Change Through Action: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Insurance

By Kris Maccini, Social Media Director, Triple-I

Dr. Leroy Nunery II

While the insurance industry acknowledges the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), has it become part of the core values and culture? The short answer: there has been progress, but more action is needed. Triple-I met with Dr. Leroy Nunery II, author of The Journey of African-American Insurance Professionals and Triple-I non-resident scholar, to discuss how the industry has advanced in DEI since his 2018 study.

Nunery describes Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as interoperable, noting that each is often defined separately but can’t stand alone. “Diversity is the practice of considering differences from whatever the norm is at a company. Equity is about access to opportunities that people might not have. Inclusion is bringing people together at the same table and the concern that they have for each other,” he explains.

According to S&P Global research, the number of Black professionals in the insurance industry increased to 12.4 percent of the workforce from 9 percent in the last 10 years, with the number of Asians and people in the Other category increasing to 6.2 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively. While the numbers are rising, the pace of change is lagging.

One of the primary challenges to DEI within insurance is the barrier to entry. Nunery explains, “Insurance is largely nepotistic and driven by family connection. It’s challenging to succeed without that group connection or network.” He believes that people of color can shift these numbers and take advantage of that momentum. “We can be exclusive at times. We say, ‘We’re all in,’ but we do everything we can so only a small group can get in. We need to do a better job of transferring knowledge,” he says.

Companies are realizing that commitment to DEI is more than hiring more people of color. There are markets to develop, business alliances to form, and investments in training and advocacy. Nunery is working with a client on a six-month job shadowing program that partners people of color with senior executives – granting C-suite exposure and access to meetings that were previously out of reach. “It’s important to coach up talent to perform at a greater level,” Nunery says of these programs. “It’s a tightrope to walk, but I tell people not to worry about failure. Worry about how successful you’re going to be.”

Camaraderie and mentorship can only go so far. A September 2020 survey by Business Insurance showed that 63 percent of respondents believe that the CEO bears the greatest responsibility in making DEI work. Nunery agrees and adds that the CEO not only needs to say that DEI is important but also puts it into action.

“When you ask companies to prove DEI, they come up short,” Nunery says. “Managers are not evaluated for it. There are no key performance indicators. Boards ask about it but don’t make it mandatory. To make DEI successful, let’s be more honest with our exchanges.”