On April 21, 2021, AIRROC was thrilled to host a webinar during which a panel of experts in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion (“DEI”) convened for a frank discussion on racial equity in the insurance industry. The panelists were:
- Brett Carter, MBA, a Managing Director for The Jacobson Group’s executive search team, where he manages C-Level, vice president and other executive level searches for clients from all sectors of the insurance industry. Prior to joining Jacobson, Mr. Carter spent 20 years with insurance companies, including his most recent position where he served as Diversity Partner for Munich Re US P&C.
- Ivy Kusinga, the Chief Culture Officer at Chubb. Ms. Kusinga partners with business and functional leaders to strengthen Chubb’s culture and provide an inclusive equitable environment that enables high performance. She also works with leadership teams across Chubb to support the company’s focus on attracting developing and retaining talent.
- Dr. Leroy Nunery II, M.B.A., Ed.D., the founder of PlusUltré LLC, a strategic advisory firm that focuses on turnarounds, transformations, growth and innovation planning, resource development, talent development, governance, training, and diversity, equity and inclusion strategies. In the insurance space, Dr. Nunery is actively engaged as a strategic consultant for industry-leading carriers, reinsurance companies, independent agencies and trade associations, helping them to effectuate organizational cultural change by transforming their capacities to identify and select and retain diverse talent.
The panel was moderated by Randi Ellias, a partner in the Insurance and Reinsurance Litigation Group at Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP. The following is a transcript of the hour-long discussion (edited for brevity and clarity):
Ms. Ellias: I thought it might be useful to provide a little bit of background, including a bit of a snapshot on where diversity is in the insurance industry currently. The modern day conversation about diversity and inclusion really started in 1987. That’s when the then-Secretary of Labor commissioned a study to look at economic and demographic trends in the workforce. That study found that there was likely to be economic benefit to be derived from diversification of the workforce. Those findings that really kicked off the discussion on diversity, equity and inclusion that we are still having today.
Here we are, three decades later, and where do we stand? Just earlier this month, McKinsey & Company published a piece on the Black experience at work. That piece looked at the US workforce as a whole. It’s based on data that they got from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, data from the EEOC, data they got from the census, and some other sources of information. A few McKinsey’s findings are particularly relevant to the discussion today. What McKinsey noted was, first, that Black workers in the US workforce have lower odds of advancement and higher attrition at frontline and entry level positions. They noted that there is low Black representation at executive levels, that there is a significant trust deficit that Black employees have toward their companies, and that there is a lack of managerial sponsorship and allyship for Black employees in their organizations.
Business Insurance also conducts an annual diversity survey. The most recent of their surveys was published in two parts, in their September and December 2020 issues. This most recent study had 2200 respondents. Those individuals were asked whether they believed that there was systemic racism in the insurance industry. 85.7% of the Black respondents said yes, there is systemic racism in the insurance industry, that is compared with 53.5% of Asian respondents and 43.1% of the LatinX respondents. And just so you have the full panoply by comparison, 31.2% of white respondents agreed that there was systemic racism in the industry.
So here we are 34 years beyond the 1987 study, and there is still clearly work to be done on diversity, equity and inclusion. Our very accomplished panel is going to help us understand how companies can make meaningful progress on these issues, including the actions that organizations can take to create a more inclusive culture.
The first question I have for you all relates to nomenclature. I think when people started talking about these issues, we heard people talking about diversity. And then we heard people talking about diversity and inclusion. And these days, we hear diversity, equity and inclusion. I’m wondering, if you can speak regarding the evolving nomenclature? What is really being included in those in those buzzwords today?
