Well-deserved honor: Associates recognized for DE&I efforts

Well-deserved honor: Associates recognized for DE&I efforts

Graphic of line art image of various individuals

It’s more than just a priority.

It’s a promise.

When it comes to living its values and fulfilling the diversity, equity and inclusion commitment at Empower, it’s no surprise to see just how dedicated associates are to going above and beyond the call of duty.

Recently, two Empower employees were recognized for their outstanding efforts in elevating the company’s DE&I strategies. Both Kevin Kolter and Julie Ross were nominated for awards from the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association (DCIIA) for setting a positive example and championing such an important initiative in the workplace. They joined an exclusive class of influencers from across the retirement industry who were featured as part of the organization’s second annual celebration.

“What a great achievement,” said Kolter, senior product manager. “This means a lot to me, so I’m extremely humbled.”

For their contributions in 2021, Kolter received a “Rising Star” accolade while Ross was highlighted in the “Leaders” category.

“I was speechless when I found out,” said Ross, vice president of client services. “DE&I has always been a strong foundation within my career. I’m proud of the opportunity Empower has afforded me to support it.”

Headshot photos of Julie and Kevin


Don’t tell Ross her plate is too full.

She loves creating change.

For more than two decades, Ross has used her voice, energy and platform to expand Empower’s DE&I footprint.
“It’s just who I am and what I stand for,” she said.

Ross, who started at Empower in 2000, currently holds the position of executive sponsor for the Empowering Young Professionals (EYP) business resource group (BRG), which officially kicked off last summer. EYP was established to help workers enhance their job development and community engagement skills.

“We didn’t feel like we had a good enough presence to help emerging leaders find their passion to serve their communities,” said Ross, who is located in Overland Park.

“This will help people figure out what they want to do long-term and provide them with the tools they need to join leadership opportunities in support of our firm as well as for local not-for-profits or otherwise.”

While Ross has been busy getting EYP off the ground, she’s remained more devoted than ever to making a meaningful impact in her role at Empower. As a key member on its Diversity, Belonging and Equity (DBE) Council, Ross helps monitor and manage the company-wide DBE game plan and lay the foundation for future endeavors. Every day, she embraces the opportunity to keep leading, learning and listening.

“I like driving the conversation forward,” said Ross, who previously led the Women’s Empowerment Network (WEN) BRG.

In addition to being a trailblazer at Empower, Ross is also an avid volunteer in her local community.
In fact, she acts as the chair on the executive board of Hope House Kansas City, a prominent center that aids victims of domestic violence. 

Where does she find the time?

“It’s exciting,” Ross said. “When you’re passionate about something, you make it a priority.”


Growing up meant stepping up.

When Kolter was in high school, he regularly babysat for a child who suffered from cerebral palsy, a motor impairment ailment that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance, posture and coordination. He witnessed on many occasions that completing even the most routine tasks, from talking to eating to using the bathroom, required a helping hand. But he was always there to offer his support.

“That sparked a passion in me,” Kolter said. “It made me realize that everyone still has something special to give to society.”

Now Kolter is using that life-altering experience to help pave the way for those who struggle with disabilities at Empower.

Kolter, who is based out of Milwaukee and began his career at Empower in 2011, currently serves as a national chair for the Empower Abilities (EA) BRG, overseeing many essential functions, duties and activities.

EA aims to promote mental wellness and foster a collaborative environment for people with visible and invisible conditions. As an ambassador, Kolter has spearheaded several critical projects and events for the BRG, including the launch of the EA quarterly newsletter to provide more education to members. For National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, he even organized “Without Limits,” an enlightening discussion with Paralympic medalists Bob Lujano and Jen Schuble on overcoming adversity.

“We had a ton of people attend, which was fantastic,” Kolter said. “It was amazing to listen to them share their stories.”

Kolter also continues to be a big advocate for mental health, especially with the challenges caused by the pandemic. In the early stages of COVID-19, he helped coordinate a “mental well-being day” for associates as phycologists revealed tips on how to keep a productive mindset during a period of so much uncertainty.

“I believe everyone deserves a chance to succeed,” Kolter said. “I’m really focused on bringing many of these issues to light and removing all of the different stigmas that exist. I think that will make us stronger.”

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