Executive Vice President Sheila Davidson explains how and why members of the LGBTQ+ community feel at home at New York Life.

Pride Month at New York Life lasts for 365 days. The NYLPride Employee Resource Group, which began in 2006, is an active group with over 500 members and leaders in 10 office locations across the country, and their work never stops. NYLPride produces events, activities, and content that educates, informs, and entertains New York Life employees. The executive sponsor of NYLPride is EVP Sheila Davidson. We recently caught up with Sheila to ask her about being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community and the inclusive culture at New York Life.

What has being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community meant to you on a personal level?

My personal story is that I have lived in New York City my entire life and have so many  friends and acquaintances in the community. It’s so much a part of the fabric of my life, in such a normal, healthy way. I’ve been in communities where the fact that someone is gay disappears, and it’s awesome when it does, and I want that for everybody. So, when I see that it’s not happening, it really irritates me because I don’t understand the reasoning for it. I suppose it’s mostly ignorance. That’s where my sense of allyship comes in. I want to get people comfortable with other people.

Any tips for how to do that?

Get people together. People are really not that different. They have these labels, and you kind of de-label them. You’re not talking to a gay person, you’re just talking to a person. Whether you’re joking around or having discussions about substantive things, the label fades away. NYLPride has done a really good job of that by making their own diverse voices heard for the community, and New York Life is very accepting of that. NYLPride events are very well attended. That’s a great part of the culture of New York Life.

You’ve been at New York Life for 31 years. How have you brought your allyship to your professional career?

For most of my career I was in the Office of the General Counsel (OGC), and I made it a focus to recruit across all underrepresented areas and put together a very diverse team. The second thing that I did was create what we call the Knowledge Transfer and Development Process in OGC, which I am also introducing in other departments. We make sure that everybody learns and teaches something every year. In addition to professional development, the program also fosters a sense of community and breaks down barriers. You’re not talking to the “gay lawyer,” you’re talking to the lawyer with a particular expertise.

What excited you most about becoming the executive sponsor for NYLPride?

I really respect the NYLPride group and all its members and everything they’ve done. But what motivates me is using what I know about how the company works and bringing that to this group to help break down barriers. NYLPride is a forum for the LGBTQ+ community to express their concerns—not just about working here but about whatever issues touch the company or the business or are so basic to the company’s values that they need to be addressed. I can help get senior management to listen to them, and after 31 years at New York Life, I have confidence that if you get issues in front of senior management, the right things will happen.

What else does the role of executive sponsor involve?

Showing up for events, building relationships with the NYLPride co-heads, helping to navigate any issues, from getting space for an event to getting the company to file an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case that might affect the community, which we did in 2019. The role also involves getting to know a lot of members of the group, and the more you get to know people, the more you can be on the lookout for opportunities for them to advance their careers.  

What makes New York Life a great place to work for someone who identifies with a diversity group?

As we so often say, New York Life is a “we” place, not a “me” place. This is not a place with sharp elbows. It’s a very welcoming place. We work in teams and accept everyone’s participation. We are very collegial. We feel really strongly and passionately about having an inclusive atmosphere and doing everything we can to facilitate that. We don’t want people to feel different. We believe that everyone should feel comfortable and should be able to bring their authentic self to work.


Go back to our newsroom to read more stories.

Sheila Davidson

Media contact
Kevin Maher
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-6955
Kevin_B_Maher@newyorklife.com

Related content