Other parts of this series:
My previous blog post in this series was focused on data to analyze how much, or how little, the insurance industry increased diversity in the last five years. In this post, I want to highlight specific examples, both good and bad, directly from the industry. But I also want to dive into the elephant in the room: talking about diversity.
So many leaders and company cultures are fearful of being honest about their diversity. Societal pressure is so strong that companies are often afraid to admit failures in their diversity programs. If companies continue to twist their reality to simply market “diversity,” then they’ll never improve. This fear turns important diversity programs into nothing more than public relations machines. The only way to truly shift the insurance industry towards more diversity is by being open and honest about failures, just as much as successes.
Steps Forward, Steps Backward
Many insurance companies have made visible strides towards improving their diversity. AXA, Alliance, MetLife and Zurich all topped Bloomberg’s Gender Equality Index this year. CNA and Nationwide were recognized by The Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. And Liberty Mutual, USAA and Progressive were in the top 50 Workplaces for Diversity.
At the same time, AIG recently lost four Black executives. Before they left, only 1.5% of AIG’s senior officials and executives were Black, according to a 2018 report. Most of the executives didn’t comment publicly, but Walter Hurdle, in charge of diversity efforts and early-career recruiting, is quoted to say that he was “informed that my role was eliminated, and that’s all I have to say.”
So while awards and accolades are nice to promote, history’s opinion is going to be determined by true on-the-ground change.
COVID-19 and Diversity
COVID-19 could potentially stall diversity progress in the insurance industry. The pandemic is affecting companies in different ways. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) highlights the rise in net income for health insurance companies, while international insurers seem to be struggling. It’s possible that insurance companies put diversity on the back burner while they focus on managing the pandemic. But this would be short-sighted, as the creativity and unique viewpoints that come from diverse employees can actually be helpful during this difficult time.
Show Your Diversity Data: Transparency
There’s an argument to be made that this is the natural course to improve diversity. At the moment, diverse candidates haven’t been nurtured or trained to take on leadership roles. Now that training diverse candidates is a focus, we should see them being promoted and eventually land in leadership positions over the years.
American Family Insurance is a great example of this kind of initiative. They have established Business Resource Groups (abilities, Black/African American, women, LGBTQA, veterans, and more) to provide input on company initiatives and culture. Which brings me to the importance of transparency.
Last year, Accenture was named the number 1 company on Refinitiv’s Diversity & Inclusion Index, which identifies the 100 publicly traded companies with the most diverse and inclusive workplaces.
But as I keep saying, these awards are nice, but not concrete. Instead, the true focus on increasing diversity in insurance needs to be data. And data is only available if it’s made available. Which brings me back to my original point at the start of this article: transparency.
Here is Accenture’s publicly published demographics for its U.S. workforce going back to 2015. This is how companies hold themselves accountable. By publishing diversity data, insurance companies can move past simply marketing the importance of diversity and evolve to truly make a difference. Accenture, for example, can’t hide from the data presented on this page. When investors, governments or the general public question our commitment to diversity, we will have to answer and explain these numbers because they are not hidden.
Very likely, many insurance companies are fearful of what their diversity data will show year-over-year. But before the industry fears failure, it should overcome its fear of transparency. If diversity data remains hidden, it begs the question of how serious executives really are about increasing diversity. Publishing diversity data doesn’t have to be scary. It’s simply a benchmark for improvement. It’s the accountability that companies fear, but without accountability, what’s the point of all the awards and conferences?
Stay tuned for my third and final blog post of this series, where I will narrow my focus and talk specifically about women in technology. Taking my own advice of “transparency,” I will bring in my personal experiences (as a computer science major, I was the only woman in my class) to highlight the challenges and opportunities women face in the tech industry.