Mr. Carter: I think nomenclature and just having a base level understanding of what we mean with the words that we’re using is very important. And it does change and kind of progress over time. When I first joined the industry, which was the mid-to-late 90s, the prevailing term I heard a lot was “emerging markets.” That was used even before diversity and inclusion to represent this opportunity to tap into markets that were previously not considered as strong opportunities. Then we evolved into diversity. And we all know that diversity is a really broad term that primarily means difference, so you have to be really specific when you’re talking about diversity to get at what aspects of diversity you’re interested in. We thought, OK, we need to move that forward and talk about being inclusive or add the term inclusion so that we can really focus on embracing those differences. Now, I think with the addition of equity – and there are other words that are being included – even beyond equity, like belonging and things like that – but I think with the addition of equity, we’re really talking about fairness. If you compare equity to equality, that really is fairness versus sameness. So, it’s not that everyone’s going to get exactly the same thing as everyone else, regardless of privilege or differences, but that we’re going to provide fairness based on where you are and based on how the differences show up for you in your experience. This is all just my opinion, but I think it’s a great progression of where we’re going and obviously, I think we’re going to progress even further than that. I think it’s important that everyone stays up-to-date on what these terms mean and how they play out within our organizations.
Ms. Kusinga: What I would add to that is when we were planning this particular discussion, obviously, we did not foresee the verdict coming in from George Floyd. This is just a coincidence that we’re having the discussion on the day after. But I do think it begs reflecting that for the first time, honestly, historically, when it comes to achieving justice in the legal system for African Americans, for an African American man, really murdered with a very unflinching video, capturing his just tragic death, that the outcome was one that I think many of us can get behind as being a just outcome. So the nomenclature around equity is a very relevant part of the African American experience, the Black experience. Clearly, in insurance, one would hope that we’re not fighting for our lives on a daily basis. But I do think the sobering reality of life in the broader context of America, the broader context of the world, has a very direct correlation to some of the struggles, some of the experiences, and really some of the opportunities that I think we still have to undertake as an industry.
Dr. Nunery: First of all, the opportunity to be with Brett and Ivy is spectacular, and I think she’s spot on in terms of the context. And for me, context is everything. Diversity, equity, inclusion is the term of today, but what preceded that was multiculturalism, and what preceded that was affirmative action. There’s always been some way of trying to capture the issue of underrepresentation. Not just in terms of how many people you have of different stripes or beliefs – i.e., diversity, kind of like the jar of jelly beans at the county fair, how many are there of these – but when I look at equity, I think about consideration, do they have that fair chance of exhibiting skill and competence. And when you bring people in through the door, and yet seem sometimes to leave certain people behind, because they just don’t have the code to get all the way through. Then, inclusion to me is really around resource allocation. It’s one of those things that now is kind of being replaced by intersectionality, this sense that any of us on this screen or in the audience are multi-layered. You may look at me and see this Black man, middle aged, but you have no idea what my trek has been. Companies, particularly in insurance, are latching on to a term to freeze it, so they can say, “well, we’ve got this discipline.” That’s great. My challenge to them is: Why stop there? Let’s not just freeze this so that you can put the nice caption on and have the annual report with all these beautiful faces on it, everybody smiling and saying cheese at the same time. When I open up those pages and start digging in, what do I really see? Where do I see those diverse individuals? And how are they included?
Ms. Ellias: You just said something that captured my attention, Dr. Nunery. You said some people don’t necessarily “have the code to get all the way through.” Can you elaborate on that? Once you have a diverse individual in an organization, what systemic factors may be at play that impact his or her growth or success?
Dr. Nunery: I’ll go back to something you quoted in terms of the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2020. I’ve looked at that same data. The industry is populated 12.4% by African Americans, and then lesser percentages for Asian Americans, Latinos, Hispanics. The problem is you go back 10 years, when Barack Obama was still president, that representation for African Americans was only 9%. Now 9% to 12% sounds like there’s growth, but that was over 10 years in a booming economy. So the thing here that those BLS numbers never really addressed is where are these people being hired? In what jobs? Why is it when I look across the C-suite and the next rung down that it still looks a lot like it did back in the 40’s and 50’s and so on. So some people don’t have the code. They don’t know how to dial in to get up the ladder, or they’re not given a code at all, or they’re hired in to make sure that the picture looks replete with everybody that we think we need to have in, and there’s an [employee resource group (“ERG”)] for you, all you’ve got to do is raise your hand. But that’s not really inclusion. And that’s not real equity. It might be diversity, but it may not be those other two elements.
