Tag Archives: diversity

The Broad Reality of Diversity

Our industry is diversifying, and that diversity has been a force for growth and innovation. Decades of work and progress have yielded more women in leadership roles, a more diverse workforce and a greater emphasis on recruiting talent from varied backgrounds and geographies. Though calls for diversity are not new, organizations are taking the movement more seriously now than ever before, and it is having a positive impact in the operation and growth of businesses.

According to a 2018 study from the Boston Consulting Group, companies that have higher than average diversity in their workforce had 19% higher revenue from enhanced or new products than less diverse organizations. 

As the insurance industry continues to evolve, it will be important to continue to support D&I programs and the opportunities they create for businesses and the workforce. These efforts should also include a willingness to consider recruiting candidates from a diverse array of experiences, trainings, socio-economic backgrounds and more. 

A Personal Journey

In my previous life in television production, working for shows like “One Tree Hill” and “Friday Night Lights,” I learned many of the skills that eventually led to my career in business development, and later as president and chief operating officer with AmRisc.

A degree in broadcast journalism and an early career in TV and film production are definitely rare qualifications for someone in insurance leadership. That said, for me, that background manifested the skills and mindset I needed to operate in a fast-paced environment and think creatively to support business growth. 

How did I find my way into the insurance industry? I was looking to change my career, and my resume serendipitously found its way into the hands of former AmRisc CEO Dan Peed. They were looking for someone who could come in and roll with whatever was thrown at them. That happens to be my strong suit. I was immediately energized and motivated by the work as I grasped more than insurance concepts. I began to understand the legal, accounting, managerial, compliance and operational aspects of the business, as well. 

See also: Diversity and Respect: Best Insurance Policy

My time in television production allowed me to explore my passion for problem-solving and crafting stories. That experience served me well in insurance, where I’ve had an even greater opportunity to flex those same creative and problem-solving muscles. At the same time, as someone who came to insurance from a very different space, I was able to offer a unique perspective the company didn’t have available previously.

A Creative Edge

With our company being founded by engineers – also from non-traditional backgrounds for insurance – it’s fitting that one of our core values is innovation. Imagine the innovation that could come from a team of employees with a variety of diverse backgrounds, cultures, experiences and beliefs. Then, add to that the new perspectives and fresh thinking we get from those with different socio-economic backgrounds. These may be individuals whose talents have yet to be discovered as they leave high school or college and enter the workforce. A team like that could have the versatility to not only adapt to unique problems; they would have a plethora of experiences and perceptions to offer the business and contribute uniquely to the growth of their team and organization.

At AmRisc, we’ve started to harness the knowledge and experience of this talent. We began to recruit others outside of insurance, like me, over a decade ago. For example, we have a number of former schoolteachers who have joined the team and have been remarkably successful translating the detail-oriented skillsets they honed in the classroom to our underwriting and analyst teams.  We’ve also recently launched an Innovation Hub, our own version of Shark Tank, to encourage people from all parts of the organization to be seen and heard.

This is just one step. Engaging a range of professionals with varying work experience, cultures, religions and more allows you to build a well-rounded team that can take a company to the next level. Employees who are comfortable in their own skin at work, happy, driven and inspired – who also reflect your consumer base – will thrive, fuel productivity and drive growth.  

Building for the Future

Many in the industry have developed novel programs to foster D&I within their walls. Industry leaders recognize there is tremendous value in empowering and investing in people. At AmRisc, we’ve deployed a Corporate Citizenship Program and DEI Council with our parent company, Truist. We’ve also hosted an incredibly popular Day of Understanding for employees to voice their opinions and concerns and implemented unconscious bias training in an effort to enhance our corporate culture. We even revised our logo to a display of color that demonstrates our commitment to a diversified team and one that values involvement from employees of all genders, races, religions or backgrounds.

As a company and as an industry, we also find opportunities to develop and mold our D&I initiatives through unifying organizations like the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation. IICF’s International Inclusion in Insurance Forum presents a wonderful opportunity for the industry to get together, hear from the top minds in D&I and receive actionable, fresh approaches to incorporate into our own workplaces.

Recruiting for Tomorrow

Anyone who has worked in insurance knows the historic difficulties surrounding the recruitment of new, aspiring talent. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this problem, but the lasting impacts of remote work may prove to be the push our industry needs to recruit geographically diverse talent from different socio-economic and experience backgrounds.

