Freddie Mac

Celebrate Pride all year long

3 strategies to promote belonging from Freddie Mac’s Colleen Stanton

Photo of Freddie Mac's Colleen Stanton, operational risk senior business lead, with quote saying, "Along with an amazing workplace culture, Freddie Mac offers some of the best benefits that directly support the LGBTQIA+ community."

As a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community and an employee at Freddie Mac, Colleen Stanton's creativity and ability to bring her unique self to work every day have helped propel her career. Colleen serves as the operational risk senior business lead for the Single-Family division of Freddie Mac. She credits authenticity and work-life balance as some of the secrets to her professional success.

"As for my journey to Freddie Mac, my passion for finance and desire to make a positive impact led me here."

For Colleen (she/her), being part of an organization that values diversity and fosters a sense of community among all employees has been an “amazing experience.”

And as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, speaking up for what’s right is something she has always pushed for. “I have a pretty good understanding of my privilege and use that to ensure I can be a voice or make space for people I work with across the company.”

We sat down with Colleen to find out what strategies she uses to promote belonging at Freddie Mac and ensure there are safe spaces for employees to share their authentic selves every day at work.

Promoting belonging at Freddie Mac

Promoting belonging and understanding at Freddie Mac is one of the core values of the firm. “Freddie Mac doesn’t put their employees in a box,” Colleen explains. “We must remember to let people tell us how they identify rather than labeling them ourselves.”

Colleen believes belonging is crucial at the individual level, not just through a comprehensive corporate policy or program. The key is to make individuals feel that they’re valued for their uniqueness. She explains the ripple effect, saying, “The difference you can make for one individual can spread to many others.”

Early in her career, Colleen spent years as a consultant, traveling the country and visiting various client sites. She left that world, not just due to career burnout, but the inability to show up as her authentic self. “When I visited new companies every week, I had to consider who I was going to be that week. Could I talk about my family? Would I be safe?”

“I met my wife at Freddie Mac. We interned and were in the college cohort together in 2009 and 2010, and now we have a 4-year-old son.” Colleen says that the gender of her spouse isn’t the most exciting thing about her. “The challenges associated with my sexual orientation contribute to what makes me unique and provide the ability to build a network at Freddie Mac.”

Family of two plus son

Colleen is not only a member of the Business Resource Group PRIDE, but she is also the operations lead. She volunteers her time for that organization and says it has helped to “promote being your authentic self, ensure all employees have input on whatever topics come up, and help educate those who may have questions.” Freddie Mac has led the way regarding inclusivity and making the workplace more equitable for all.

Diverse teams improve employee outcomes

Colleen shares, “I found that diverse teams are more profitable. An inclusive environment also improves employee retention. According to a Human Rights Campaign study, one in four LGBTQIA+ workers have stayed in a job primarily because the environment was very accepting of LGBTQIA+ people. That’s important because it shows employees feel valued and supported within a company.”

“I’m still at Freddie Mac because I feel valued and appreciated working here,” Colleen says.

“Being a leader at Freddie Mac, I want to ensure no one goes through what I went through earlier in my career. Throughout my time, I’ve promoted inclusion in the workplace and a sense of teamwork.”

Inclusive benefits

“Along with an amazing workplace culture, Freddie Mac offers some of the best benefits that directly support the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Colleen and her wife live outside of Chicago and have a four-year-old son. She values her ability to enjoy an ambitious career, balanced with the flexibility to spend time with her young family and care for her mother who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Woman and son

Freddie Mac has rolled out some impressive benefits for LGBTQIA+ employees, including additional coverage for gender affirmation surgery procedures. The company also has gender transition guidelines to help foster dialogue and understanding of transgender issues and assist employees transitioning from one gender to another. Additionally, Freddie Mac offers 12-week parental leave, adoption, and surrogacy expense reimbursement. In addition to those benefits, Colleen’s employer has regular internal pronoun communication campaigns and encourages employees to include pronouns in their signatures. These offerings contribute toward a more inclusive environment in the workplace.

3 strategies to help leaders promote belonging

As a leader, Colleen believes in visibility driving accountability, being active in the community, and boosting LGBTQIA+ education.

She encourages you to keep an open mind and let people be authentic with you, saying, “I’m proud to share that Freddie Mac values me as an employee, and without a doubt, I know I can bring my true authentic self to work every day.”

To promote belonging across all organizations, Colleen recommends that leaders:

1. Listen and ask questions. “Be willing and open to listening to an employee. Let people be authentic with you, even if they aren’t ready to be their authentic selves with everyone else. It's your job as a leader to be able to notice the details and ensure that person is okay and feels safe.”

2. Network, be an ally, and support. “Networking can seem intimidating at first, but you quickly learn that all it takes is a quick ping, an email, or a coffee and you find yourself with a business partner or a mentor. Leaders should always encourage employees to connect with one another and to get involved and support the Business Resource Groups within Freddie. Get to know others, beyond their ‘label.’ Leaders should understand the impact that LGBTQIA+ representation can have on advancing equality and acceptance.”

"With new challenges facing the community, including specific attacks against the transgender community, now more than ever is the time to show your allyship and support."

3. Continue the conversation and build. “To ensure an inclusive culture, training is essential. The diversity, equity, and inclusion space continues to evolve; equipping employees with understanding will help them develop as allies. Despite being LGBTQIA+ myself, there are things I do not know about the community and how to use certain terminology — I just need to practice and be open to learning and adapting.”

Colleen says, "It's so important to get to know people as individuals outside of just their label. Leaders should be able to listen because you can always learn something new."

Grow your risk management career and support an important mission at Freddie Mac. Explore job opportunities.

You may also like View more articles
Open jobs See all jobs