Ms. Kusinga: I’m just going to build off on that and use physics as a point of illustration, that energy flows towards the path of least resistance. When you really think about it, Dr. Nunery is talking about the talent pipeline, where does that representation learn in professional roles, managerial roles, and senior roles that people like Brett and others recruit for? You’ll find that actually, most people of color, Black or brown, are represented disproportionately in lower level roles. You can find us in in mid-levels maybe, but for the most part in that entry level administrative roles, you will find the right level of representation. What the McKinsey study is pointing out is yes, we are in those organizations, and really working hard, really contributing, really, actually very proud to be part of the industry, part of our organizations. But we are languishing. So this ability to get the right tacit knowledge matters because – let’s be frank – performance is one layer of what advances somebody. And then there are other variables that advance people, and I think that will be part of our discussion. I think all organizations would accept that excellence is going to be your price of entry. But I do think we need to be very honest, that beyond excellence, there are other variables at play. Affiliation is a big variable at play because if somebody knows you, you have more visibility. Your name is tabled more continualIy. If somebody knows you, you’re pulled into informal settings. And most Black people, most people of color, are often on the fringes of those relationships. Those relationships don’t come naturally to them. That’s not to say all white people have that, but you can see when we look at the studies, disproportionately, you can actually see the impact of a lack of affiliation playing out.
Mr. Carter: I’d just add one little bit to that, because I agree with everything that Dr. Nunnery and Ivy said. Talent is evenly distributed. Opportunities are not. It’s not enough to just bring diverse talent into the organization. There needs to be a plan. There needs to be development for that talent so you can see movement and progression among careers. In my role at Jacobson, I may hope to see how these things play out for different groups and in different organizations. And it’s very telling. But I think there needs to be more thought – intentional thought – around the development of talent once you bring that talent into your organization.
Ms. Ellias: We have a question that just came in from the audience. It’s a two part question. Do sponsorships and mentorships really work? Can our people of color learn “the code” using those strategies?
Dr. Nunery: Sponsorships and mentorships absolutely matter. For many people who are in the underrepresented categories, however, obtaining a mentor, or particularly a sponsor, somebody who is senior who will actually vouch for you, is a much more difficult task. That’s where ERGs can come in. That’s where associations, whether the Latin American Insurance Agents Association or NAAIA [the National African American Insurance Association] and others can come in to help provide that panoramic multi-dimensional access. You can meet folks from different slices of the industry. I think that helps. But this industry – particularly more so than the one I started out in, corporate finance and capital markets, although very similar – is so driven by, not your education or how somebody finds you, but a family or friend or connection. It is driven by that. Look at how when anytime an announcement goes out about somebody leaving company X to go to carrier Y, it’s all because somebody moved, and they brought along their friends. So if you are fortunate enough to have a sponsor, that means you’ve got to be connected already into that ecosystem. You can’t just again, dial a number and find a sponsor. So we need more sensitivity, empathy, but also managers who are aware enough that they’ve got talent within their own ranks that they don’t fully appreciate. And once they do, they’re going to find more people willing to go forward and do that work.
Mr. Carter: I would add to that. The sponsorship and mentorship does not need to just be with someone who looks like you. It absolutely needs to be with people who don’t look like you, who have different perspectives and different experiences and different influence within the organization. But to your point, Dr. Nunery, how we organically build these relationships and build these connections and the opportunity for these connections is really important. It needs to be intentional and needs to be something that, as much as it’s driven by the individual, needs to be a priority for leadership as well, if you want to really have change going forward.