Thus, many industry leaders are taking a closer look at our hiring methodologies and prerequisites. At AmRisc, we are endeavoring to do more. We’re partnering with major universities to recruit talented, diverse candidates with specializations in risk management and beyond. We are looking to secure talent who might not have been considered for a career in insurance due to work history or educational background but who have the drive and energy to help us grow. We’re also exploring flexible work arrangements so those with family, eldercare or other personal responsibilities can better manage their work-life balance.

See also: State of Diversity, Inclusion in Insurance

Right now is the perfect time to consider recruiting with a focus on diverse experiences in addition to unique backgrounds and cultures. As people return to the workforce, a range of candidates with the potential to revolutionize our industry and become the next generation of insurance professionals may present themselves. We have to remain open to recognizing them and embracing the uniqueness they bring to our organizations.

Our industry is built on resilience and serving others when they are most in need. As employers, we must ensure we consider the whole candidate or employee and find ways to encourage them to bring their diverse skills and talents to the office for the good of the company, the industry and society as a whole.

Diversity and Respect: Best Insurance Policy

The sins of fathers, including the Founding Fathers, visit their iniquities upon the sons of multiple generations. The sins of the past endure throughout industries large and small, including the insurance industry. The sins exempt no one, while they are a chance for everyone to repair the breach: to learn from the past and earn the trust of African-Americans.

The history of racial discrimination is too long to summarize in a column and too indescribable, except to say healing starts when hearing begins; when insurers take the time to listen to African-Americans; when listening translates into action — by and for African-Americans — so communication can flourish and insurers can succeed.

That insurers have a duty to listen, that African-Americans also have a right to a hearing, that the two intersect is reason to proceed with the hard work of reconciliation. Hard though it may be, and difficult though it will be to hear of hardships borne by innocents, insurers cannot overcome the sins of the past unless they understand how innocents continue to bear the burdens of other people’s sins.

According to Dennis Ross of StoryConnex.com:

“Very little is monolithic in the African-American community, with one exception. The memories of abuse by insurance agents who barged into the homes of elderly grandmothers to sell policies nearly by force. Today, while homes receive a knock, ZIP codes signal higher interest rates and premiums. Insurers must not only diversify their agent base but create and market plans that reward those living in areas they once punished.” 

Ross speaks of what he knows, not because he opposes insurers, but because he supports those insurers with a commitment to diversity and respect. He invites the insurance industry to lead by example, so other industries may act without delay.

Ross speaks of the need to speak truth not only to power but through the empowerment of African-Americans. He also speaks to a need — an inchoate sense among the decent and just — to do better; to expect better; to receive (and reciprocate) acts of betterment.

Insurers should follow Ross’s advice, so the industry may communicate with greater respect toward African-Americans. The diversity of communication, from marketing to advertising to recruiting to hiring, can change a relationship for the better.

See also: State of Diversity, Inclusion in Insurance

For insurers and African-Americans to come together is a chance to right the wrongs of the past. Together, the two can work to undo attempts to erase the past. Together, the two can bring some modicum of justice to the past. Together, the two can improve the present and work to make the future better than the present.

Insurers must lead with acts, not intentions.

Insurers must show that what is necessary is also doable.

Insurers must pursue excellence, so unity may thrive where diversity lives; so the lives of African-Americans may advance in harmony with liberty and justice; so all Americans may live in freedom.

Honoring these goals will bring honor to insurers.

State of Diversity, Inclusion in Insurance

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) have been priorities for the insurance industry for years. However, there have been fundamental limitations on progress that have gone under-addressed. While the state of D&I in the insurance industry is stronger than ever, we limit the potential to advance these issues without having a meaningful, clear-eyed examination of a few basic issues.

Cultural Disconnect

Organizations are only as strong as their culture or brand. Prior to joining Zurich, I owned a consulting firm. As a consultant, I learned first-hand that no matter how great the marketing efforts might be, if a company culture or brand is lackluster there will be always be a fundamental disconnect with customers.

Company culture is one of the areas where we see more prominent diversity and inclusion issues plaguing the insurance industry. As a young woman, I had experiences in being heard, or unheard, that have shaped my perspective. While I believe there are opportunities to make a mark in the industry if you put the effort in, I also see barriers in corporations that don’t allow for people to be their authentic selves. Organizations that adhere to a rigid hierarchy, with leadership teams unable or unwilling to innovate, throw up roadblocks to D&I due to preconceived notions. These are the companies that fail to seek diversity of experience, culture, education, personality, perspective and thinking. These organizations rarely embrace authenticity in employees, seeking conformity instead. This approach limits worker experience and professional growth opportunities.

