it, and we’re on the cusp in Wisconsin of employing more individuals with disabilities,” she enthuses.
That enthusiasm for equality and empowerment is strong at American Family, too. “People want to upgrade their understanding through more awareness. They want to do the right thing.”
The ABRG is meeting that desire to know more, according to Collier. “We’re really working hard on building awareness through events….for National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). For example, there’s an event where people can learn about disabilities and people with disabilities can represent those. We’ve already had knowledge sessions, and we’re scheduling a speaker with a visual and hearing impairment.”
And American Family is looking to create a hiring pipeline for people with disabilities. “We’re working on a charter for bringing in interns, mostly on the autism spectrum, from a university. We’re doing a pilot, and want to expand it and formalize it,” she reveals.
However, it’s about more than simply welcoming interns with disabilities into American Family. “We’re building up practices to best support the interns and increase the likelihood of success, such as social mentoring,” notes Collier, who is part of that support.
“I mentored one intern, and he was hired as an employee. He had so many people contact him, saying, ‘I have a child on the spectrum.’”
That colleague’s sharing triggered more adaptations at American Family. “He shared how some things are much harder, such as the interview process. So we’re looking to make our hiring practices more inclusive,” she points out.
Being part of ever-expanding inclusion is a privilege for Collier. “I’m honored to be part of a group that’s helping drive American Family Insurance’s mission to be inclusive for all employees.”
And Collier’s work keeps in her step with American Family’s culture. “I love my company’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity, and that it includes employees like me to help create a culture of inclusion.”
American Family partners with universities, non-profits and various organizations around disability. Collier finds that connecting triggers transformation.
“This year we had an individual publicly share their story on an internal social media platform about having a disability and their career at American Family. This story opened up avenues for others to feel empowered to not only share their stories, but to also have conversations about differing abilities,” she shares.
Learn more about Madison, WI-headquartered American Family via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram. Explore open positions at amfam.com/about/careers.
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