Ms. Kusinga: So let me come in with just two points behind my very esteemed peers. One of the points of contention I will pose – and I hope there’s lots of people of color listening to us – is do not wait for your company’s programs. It’s a real head scratcher for me that people are waiting for people to launch programs. I am doing my best at Chubb to launch many programs. But take a bet on yourself. You are your best advocate. You need to be relentless about your career. You seek that sponsorship, you find that mentor, and obviously talk to others to get advice. I think something that takes away power from people is when people are just waiting for programs. And I think companies try to do their best, but sometimes the programs don’t come in enough time. The other thing I would say about sponsorship: not all sponsors are created equal. Now you can see I like to use these little sayings; this is very much who I am. Because a sponsor needs to have enough influence in your business, in your function, in your company. Sponsorship is about somebody who has influence in an organization and can really make your career move by putting their political capital behind you, particularly when you’re not in a room. This is why this is so instrumental in the talent discussion. Because if we’re talking about Dr. Nunery and talking about Brett, and everybody has bullet points on Brett, but nobody knows Dr. Nunery, who do you think is going to get that promotion? Brett is going to get that promotion. Talent decisions, especially for key roles are usually held in smaller settings with key decisionmakers. So, again, I like to promote the self-advocacy piece as part of this discussion. Because I think as organizations are working to launch programs, I’d like to think that individuals can give themselves a fair chance as well.
Ms. Ellias: So I have a couple of questions out of the Q&A. One relates back to what we’re talking about when we talk about diversity. The question is “what is the formula, if appropriate to call it a formula, for companies that are multinational to determine the percentage of diverse employees at senior levels?” The questioner goes on to make the point that diversity is not just skin color. It’s race, it’s gender, it’s a lot of different things.
Dr. Nunery: It’s fascinating because working with a couple of European carriers and interviewing their seniormost executives, they’re saying, look, diversity for us right now is hiring somebody from outside our borders. It’s also about gender, more than it is about race and ethnicity. For somebody in North America, that seems very strange, like why wouldn’t you consider everything? But let’s take people where they are, number one, and number two, realize that this is moving at different speeds in different places. The biggest thing — and my challenge to somebody just today, at 5:30 this morning here – was to say, okay, you are a white male, you’ve grown within this company, you’re 40 some-odd years old, you basically have your hands on the wheel: What are you doing? How do you engage in these conversations? And it’s funny, because it’s not that he didn’t want to answer, it was almost like he was afraid to give the wrong answer. I think part of this is about recognizing, why would diversity, however you define it, be an asset to our company? How does it help us drive our business agenda? Because people aren’t coming to work for you, just because they say, oh, I think you’ll be nice, and I get a free sandwich on a Friday. They want to know that their careers, their livelihoods, are going to be fostered. In all the research I’ve done, particularly around African Americans, people will who join the industry – even though many didn’t think about it in high school or college – joined the industry, and they stay. They get those designations, and they stay for 10,15, 20 years. They may switch companies, but they don’t leave the industry. So it seems to me if you’ve got this kind of almost imagined loyalty to the business . . . boy, if I’m running a company, those are the folks I want because I know that they’re going to help make me move. I don’t care what they look like, but they’ve got to be competent. And I think they are. And I’ve also got to build that competence up so that they and I get a bilateral exchange of value.
Mr. Carter: Can I add one quick thing to that as well? Because I agree with everything that Dr. Nunery said there, but just to get back to the part of the question around a formula. I don’t think it’s that simple. There isn’t a formula or a one-size-fits-all for any of our organizations, because they’re all different. So you really have to do the work – the hard work – of assessing the needs of your organization, where you are in a DEI journey, and the aspirations you have. How will that translate to different business outcomes for your organization? Then, you let that drive the strategy. There’s a fantastic DEI consultant that I’ve been reading a lot of articles from recently. Her name is Lily Zheng. In a recent article I read of hers, she suggested that to get to the benefits of DEI or to actually realize the business case we’ve all talked about so much, you actually have to do the work and really understand how the costs of DEI are going to translate to those benefits. They don’t just magically show up. I’ll give you an example here. If you want to start a fitness program – maybe you want to lose 25 pounds – you go out and you hire a personal trainer or go to a gym with a personal trainer. Just doing that does not lose you the 25 pounds. You have to actually do the work. You’re going to have to sweat, and it’s going to be hard, and it’s going to take time. Same thing applies here. You can’t shortcut the hard work in order to get the results. As an industry, we have to kind of get out of this cycle of getting mad at the results we didn’t get from the work we didn’t do.
