Celebrating Black History Month: Spotlight on Sherwin Wray
To honor Black History Month, we’re spotlighting our black financial professionals to help you get to know them, hear what inspires them and hear insight for what our profession can do to drive a more diverse financial services community. Today, we feature Sherwin Wray, MBA, AIF, Financial Advisor Program Manager of TwinStar Financial Advisors.
Share a little about your favorite black teacher or leader:
I grew up on an island and was fortunate to have a wide range of influences, most of them being black. Looking back, I now realize how lucky I was to be exposed to both the positive and the negative ends of this spectrum. There are three black leaders I would like to highlight. I personally believe that without, them my life would have turned out vastly different.
The first is my grandmother, Daisy Bailey (“Mamma”), one of the sweetest yet toughest women you could ever meet. Her belief was that while no man is an island, you should be tough enough and strong enough to stand on your own if needed. She taught me to be self-reliant, to cook, clean and sew, to respect my elders and the opinion of others as well as to have my own. She taught me the value and importance of structure and being true to one’s self. The amazing thing about Mamma was though she could not read she knew the value of a good education and made it one of her many missions to ensure that the illiteracy stopped with her and never extended to her six children or extended family. I am happy she succeeded with that mission.
My second mentor is my mother, Gloria Bailey Flores. While my grandmother was the matriarch, my mom has always (and still to this day) marches to the beat of her own drum. My mom dropped out of high school to have me at age 16, making her life significantly more difficult than it would have ordinarily been, but thanks to her mental fortitude and support system, she was able to finish high school after giving birth to me. She later went on to college to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. She became the head of the Physical Education Department and the Science department (an interesting mix). I remember for cross country try-out, you had to be able to beat her to be considered for the team. Today, my mom is still teaching and molding minds because that’s where her passion lies. She still challenges herself and others to be the best they can be in her own fun way. She is as sweet and as compassionate as ever and though we are miles apart she somehow knows when I need her and is always there with kind words of wisdom. She has taught me it’s okay fail but never ok to give up or give in and to always chase your dreams regardless of what others think.
Lastly, but by no means least, I want to recognize my friend, my brother and teacher Jeffrey Bowen. I haven’t seen him in years but his impact on my life was profound. I met him at Youth Group, and he took me under his wings and we became fast friends. He was someone that while growing up I looked up to. He taught me about religion and responsibility. After he graduated from teacher’s college, I was fortunate enough to live with and be mentored by him through high school. Jeffery taught me how to respect and get along with his peers, adults marginally older than myself. He saw value and strength where I saw doubt. He had the ability to make a subject that many students struggled with interesting; his enthusiasm for math and science was contagious and helped me excelled at a topic I had struggled with for years. He literally made me want to be a better student and a better man. Though I can never thank him enough, his contribution to my life will never be forgotten.
In your view, what impact have recent events made? How can we continue to demand change?
2020 highlighted issues that we, as a nation, had been sweeping under the rug for years. It showed us that what many labeled as “isolated incidents”, were not. It showed us that turning a blind eye and making excuses solves nothing. With the spotlight finally now shining on social injustice, I anticipate more radical changes to happen, both socially and professionally. It is up to us as a people to remain intolerant and continue to voice our displeasures we see and to speak out against social injustice as individuals and as a collective. We also need to inspire change. We have become a very unforgiving society but should learn to forgive and move forward. It is impossible to move forward while holding onto the sins and transgressions of the past.
As a profession, what can we do to attract and retain a more diverse financial services community?
Education and increased visibility can help drive change. Everyone, regardless of background, should be able to see this profession as a viable path. Those of us fortunate enough to have made it should make themselves available to underrepresented groups and speak about how rewarding this career can be so that aspiring students can see someone who looks like them in this role and have the confidence to pursue this path. Furthermore, we should shift the marketing of this industry to focus on the positive impact we have on lives and legacies, not just on how much one can make and how fast they can make it. By speaking to the human side of this profession, we can create greater success through upliftment and relate to a more diverse group of people.
How have you seen diversity in our profession progress?
When I started in the industry 25 years ago, it was predominantly populated by middle aged and older men. However, over the years, we have begun to see a more diverse group entering the profession. The current landscape has changed; there is currently more of a balance in age, sex and race, which I am happy and proud to see. However, we still have a long way to go to become truly diverse and representative.
Share what you love about financial services:
It sounds a little cliché, but the thing I love most about the industry is the ability to create positive change. To be able to provide a positive impact on someone’s wellbeing by using my knowledge is profound and truly rewarding experience. The industry is constantly changing, and as a result, there will always be room to grow and explore. Every day there is more to learn. Getting to work with pioneers and exceptionally bright talented people within and outside of the industry gives me a constant sense of reward.
Features will be shared on Cetera’s social media pages throughout February. Please feel free to tag us in your own posts honoring Black History Month and feel free to like, comment and share to help join in the celebration (Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn). You can also learn more about Cetera’s commitment to improving diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the financial services profession at Cetera.com/diversity_and_inclusion.
This article was originally published by our partners at Cetera who have given us permission to repost here.