Just over two years after the murder of George Floyd and the calls for social justice that followed, we finally had the opportunity to come together in person, as an industry, to talk about DEI and connect with one step closer to a fully diverse and equitable society. and an inclusive workforce.
In early June, industry professionals gathered to attend the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s Inclusion in Insurance forums.
In New York, insurance companies from across the Northeast region came together to share innovative ideas and practical advice that can help move DEI forward and make the industry a better place. Later in the month, other industry professionals did the same in Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas.
We have started to see the results of the industry’s diversity efforts, with a narrower gender gap at all levels and more non-white employees in the insurance workforce than previous years.
However, as we have learned over the past few years, a diverse workforce does not always mean an organization is inclusive or equitable. Speaking at the forum, Nina Boone, North American leader for D&I, Korn Ferry said that 43% of employees surveyed were reconsidering their jobs because their company was not doing enough in terms of DEI.
IICF recognizes the importance of advancing DEI and knows that the insurance industry is better and can have more impact when we come together and work together for change. Below are some of the key ideas shared at the forum detailing how to advance equity and inclusion in our industry.
The definition of DEI continues to expand. Korn Ferry’s Nina Boone espoused DEI and ESG during her Inclusive Sustainability session. She discussed the idea of “this” and how “this” can be seen as a harmful microaggression in DEI.
At the start of the pandemic, when the supply chain was first disrupted and the world was in lockdown, people asked the question, “How long do you think ‘this’ will last?” While most were talking about the pandemic, the question also applies to DEI initiatives within organizations. People wondered how much longer their organization would seek out diverse candidate pools or how much longer their organization would prioritize diversity.
Boone flipped the script and asked, “How about we embrace the ‘it?” . She encouraged leaders to believe that their entire team is capable, to believe that everyone has the ability to learn, grow and expand their contribution.
The science of inclusion
Dr. Jay Van Bavel, Associate Professor of Psychology and Neural Sciences, Stern School of Business in Management and Organizations, New York University, shared important insight into the science behind inclusion during his remarks.
Many organizations are now using AI-powered facial recognition products, whether in their office for security purposes or in their products. Although many of these products boast a 90% accuracy rate, they are often still biased against women and non-white people. Such products, Dr. Van Bavel pointed out, demonstrate how scaling innovations too quickly can leave companies open to biases or blind spots.
These biases and blind spots are why diversity in teams of people is so important. Different opinions and perspectives ensure that biases are mitigated and blind spots are flagged and rectified.
Dr. Van Bavel went on to explain how important diversity is, but only if group members feel included. Psychological safety is the ability to be yourself, including making mistakes, without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status, or career. It is important for teams to have psychological safety and empathetic leaders to be successful.
He encouraged leaders to:
- Prioritize other voices
- Hold each other accountable
- Start with one thing
- Find a role model and be a role model
Continuing the DEI momentum
Cheryl Rosario, Head of DEI & CSR, Munich Re encouraged industry professionals to build on the momentum of DEI.
When George Floyd was killed in 2020, it sparked a social movement that lasted through 2021 and into 2022. This social movement caused many organizations in the insurance industry to prioritize advancing of the DEI, but like many others have, Rosario wondered how long this momentum will last.
In August 2020, a PEW research center found that 52% of Americans thought it was very or somewhat important for companies and organizations to make public statements about political or social issues, but that percentage rose significantly for Americans. people of color. Many organizations have built on this commitment by taking steps to invest in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) or other social justice organizations.
Even if the idea was there, these investments were not always made in a sustainable or authentic way. Rosario emphasized that commitment is not always enough, it is important to also see accountability and results.
Feelings of inclusion and equity are on the decline, and as such, Rosario encouraged leaders to shift to a people-centric mindset to sustain DEI’s momentum in a sustainable and authentic way.
Good intentions for achievable change
Michelle Silverthorn, best-selling author, keynote speaker and founder and CEO of Inclusion Nation, concluded the event with a session on turning good intentions into action and moving forward in transformative change work.
Silverthorn shared a scenario where a paralegal, a lawyer, two judges, a firefighter, a doctor, and a bartender are all in the bar. At the end of the script, she asked the group if anyone considered any of these people to be women or non-white people. The purpose of this exercise was to show how, as a society, we have been conditioned to assign certain genders and races to certain professions and classes.
Silverthorn challenged the audience to be the one to bring about that change. She shared that many people want change to happen, but they don’t want to change themselves or do the work to make the change. As an industry that helps and impacts so many people, Silverthorn urged every individual in the room to take an action that can help make a difference.
While the industry has done a lot of work to become more fair and inclusive over the past few years, we still have a long way to go.
The IICF works every day to bring the industry together to make the world a better place through initiatives and projects arising from our IICF IDEA Council and various committees. However, often it’s the conversations and learnings that come from convening as an industry at forums like this that really help turn ideas into action. &