Ms. Kusinga: Let’s also talk about the customer because let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are in a business to serve, at least Chubb is. We are trading in 54 countries. We’re in all regions, and we’re serving a need to really give customers protection and security for their risks. So the customer voice, honestly, and the customer perspective, is also a big play for us. If you want to draw in new types of customers, if you want to service them effectively and understand who they are, you better have a talent workforce that can really listen in and understand the needs of those customers. I also think the demographics of who gets to sustain our industry are compelling to me. When I look at a lot of insurance companies, at the more senior level, the average age is probably 55 upward. But who is going to sustain this industry? It’s the generation that’s coming behind us. So if we want insurance to sustain — and I think many of us love this business, we have stuck with it because of what it does, its mission focus – but this is also about building for the future. So you have to attract the talent that’s coming in by giving them a variation of what they expect. People that are coming in, younger professionals, expect to see a far more diverse world because, frankly, they have lived in a far more diverse setting in school or in college. For them, it’s not even a question of why do you need it. I think that’s a really big driver, if we’re to pull the best talent into the industry.
Ms. Ellias: This question relates to something Brett just said about doing the work of DEI. I’m going to make a very gross generalization here and say that it seems like when you look at a lot of companies and the infrastructure there, they’re attempting to address DEI concerns by putting a structure in place where there’s someone who functions as a chief diversity officer, usually in an HR role. And then there are various employee resource groups to try to reach out and provide a safe place for people who are members of underrepresented groups. Does that kind of infrastructure work on moving the needle?
Ms. Kusinga: No, it doesn’t. This may be controversial to state, but I’m going to go ahead and state it. Diversity, equity and inclusion work cannot be delegated to only chief diversity officers as their sole responsibility. This is fundamentally a leadership duty. This is fundamentally a collective duty. I really think about it a little bit like the whole social change around global climate. We all accept responsibility for our carbon footprint. You look at the materials in your house, you’ll become a more savvy buyer because you’re worried. You’ve inherited this planet, it’s a shared space. I really do think diversity, equity and inclusion issues would evolve in the same way, that all of us recognize that, yes, there’s leadership responsibility, because those are the people running our businesses. But honestly, there has to be collective responsibility. As somebody in this role, I obviously oversee culture for Chubb but I have to say that from our perspective, from [our chairman] Evan’s perspective, it is leadership duty. I get mildly concerned when all diversity questions come in my direction. Leaders ought to have a point of view; they ought to have action in their toolkits as to what they’re doing. I really should just be considered their wing woman. I should just be brought in to support and bolster what the leader is doing. In the absence of that, I think you have the reality of what we have is a very high burnout role, so chief diversity officers burnout more than any other role. They have one of the highest levels of attrition. The reality is if you’re just parking all this stuff, hoping that your chief diversity officer is going to solve everything, that’s a fool’s errand.
Dr. Nunery: It’s fascinating to me that there is this pattern: you could first – and I’ve done this – take all the DEI statements for every insurance company that you know of, strip out the name, and look at what they say, and they’re all basically the same. Then you look at the organizational structures, the way they’ve laid out chief diversity officers, etc. And it’s kind of the same. And it’s so interesting, because it’s almost like lemmings in some ways. Somebody’s got to do it. So let’s just follow it, as opposed to being innovative, thinking deeply, again, about what does my company need? And where does it need that support? That same Business Insurance article that Randi referred to had a graphic in it that I bring out all the time. When asked “who is most accountable for diversity, equity inclusion implementation,” the CEO was at 63 ½% and the chief diversity or human resource officer at 13% — a 50 point gap, which says a couple of things. One, people are looking for the leader, whoever she or he is, to make this statement and walk the walk. But it also means they are relegating responsibility to that person and saying, well, look, this is your thing. I don’t really have to do this unless you tell me that I have to. And so I think it’s not just about the structure. It’s what I’ve been talking about: that deep commitment to say, I believe that this is important because it’s great for our business, it’s great for our customers, we need to be responsive. And oh, wait a minute, I looked down the line and I see the world changing. John Amaechi, a foremost expert in DEI, a couple of weeks ago said something on a webinar in which we both participated. He talks about the water rising, and how so many insurance CEOs when they see water say, well, you know, it hasn’t gotten to any point of danger yet. Pretty soon, it’ll be up over their heads. Young people – people who have been exposed, who have marched in the streets, around somebody [George Floyd] whom they didn’t even know – they are willing to say, you know what, I won’t come work for you unless you can demonstrate for me that you believe enough about including more people. Even if those folks don’t come work for you, they are going to be the ones who have the checkbook in their hands. And those folks are the ones you need to respond to. So structure or no structure, you’ve got to be more market responsive, I believe.
