Don’t fit the mold – change it

  • 14 Sep 2022
Alisha Lyndon

Alisha Lyndon

FM Global’s Head of Marketing, Angie Henderson Moncada shares the moment that shaped her attitude towards bias and authenticity.

“I imagined myself going into a career in ministry.” Angie Henderson Moncada grew up in a conservative community in Georgia, US, and was an active member of the Southern Baptist Convention. “I took trips, I had leadership roles in my church. When I graduated from high school, I was ready to pursue that career,” she told the Breaking the Bias podcast. However, Angie’s dreams were crushed when her pastor revealed that women were not permitted in the Southern Baptist Convention pastorate. Around the same time, Angie’s close friend and churchmate came out as gay. “Suddenly, neither of us were welcome to pursue something that we believed in and that was important.”

The experience opened Angie’s eyes to injustice and unfairness. It was formative. “Having doors close on me because of bias has made me extremely intentional about finding ways to provide opportunities for others.”

Stay curious

Now Head of Marketing at FM Global, a commercial property insurer, Angie has worked in numerous financial services organizations over the last 20 years. Regardless of the company, whether an independent insurance agency in Georgia or Citibank on Wall Street, Angie has stayed true to her values: “Curiosity, humanity, and possibility.”

In many ways, these values are the antithesis of bias. “Bias is a survival mechanism that enables us to quickly make decisions and avoid risk or be able to walk into an unfamiliar environment and know roughly how to operate. It gets in the way of creativity. It gets in the way of folks that you’re working with bringing their best to the table.” By staying curious, human, and open to possibility, you can begin to beat that bias.

Early in her career, Angie applied for a corporate leadership program, which involved pitching yourself to a room of executives. “I made a conscious decision to show up as myself, which is not the blue suit-wearing insurance executive you might think.” Instead, Angie wore her usual extroverted, maximalist wardrobe: a polka dot jumpsuit and a bright green jacket. “It was funny, half the room was like, ‘wow, this is the future’, and the other half was like, ‘wow, that’s really irritating.’”

Angie was accepted on the leadership program, but only just. According to HR, some of the executives were not ready for what Angie brought to the table. “It was an interesting moment. If I show up as somebody I’m trying to be instead of somebody I am, and they decide that’s the direction of the leadership they want in the company, maybe it’s not the place for me.”

Know your worth

Like most of us, Angie is no stranger to imposter syndrome. When working for Citi as SVP, Global Head of Brand Activation and running million-dollar campaigns, “I’d sometimes have moments where I’d think, what right do I have to guide something like this?” Often, Angie turned to her network – women she knew and trusted – to offer candid advice. They help her reframe the situation and her doubts. “People in boardrooms and the C-suite, they’re making decisions based on the information they have. And it’s often incomplete.” “It’s your job to bring a perspective that’s missing,” says Angie. “You’re there because they saw something in you, so own it. That is only possible when you show up as your whole self and not as a person that you’re trying to be to fit into an environment that wasn’t created for you.”

Team effort

Angie joined FM Global as Head of Marketing during the height of the pandemic, a unique onboarding experience she describes as “crazy”. Her first task was creating new leadership roles to support a new marketing strategy. “That can be pretty disruptive. Bringing other people from outside the company and meshing them with leaders that have been at the company for years.” It’s paramount that you foster trust and an environment where people feel comfortable being themselves.

The new leadership team went on an offsite retreat. Very little of the focus was on marketing strategy or business strategy; it was all about getting to know each other as humans, says Angie. They even dressed up as superheroes – an exercise that had deeper meaning than just playful teambuilding. “I believe that our superpowers are also our kryptonite, and we need to be aware of that and support each other.” Knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses helps you communicate and collaborate better. It also helps break down bias by instilling empathy into professional relationships.

Changing tides

Historically, the financial services sector has been white-male-dominated. Even in 2021, women held just 21 percent of board seats, and 5 percent of CEO positions globally. “Historically, [the industry] has tried to fit people into a mold, or find people who already fit that mold. I think that is definitely changing.” But work must be done organically, not just forced through official mandates or quotas. Leaders must model the future. For Angie, that means showing up as herself – tattoos and all. “It’s not something you see often in the executive suite. A colleague of mine recently told me that I gave her the confidence to not hide these pieces of who she is underneath clothing that she wouldn’t wear outside of work. Knowing that you’re inspiring people to do that is amazing and means a lot to me.”

Listen to the full conversation and more Breaking the Bias episodes here.

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Alisha Lyndon

Alisha Lyndon

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