Successful company cultures are lived, as are toxic and limiting company cultures. Companies that are sincere about D&I have to live it.

COVID-19 Side Effects

When the pandemic pushed the U.S. workforce to go remote, it became clear the virus was hitting the Black and Latinx communities more harshly. Access to high-speed internet, availability of space in the home for one or more remote workers and students, healthcare accessibility and urban food deserts, among other matters, were all existing obstacles. But, while not always apparent in the workplace, these issues became clear challenges for many workers and their employers after the pandemic shutdown. 

As an industry focused on managing risk, we need to consider the risk of not properly supporting the communities we represent and their well-being. Our leaders, both in the insurance industry and beyond, must remember that not everyone is experiencing the events of 2020 equally. We may be “in this together,” but we are not in it together equally. Greater empathy is essential to greater diversity and inclusion. 

It Starts at the Top

One of the clearest signs of the lack of progress on D&I issues in corporations is the lack of diverse talent at the leadership level. The standard response for most industries on this point is to note the lack of diverse talent available. This bias has been consistently used to justify a lack of executive team diversity. Another defensive argument is that companies work to ensure all employees have the same opportunities to advance their careers. This latter rationale has been used to justify maintaining the same systems and processes that have been in place at corporations for years. We may add employee resource groups, mentoring programs and programming, but the systems have not changed.

In my role focused on diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging at Zurich, I invite leaders to question these biases. What if there was ample, diverse, executive-level talent available? Would the company’s leadership look dramatically different? Would it be more diverse? Would the systems and processes currently in place to nurture and advance careers change if we proved not all employees have equal access to opportunity? If the answer is no, then we have to acknowledge our inherent biases and make changes.

These biases are overcome when leaders are open to and can rely on those around them to provide critical insight. Recruiting is one example. What efforts have their organizations made to find great talent? If the slate offered by recruiters is not diverse, do they push back and request a more diverse pool? Do they leverage their industry relationships to find that talent? Does the executive team hold leaders to account for seeking talent that mirrors the individuals and communities they serve? 

See also: Industry Still Lags on Diversity

Recruitment is just one priority. Expanding in-house talent is also essential. To complete my doctorate, I spent a lot of time researching what companies do to advance diverse people in their careers. Do diverse professionals have the same access? The same mentor opportunities? The same advocates? In my experience, the answer is often no.

This could be an affinity bias. We naturally want to help those who remind us of ourselves. We need to understand that some people advance in their careers, and some do not, precisely because of these biases. Insurance industry leaders need to face this difficult reality to create better opportunities for our diverse talent. 

What Can Change?

One solution Zurich has embraced is called the Inclusion Cohort, a program we launched last year. It’s designed to better prepare diverse talent for potential leadership roles, offering them leadership assessments, identifying strengths and areas for development and providing them with mentors. Our priority was to build the cohort so members would have a sense of camaraderie and shared success. Today, more than half of the initial participants have been tapped for new responsibilities, with another earning a leadership position. Our goal is to scale similar programs across the company.

We are also working on extensive anti-racism programming for our executive and leadership teams to help them better understand diverse experiences, which helps build empathy and motivation to change. 

These and other efforts are steps Zurich is taking to promote a more diverse industry future, and they are shareable.

Organizations like the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) have proved critical to highlighting the industry’s D&I efforts. Their meetings and events, like the upcoming virtual Inclusion in Insurance Forum, are instructive on the challenges commonly faced across the industry in building equity and belonging. These events allow individual organizations like ours to work together to share and adopt meaningful strategies. 

Recognizing the role that culture, global events like the pandemic and leadership and its priorities have on diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging within the industry is the first step to meaningful change. That change can sometimes be slow in coming, but it does come. Now is our chance as an industry to step up and create the diverse and inclusive future we need.

3 Keys for Building Women Leaders

As the insurance industry continues to evolve in response to disruption, it’s imperative that insurers embrace innovation to achieve growth and market leadership. The capacity to innovate drives the business models of tomorrow, as well as the investor perceptions of today. Already, ratings agency AM Best has announced plans to score and assess carriers based on their ability to innovate.

