Know your worth, because you belong here

Lilian Vanvieldt, insurance executive, wants to defeat women's imposter syndrome

Know your worth, because you belong here

Insurance News

By Desmond Devoy

Lilian Vanvieldt (pictured) starts, and ends, many of her conversations with the same question – do you know your worth?

“If anyone ever talks to me, it’s actually something I say quite a bit,” said Vanvieldt, of when she speaks to other women. “It’s kind of my thing.”

Vanvieldt, the executive vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer with Alliant Insurance Services, has found that “women suffer from imposter syndrome, where they think they don’t belong. It’s pretty profound.”

Vanvieldt herself had taken a test the day before and found that she herself may well have this syndrome.

The feeling the syndrome creates is that women feel, or are made to feel, that “they shouldn’t be in the room. They don’t deserve it. They shouldn’t speak up. Maybe what they’re saying isn’t right. And they don’t understand the value they bring in to a conversation. They don’t understand the value they bring to the organization,” explained Vanvieldt.

Vanvieldt will be speaking on knowing one’s worth at the upcoming Women in Insurance Conference on October 5 in Los Angeles at the Sheraton Grand Hotel.

And knowing one’s worth is vital in any line of business.

“If you don’t know your worth, then you won’t be in a position to be able to effectively get paid for it, compensated for it,” she said. “You won’t have as much fulfillment in your work, in your job.”

Knowing your worth goes beyond your competencies, though taking that inventory is a separate, though important, conversation.

Sizing yourself up, for all you’re worth

“When you talk about your worth, it’s a character thing,” she said. “It has a lot to do with what you are, what you are bringing to the conversation, and also how you value yourself, as it is more of an internal conversation.”

She points to some of the world’s most successful people, some of whom never completed post-secondary education. For them, “it’s more about how they view life and how they view challenges,” she said, than any business school diploma.

But the big question of self-worth comes down to what you see when you look in the mirror, she said.

As a woman of color, she has had numerous experiences of people making assumptions about her, through unconscious bias, like the time she was assumed to be a co-presenter’s assistant.

“It’s a thing,” she said. “But if you are someone who understands, you can help people understand.”

She will walk into a board room as an executive vice president and do a quick scan and, often, be the only woman around the table.

“You have to make a decision,” she said. “We walk into that room saying that ‘I belong here. This is where I am supposed to be. I am bringing something to the conversation. And what I say is going to be beneficial’.”

She will now be part of the wider conversation at the “Women in Insurance” conference in October in Los Angeles, an event she is very much looking forward to attending.

“I’m super excited because it’s a topic that I’m passionate about,” she said. “To have an opportunity to speak to women, especially women in my industry, is huge.”

She hopes her words will inspire and move women to move up within their organizations and make positive changes.

“You have a purpose, right? For us to have a purpose in life is a thing, and it’s something for us to live for,” she said. “And this is an opportunity for me to fulfill that.”

The personal drive behind Vanvieldt’s message

Her skill set does go beyond the podium or the board room as well and was marked by a significant medical event in her life. Vanvieldt is a breast cancer survivor, and the end of September marked six years since she started chemotherapy.

While she often speaks on insurance-related issues, and on issues of diversity and inclusion, she is also a motivational speaker about her cancer journey. She has also been featured on CBS News and is on the board of directors for Susan G. Komen San Diego, a non-profit which provides free services for every step of the breast cancer process.

“I’ve managed to overcome some things and I’ve done well. I’m blessed,” she said.

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