This Women’s History Month, we are profiling a series of National Life leaders to hear their experiences navigating both life and the financial industry as a woman. Check back for more posts throughout the month of March and beyond.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Living life through her professional motto of being a “Mentor and Mother to many,” Darlene Flagg is a mother of two — and soon to be grandmother of twins. An Associate Vice President of Retirement Services, Darlene hails from the same New Jersey hometown as Bruce Springsteen. She is a role model to many, serving on the Boards of Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS) and National Tax-deferred Savings Association (NTSA).
Q: What’s your career pathway been like? How did you get to where you are now?
A: I originally wanted to go to school to be a teacher, so I enrolled in Seton Hall University as a Math major. My sophomore year, I shifted my major to television and radio broadcasting. Sue Jenkins was a large personality at the time, and everyone wanted to model themselves after her. I ended up graduating from Seton Hall with a Radio and TV broadcasting degree. Years later, I found myself in the aerospace industry. Then finally, for the last twenty plus years of my career, I have been working in Retirement Marketing within the financial services industry. I still have a passion for teaching, so I satisfy that by teaching as an adjunct professor and leading Christian education classes at my church.
Q: What do you like most about what you do at National Life?
A: I love the people at National Life. The people here are my purpose especially those on the Dallas campus where I am based. I love having the opportunity to pour my energy into those who seek me out for partnership and collaboration. The people at National Life make this an experience, not a job.
Q: Has the industry landscape changed during your career? What have you seen?
A: It has absolutely changed. We have seen a traditionally male-dominated industry shift to that of a more diversified community. Today, we see women CEOs, executives and associations like Women in Insurance and Financial Services (WIFS) who help to attract, advance, and develop women in the industry on the rise. While we still have a long way to go, people like Abigail Johnson of Fidelity Investments, Joyce Chang of JP Morgan or Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments continue to pave the way for up and coming women leaders in financial services.
Q: In honor of women’s history month, is there a particular woman who has inspired you in life?
A: I have been most inspired by my mother, a young black woman who dropped out after middle school, raised six children, put those children through college, and now at 76 is pursuing her bachelor’s degree to be a registered nurse. Her passion to fulfill her education is her “dream delayed not denied.” My mother has always encouraged me to shoot for my dreams, and she is my ultimate role model.
Q: What advice would you give to young women who are just beginning their careers?
A: Know what you want, stay true to your passion and goals. Find a mentor, a coach, and a multiplier. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and who support your dreams enough to be authentically honest in your pursuit of them. Never give up on your dreams.
Q: What leadership quality do you most admire and aspire to?
A: Authenticity. Being able to be your authentic self really helps to effectively lead people. People want to know that they can show up and be their authentic self in your presence and know that they are going to receive that in return.
Q: Do you have a cause or a favorite “Do good” passion?
A: I love children and sports, so any cause that supports and benefits either of those, count me in. One of my favorite combinations of this passion is refereeing both my children’s high school basketball games and more recently refereeing at Special Olympics events.
Q: What attracted you to National Life and what would you tell someone who is considering an opportunity with us?
A: It was National Life’s culture that attracted me. It’s a place where “doing good and being good” matter.
Q: Any other words of wisdom you’d like to share?
A: Girl Power, we are unstoppable.