Ms. Ellias: We have a question in the chat that nicely follows up on this. The question is: we want companies to go beyond “talking that talk” or “walking the walk,” as Dr. Nunery just mentioned. How do we help companies that want to implement initiatives with action?
Mr. Carter: I think we’ve been alluding to this. There’s this performative nature of things that are happening with a lot of the statements that have been made [by organizations]. I think to really kind of move beyond that I go to the first line of the McKinsey article that was referenced earlier. “To solve a problem, you need to understand it.” To solve the problem, you have to understand it. To understand it, you have to acknowledge it exists. And that it is really a problem we want to solve. I don’t think enough of us within our industry have really honestly embraced and accepted that this is a problem that needs to be addressed and prioritized appropriately within our organizations. Until we do, there will continue to be a lot of performative efforts made where we put in an ERG or system or create a committee, but don’t give that committee the authority and the resources to get off the ground. Or, we shift all of our responsibility in this area to a chief diversity officer, or some other similarly titled role, and then expect that individual to get it done. And when they don’t, when they’re not successful, then we just say, hey, “Well, we tried, let’s move on to the next thing.” We wouldn’t approach any other problem within our business this way and we should try not to do that here. Until we really get honest about that as organizations, the real transformation is going to be slow to come.
Ms. Kusinga: I love this word performative, so let me give my own color to Brett’s commentary. Because I do think it also begs reflection that this is the first time that we’re talking about race and racism in an honest way. I don’t know how many of you have been part of organizations where those were taboo subjects. You can’t even talk about that. So suddenly, we were leaping from, by the way, let’s talk about it to, by the way, we should have done something about this. There really needs to be some patience with which we tackle some of this stuff, if we’re going to do it honestly and if we’re going to do it fundamentally. First of all, the perspective that I bring is that organizations have the cosmetic nature of who they are; I think Dr. Nunery alluded to this. Then I think there’s what I’m going to call the plumbing, the hard wiring of an organization is that recruitment funnel, is that manager allocation. It’s who gets stretch assignments. It’s your succession planning process. It’s your talent assessment process. Every organization has a belly, or what I’m going to call hardwiring. Often in diversity, equity and inclusion work, you focus on the performative. You’re launching unconscious bias, and you’re bringing in Dr. Bonacci, we’ve all had tools of the blind spot. That, yes, builds the level of awareness, but until you deal with the hardwiring of an organization, the plumbing of an organization, I do think some of these efforts over time actually become futile. So I think that the good story is that we now have a point of candor that we haven’t had before. I certainly think in the past year, I’ve had conversations with colleagues that I’ve never had before. But I think the real test here is will we accelerate the work in a way that fundamentally addresses the pipeline? The one positive thing I would say is it’s an all boats rises type of story. If you can deal with issues of racial equity, it really is about improving everyone because if I can fix issues of performance management distribution, if I can fix issues around who gets career development, I’m literally fixing things that actually allow all boats to rise.
Ms. Ellias: There’s a question in the Q&A that I think follows naturally from precisely what you were just talking about. The question is: given that recruiting is already a focus for our company, what would you recommend we pursue as our next priority? And I think that gets to this issue of the hardwiring that you’re discussing.
