Elizabeth Priller has just started her dream job. Literally.
A few months ago, fast asleep, she dreamt that she was meeting with the late General Colin Powell for career advice. One moment from the dream stuck after she woke.
“General Colin Powell says, ‘Elizabeth, you need to brush up your resume and look at your insurance card,’” she recalls. “And I was like, what is that even about? This is silly. I’m not updating my resume. I’m a consultant, I’m fine. So, I left it. But for a month, I could not let go of that dream. But I thought, let me look at my wallet. What does he mean, look at your insurance card? And I had Quartz Insurance.”
She’d already been running her own DEI consulting firm for nearly five years at that point, providing support and advice to businesses and institutions in the health care and education field, and wasn’t really looking for a new 9-to-5.
But she decided to take Dream General Powell’s advice and looked at the website of Madison-based Quartz Insurance and was impressed by what she saw – and noticed a job opening.
“I felt that it was important for me to not be part of an organization that just was checking a box, or just was talking to talk, but that truly were on the ground, really trying to make transformational change,” she said – something she saw in Quartz.
She came on board last month as the Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging.
Small town beginnings
“I was born in Chicago, and then moved to a town of 600 people,” she said – specifically, Pearl City in northwestern Illinois. “Not even stopping in the middle. Southside of Chicago to a town of 600, where there were cows in the football field, when I was 10.”
After graduating from high school there, she went on to Highland Community College and then earned a bachelor’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, where she also has a master’s degree in progress.
She initially went into nursing, but had doubts early on sparked by the death of her father.
“I had been a nurse for about two weeks, maybe a month, and showed up at the hospital in Chicago, where the nurse looked right at me. I had gotten a call that my father wasn’t doing well. And the nurse looked right at me and said, ‘We already took them to the morgue.’ And I didn’t even know that he had died,” she recalled. “I fell to the floor. And I remember screaming out, ‘I don’t want to be a nurse, I don’t want anything to do with healthcare, if this is what it is.’ And the only reason that I’m still in this field, and able to see the positives of change, is because a nursing supervisor sat down on the floor with me. And she said, ‘This is exactly why you need to continue your work. Because you now know what it’s like to be hurting.’ And so it was that moment, 22 years ago, that really propelled my future forward.”
Through various roles in different healthcare settings, and through management of nursing staff, she organically found her way to diversity and inclusion work.
“In every single area, I was always helping someone feel their most authentic self, I was always looking at them as the person that they were, and not like that I had my own agenda,” she said. “And so I didn’t know it, but looking back, I would have called that D and I work. I think it was just me helping people connect as humans.”
Several years ago, though, she experienced an incident of overt racism in the workplace, and knew she needed something different.
“I’m often the only one in my town, in the professional space, in the restaurant, everywhere. And so I was used to that, but it didn’t make (the racist incident) right,” she said. “And I thought, why is it that there are individuals like myself that are feeling out of place? And where is our place? And why can’t we just all feel that sense of belonging no matter where we go?”
Priorities at Quartz
Priller said her priorities at Quartz include embedding DEI&B into everything the company does and providing unflinching support and sense of belonging for everyone.
“When we can show up with a sense of psychological safety, where our opinions are valued and heard, when we’re able to operate as our best self, then it’s a win-win for everyone. It’s a win for the individual. And it’s a win for the organization and the community,” she said.
She noted the company’s commitment to the work, top to bottom. The company already has employee resource groups (ERG) for many traditionally excluded identities.
“Not only do we have our CEO’s commitment to drive these initiatives, and really understand the importance, not only to the business, but to the community and to the employees” of DEI&B work, Priller said. “But each ERG group has an executive sponsor. And in addition to their verbal commitments, they also own a piece of the strategy. So each executive owns a piece of the DEI&B strategy.”
Priller said in the coming years she’ll measure success by the psychological and emotional well-being of all Quartz employees, as well as Quartz’s impact in the community.
She hopes “the community can see us as a change agent in health and well-being. One of our big missions is to create a life well-lived … A significant portion of my focus will be on improving health outcomes for our members and communities with a DEI&B lens.”
To learn more about Quartz and its diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives, visit https://quartzbenefits.com/about-quartz/diversity-equity-inclusion/