To truly drive innovation and stay relevant in today’s rapidly changing world, insurance leaders cannot afford to overlook the power of diversity and inclusiveness (D&I) in thinking, experiences, ideas, backgrounds and abilities. Studies show that diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams when led inclusively and that firms deliver better financial results when they have women on their corporate boards and in the C-suite. So, in today’s Transformative Age, why is it taking so long for women to belong equally?

To foster an environment for the industry’s future leaders to thrive, it takes effort, backed by accountability and active participation from everyone — not just women.

We’ve outlined three ways to build the next generation of women leaders in insurance:

1. Improve recruitment and hiring

Today’s college graduates are surrounded by diversity, and they expect to enter workplaces that embody those same values. For the insurance industry to attract new employees who have the creative, technology and customer skills needed to build the insurance workplace of the future, insurance companies must demonstrate their commitment to diversity, as manifested throughout the formal recruitment process, as well as leveraging personal relationships.

Insurers should consider how to recruit more women with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). While actuaries have always needed mathematics and statistics, just about every aspect of insurance is being transformed by digital technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) and other computing-intensive business processes. It is also important that insurers recruit liberal arts majors for areas like underwriting. These graduates possess the necessary skills for sales, relationship management and creation of business solutions. The ability to reason and philosophize will be even more critical in the digital age, as more repetitive tasks shift to AI.

See also: Survival Guide for Women in Insurtech  

At the same time, insurance companies must drive accountability for D&I initiatives by removing unconscious biases from the recruitment process, recruiting balanced teams and hiring women from diverse backgrounds, skill sets and experiences. A way to enact this is to ensure there are diverse slates of both interviewers and interviewees, as well as holding leadership teams accountable for their team’s D&I profiles.

2. Sponsor and mentor women to support career progression and improve retention

Mentors provide advice and counseling throughout one’s career, while sponsors are on-the-job allies who state the case for one’s promotion or participation on a high-profile project. Women joining the insurance field need both mentors and sponsors — and both roles need to be embraced by men and women.

Employees may be able to find mentors and sponsors through their own networking efforts, but organizations should also foster connections through team-building workshops and other methods.

Executives should be held accountable for their strong commitment to D&I by measuring results, such as the retention levels and career achievements for women and other underrepresented groups within their spheres of influence. Only through metrics-based accountability will D&I achieve a sustainable impact.

3. Clear away barriers preventing the ascent of women executives

While progress has been made, women are still severely underrepresented in insurance leadership roles. Although women represent more than half of the insurance workforce, they hold fewer than one-fifth of board seats and only about one-tenth of insider officer positions and top officer positions such as CEO, COO and CFO. Based on this evidence, we can see that the pipeline for women executive talent is being artificially blocked.

In response, insurance companies need to work for greater diversity in succession planning and to prepare women for these kinds of roles. To ensure that women can rise on their merits and in accordance with the requirements of the job, succession planning has three key areas for improvement:

  • Preference. Counteract the bias for search teams to promote people who look just like them.
  • Tradition. Break the pattern of hiring leaders with the same background and profile as previous leaders.
  • Requirements. Promote and appoint leaders based on the specific skill sets of what the leadership role requires for the success of the company.

As top executives support and prepare the right individuals for the right roles, more women will rise to the occasion to join the leadership ranks with more opportunities, as well as the knowledge that they are welcome.

See also: The Right Way to Tackle Gender Bias  

D&I is critical for driving innovation and a competitive advantage for insurers in today’s transformative age. By welcoming a wider range of skills and viewpoints, D&I represents an essential component of the evolving business model in insurance.

As part of their broader D&I initiatives, insurance companies must take steps to improve gender parity. Starting from the top, business leaders throughout the insurance organization should be held accountable for recruiting and hiring women, sponsoring and mentoring women, retaining and promoting women and clearing away obstacles to leadership roles.

Yet D&I is not just a matter for top executives. We all have to ask ourselves: “Who am I mentoring? Who am I sponsoring? Who am I pulling up?” Answers to those questions will become increasingly important for the success of individuals, teams and organizations throughout the insurance ecosystem. By thinking, challenging and engaging differently, we can build a better working world where women belong as much as men do.

What actions will you take to make sure that #SheBelongs?

The views reflected in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.