Ms. Kusinga: I’ll defer that to my panelists as well. But I think it’s so interesting when we talk about the lack of diversity that everybody piles on to the recruitment. This is an observation that I will make. I do think people of color find the industry attractive. I do think they tend to apply. I do think they sit in our organizations. But they languish in our organizations. So another part of solving the issue for us is what are we doing with the talent that is already in the building? Because it’s a must. It’s actually a harder job to just buy it. We ought to be building that talent. It is a matter of optimizing all the talent that you have. If I can get you to work 80% and offer 80% when you were offering 40%, that’s a win for our business. So I think there is this untapped talent that is sitting in roles within all our organizations. Yes, we are not a lot of us reassured by insurance statistics. But the fact is, we still have some people in the industry. Part of that is what are we doing to make sure that they get opportunity, that they get to advance. So I’m also focused not just on the “buy talent,” but the “build talent” strategy.
Mr. Carter: I would add, if you’ve really done the hard work of mitigating bias throughout your entire talent acquisition process, then I think it would behoove your organization to talk about and focus on the development and retention of that talent. I’ll just share a quick story, I’m currently the vice president of the NAAIA Chicago chapter; that’s the National African American Insurance Association. For the first 10 or so years of my career in insurance, I had no idea that organization even existed. Once I discovered it did and started to get involved, I would attend events that were in the insurance industry. I would walk into the room and see people that looked like me. In fact, the majority of the room would be filled with people that looked like me, at all levels of the organization: senior executives, middle managers, individual contributors. I was able to start to see possibilities that I didn’t know really existed for me before within this industry. Making sure your employees have opportunities to further develop themselves with different organizations, that they’re able to get opportunities to professionally develop and see what the possibilities are, and then bring that back into your organization, I think that’s just really powerful. It was very powerful for me to see what could be for me and others like me within this industry. That is definitely one of the many reasons why I’ve stayed in this industry as long as I have. So, I just wanted to share that there can’t be enough focus put on development and retention because, like Ivy mentioned, the future of our industry is going to rest with these future leaders we’re growing and developing right now. This is of critical importance.
Ms. Ellias: There’s a question that says “what frameworks out there would you recommend organizations use to incorporate DEI accountability into individual and team goals? The research and design required to create this in-house without the budget for consulting is quite a barrier to doing this right.”
Dr. Nunery: The fact is that the frameworks that can bring accountability in are not that different than any other performative and/or expectational situation. We lay out profit margins or revenue growth targets. Why is it not also important to say, we are looking at you not just to have a diverse slate of candidates, but we also want to see when we do a cultural audit or when we do some type of DEI audit, how your employees are feeling. Do they feel they belong more? Are they able to come to you? The thing that’s fascinating to me is, I’ve looked at insurance or even in professional sports, that many people were promoted into senior jobs not because they were great people managers, but because they knew that end of the business, licensing, sponsorship, or production. They got to certain levels where – almost like a Peter Principle – they had to manage more folks, and they just couldn’t cut it. That’s where you get the harassment suits. That’s when you get deposed because somebody’s complaint was not properly addressed. So I don’t know that you need a consultant, although consultants really will add to the bottom line. I think it’s more about having the mindset, what is it that management within an organization expects? And why is it that they don’t expect good people development at the same time they expect market development or revenue development or cost constraints? I think people can spin more than one plate at a time, they’ve just never been asked to, and they’ve never been measured.
Ms. Kusinga: The other thing that’s interesting about this question of frameworks is, honestly, I do think we have to just imagine beyond the frameworks. Because I do think every company has its own waters to swim in. It’s interesting that we can come up with three tactics, and those three tactics will realize a different endpoint in three different companies. So my way of looking at this work is I think you have to be wise about your own company, you have to be very willing to disrupt the traditional frameworks, and willing to pull in the things that you think, whether or not they’ve been tested before, I think I am more willing to even experiment. Because I do think some of the traditional ways of solving for some of these issues just are not sufficient or don’t give you the right outcome that you want. But building accountability into leadership is a common challenge, regardless of industry. So even if you were to talk to pharma, or to talk to banking, really driving leadership accountability for the D and I agenda is just tough work. But to Lee’s point, it’s just like if you’re running a portfolio business, it is probably a good idea that we actually look at how you run your portfolio of talent as well. I mean, it’s the same principle.
