“PIA together with our company council, The PIA Partnership, has identified encouraging diversity in the industry as a major focus,” says Mike Becker, executive vice president and CEO of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, or PIA National. (Illustration: Mary Long for Shutterstock.com) “PIA together with our company council, The PIA Partnership, has identified encouraging diversity in the industry as a major focus,” says Mike Becker, executive vice president and CEO of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents, or PIA National. (Illustration: Mary Long for Shutterstock.com)

The United States marked a historic day on Wed., Jan. 20, 2021, when President Joseph R. Biden became the oldest person ever to be sworn into that office alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman and the first person of Asian and African-American descent to step into her new role.

The most hopeful among their constituents viewed the new administration with optimistic exuberance after four years under Former President Donald Trump. The latter’s now infamously divisive socio-economic regulations included a ban on travel to certain Muslim and African countries, the separation of immigrant children from their parents, candid disdain for diversity and inclusion initiatives, and ultimately, the attempted unraveling of American democracy by denouncing as fraudulent the unfavorable results of the November 2020 general election. (Dozens of courts nationwide disagreed.)

After only hours on the job, President Biden set about reversing many of the Trump era’s most anti-globalist initiatives by signing executive orders that protect immigrant children; include noncitizens in the national census count; end the travel ban to Muslim countries; and halt construction of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Biden also has called on federal agencies to examine how systemic racism, or the institutionalization of discriminatory practices, may be inhibiting their work.

These policies are in line with many of the initiatives launched in recent months by the insurance industry.

Most recently, the Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association (WSIA) formally incorporated the WSIA Diversity Foundation as a nonprofit charitable organization. Its aim is to “promote and attract diversity in race, gender, sexual orientation and disability, and to influence meaningful progress in the diversity of the insurance industry and its talent pipeline.”

The WSIA Diversity Foundation has outlined the following action items:

  • Investment in the development of risk management and insurance (RMI) programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities;
  • Collaboration with other industry trade and professional associations to partner, where possible, toward consistent diversity, equity and inclusivity goals;
  • Annual summer internship program;
  • Annual academic scholarships;
  • Grants to existing college/university risk management and insurance programs advancing diversity goals;
  • Student symposiums or academies to broaden understanding about opportunities in the industry for candidates from diverse backgrounds; and
  • Expanding existing online education and curriculum in colleges and universities with or without existing RMI programs.

“The WSIA Board is thrilled to support the development of [the WSIA Diversity Foundation], and its mission is a logical extension of discussions we’ve had as a group in the last year,” says WSIA President Bryan Sanders, who is also president of Markel Specialty. “The opportunity to drive change and enhance diversity in our industry is great, and the time is right. We are grateful for the WSIA member firms and individuals who have brought this initiative to the forefront.”

That organization’s move arrives on the heels of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) decision to more deeply examine these issues by establishing a Special Committee on Race and Insurance. The NAIC also hired a director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I).

“One of NAIC’s core values is creating a community where diverse voices are heard and valued,” NAIC CEO Michael Consedine said in a September 2020 statement after announcing that Evelyn Boswell will serve as the company’s top diversity executive. “We look forward to Evelyn’s leadership as we work to strengthen NAIC’s culture and her expertise to support the efforts of the new Special Committee on Race and Insurance.”

Mike Becker, CEO of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA National), applauded the NAIC for these steps in recent comments shared with PropertyCasualty360. Increasing diversity and inclusion in the insurance industry is a major focus of PIA National’s stated goals, he said. Becker also was optimistic about where the industry is headed with its inclusivity work.

“The percentage of nonwhite employees in the insurance workforce stood at 21.4% in 2019, an increase from 19.8% the prior year, according to data S&P Global Market Intelligence compiled from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,” Becker noted. “The percentage of nonwhite insurance workers was just 15.3% in 2010. These statistics indicate steady, if slow, progress to achieve greater diversity throughout our industry.”

The Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) fosters diversity and inclusion initiatives through its Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation as well as its support of the Diversity Task Force operated by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA). The Triple-I also maintains a resource page that lists diversity programs at several of the top insurance carriers, brokers and markets, including AIG, Chubb and Lloyds.

Insurance leaders linked to the aforementioned organizations point out the reasons for fostering diversity and inclusion go beyond humanitarianism.

“Diverse and inclusive teams have been proven to be more effective and able to create better economic and social outcomes,” says FM Global Chairman and CEO Thomas A. Lawson.

It is notable, however, that all of these initiatives are unfolding nearly six decades after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have A Dream” speech helped ignite the American civil rights movement. Those who either heard the speech firsthand or fancy themselves students of that era need only look to the many deadly confrontations between people of color and law enforcement as justification for questioning the true impact of corporate diversity and inclusion initiatives.

If your insurance organization is taking tangible steps to foster greater inclusivity, we’d like to hear about it. Share your insights by sending an email to [email protected].

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article characterized Vice President Kamala Harris as the first person of color to hold that office. In fact, Former Vice President Charles Curtis, a member of the Kaw Nation who served under President Herbert Hoover, holds the distinction of being the first vice president of color in the U.S.

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