Industry Still Lags on Diversity

While our industry has made great strides in recent years, we still have a long road before balance is achieved at the leadership level. A recent study found that women represent more than half of the industry’s entry-level positions, yet hold only 18% of its C-level roles. These numbers are not uncommon; among all industries, only 79 women are promoted into manager positions for every 100 men. The disconnect starts early, and, as a result, just 1% of insurance organizations have a female CEO at the helm. The imbalance is further fueled by the industry’s gender wage gap, with women making just 62 cents for every dollar earned by men.

As the #BalanceforBetter campaign advocates, “gender balance is not a women’s issue, it is a business issue.” A balanced workforce results in more than a level playing field. It yields tangible business advantages that are key to staying ahead in today’s competitive and complex market.

See also: Why Women Are Smarter Than Men  

Women remain underrepresented at the executive level across all industries, yet research consistently demonstrates their positive impact on business. A McKinsey study found that organizations in the top quartile of gender diversity at the executive level are 21% more likely to outperform their peers. Additionally, MSCI reports that, over a five-year period, U.S. companies on the MSCI World Index with at least three female directors achieved median gains of 37% on earnings per share. For our industry to realize its full potential, insurers must develop diverse leadership teams that better mirror and relate to their customers and employees.

With the insurance unemployment rate hovering between 1% and 2%, it is more important than ever for our industry to attract and retain top talent from all backgrounds. Organizations that cultivate inclusion and intersectionality enterprise-wide are more likely to be seen as employers of choice in today’s candidate-driven market. In fact, on Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies list, the highest-ranked organizations had double the number of women in senior management than those that were ranked lowest.

There are several ways insurers can build trust while taking steps to realize a balanced workforce.

Embrace mentorship as a movement. Mentorship is a foundational element in helping break through the glass ceiling and building diverse and confident leaders. Through mentorships and sponsorships, women and members of other underrepresented groups gain access to senior leaders and role models that may not have otherwise been possible. These can be internal programs or ones run through industry groups like Million Women Mentors, which aims to spark confidence in women and girls to succeed in STEM careers and leadership positions. Whether long-term or for a specific situation, these relationships can help propel women into manager roles and beyond, enabling them to move up the corporate ladder at a similar pace to men.

Create a culture of inclusion. Diversity of thought results in effective problem solving and more innovative ideas. Cultivate inclusivity through formal diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs and employee resource groups. By seeking out various points of view and effectively engaging and supporting employees of all backgrounds, teams benefit from unique viewpoints and healthy discourse. A greater sense of inclusion translates to an increase in decision-making quality, collaboration and perceived team performance.

Promote networking among women. Women helping and lifting up other women is vital to success. In fact, a commonality among most high-ranking women is a strong female-dominated inner circle, according to a recent study. Women whose networks are wide with strong female relationships at their core receive jobs at seniority levels that are 2.5 times higher than those who have smaller, male-centric networks. Female leaders are also more likely to surround themselves with other women. Credit Suisse found that female CEOs are 55% more likely to have women heading business units and are 50% more likely to have women as their CFOs.

Engage men as allies. A growing number of enlightened men are publicly advocating for women’s equity, standing as allies in identifying and breaking down barriers. In many organizations, male executives are spearheading employee resource groups and championing corporate D&I programs. By inviting men into the conversation and committing to open dialogue, organizations create shared ownership. A balanced insurance workforce will not be achieved through just one voice, but through a chorus of voices for change.

Hold leadership accountable. In an EY survey, only 39% of insurance leaders said their companies are formally measuring progress toward gender diversity, and just 8% shared that they have structured development programs in place for women. Additionally, Deloitte found that while 71% of organizations aspire to have an inclusive culture, their actual maturity levels are low. Implementing D&I programs is an important first step, yet true change will come as a result of organizations holding key decision makers accountable for setting and meeting goals.

See also: Survival Guide for Women in Insurtech  

International Women’s Day is March 8; however, its spirit and mission extend throughout the year. Through mutual trust and respect, along with actionable steps and accountability, our industry can work to create a culture of inclusion and achieve balance beyond gender.

Looking to get involved? There are a number of insurance D&I organizations that join to support each other’s missions and events: STEMConnector’s Million Women Mentors Women in Insurance Initiative, Advancement of Professional Insurance Women (APIW), Business Insurance’s Diversity & Inclusion Institute, Dive In, Gamma Iota Sigma, Insurance Careers Movement, Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) Global Women’s Conference, Insurance Supper Club (ISC) and Women’s Insurance Networking Group (WING).