Ms. Ellias: For those people of color that have succeeded in obtaining higher levels of success in a particular career, are there studies that show any trends with respect to how his or her success was achieved?
Dr. Nunery: In the Journey study, I interviewed a little over two dozen seasoned individuals, 10 years of experience at least and more. Since that time, three plus years, I’ve talked to dozens more. They each have individual stories. If I could summarize them, they would say that as they climb, they were further isolated, i.e., fewer individuals around them who “look like them”. That’s kind of to be expected, that they had to reach outside the four walls of the company in order to find allegiances and alliances that would work. And that often as they got more opportunity, particularly more P&L responsibility, if that’s what it was, or becoming a Chief Operating Officer running all the infrastructure of the company, they realized that a lot of what they were doing wasn’t putting their womanness, their Blackness, their Muslimness (I know that’s not a word) on the shelf, but they weren’t making that the reason why they were there. It was really about their competence to run the business. We’ve always had this invisible man, invisible woman feeling, this duality, this sense of having at least three or four different languages – and I’m not talking about Romance versus Cyrillic. I’m talking about being able to go into one room and talk a certain way and then go into another room and have a completely different type of conversation. Part of the challenge is building folks up enough that they can sustain the onslaught of microaggressions. Not that anybody’s even trying to be evil, it’s just there. And remember, we’re talking about [the culture] inside companies, not dealing with clients who reject you – because I’ve had that – or when I went on the board of a then-Fortune 500 company, well, how did he get in here? So I think part of this is what people expect, but we can change that if we keep banging away at it, I believe.
Ms. Kusinga: Dr. Nunery, thank you so much for sharing that because I was sitting here tallying up some of my personal experiences and correlating them to some of the things that you’re sharing. Dr. Nunery touched on this, but it’s the psychological safety – or lack of safety – that you experience as a Black person, or as a person that’s often outnumbered, and what that does to you, frankly, what that does to your psyche, what that does to your performance. One of the things to me that has made a difference is you have to have a very good personal life. Because you can’t count on that kind of openness at work, then you better get that in your personal life. So my poor children have had to put up with so many Chubb stories. They know the cast of characters, they know way too much about insurance than is probably permissible for somebody their age. But it’s a way of trying to deal with the bifurcation. You can’t really release the whole of who you are. The other area that I think probably needs to be studied is this idea of being constrained. I think one of the things that is very coded in Black achievement is managing your emotions very carefully, recognizing that what you do say and how you do and say it often has a very different grade than your peer. And so this level of constraint – which by the way, it’s not healthy, to be honest – but it really is part of the experience that we have in trying to navigate these very outnumbered waters that we find ourselves swimming in all the time.
Mr. Carter: I couldn’t agree more with everything that was just said. I saw that in the chat, someone mentioned building your personal board of directors, and that’s what I was going to add. It really helps to have a strong network. You can join organizations and groups, get connected with similar people or like-minded people. For me, that really was NAAIA. That was a way for me to access leaders and gain additional mentors and sponsors. I don’t think you can ever have too many mentors or sponsors, and I think you really need to take advantage of that. And keep a growth mindset. We’re not fixed. We don’t just stay in one place. Be open to opportunities. Be open to ideas and to learning and growing every day and in every conversation that you have. Allow that to drive how you contribute to the organization and add value. Because when we really tap into that, we’re in control. We have a lot more control than we think we do over where we take our journey.
Ms. Ellias: So I think we are coming up on time. I want to thank you all for this panel today. I’ve been privileged to sit down with each of you individually and together. Every time I do it’s fascinating, and I learned so much. So it’s a personal thank you for me. It’s been a privilege.
- To read more about this webinar visit The Jacobson Group’s blog post on the session: https://blog.jacobsononline.com/making-meaningful-progress-toward-racial-equity-within-insurance.
 “The Black experience at work in charts,” McKinsey Quarterly (April 2021.)
 Id. at 1.
 Id. at 2.
 “Diversity in the workplace: Protests and pandemic exposed racial disconnect,” Business Insurance (September 2020) at 14.
Id. at 15.