The April 13 episode of AAIS Pulse featured a frank discussion on diversity, equity and inclusion in corporate American, the insurance industry, and society at large, as seen through the lens of leaders in insurance regulation.
AAIS’s El Cid Balitaan was joined by Chlora Lindley-Myers, Director of the Missouri Department of Commerce and VP of the Insurance and National Association Of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), and Commissioner Andrew Mais of the Connecticut Insurance Department, who is Secretary Treasurer of the NAIC.
As the NAIC plans for a comprehensive, long-term approach to address Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Director Lindley-Myers cuts to the chase on why change is needed: “Discrimination and exclusion, whether intentional or not, isn't something that we as a society can afford to have. We can't continue to ignore it; it is out there,” she said.
“Diversity is simply a fact of life. It will make us all stronger. It is a necessity in a society that is itself becoming increasingly more diverse,” added Commissioner Mais. “It is not just…morally good….it is also financially good, economically good.” Studies have shown that organizations that are more diverse are more financially successful.
Boiling this fact down to the insurance company level, the Commissioner asked, “…. as the leader of an insurance organization, what you're trying to do is to sell the most products to the most people. How do you do that if the people in your organization all think alike, you all come from the same background? You are not going to get the diversity of ideas that you need,” he explained, underscoring the need for both diversity and inclusion by pointing to an important distinction: “Diversity is having a seat at the table, inclusion is having your voice be heard,” he noted.
To impact real change, Director Lindley-Myers said, “We need to move beyond those issues that are obvious signs of discrimination and exclusion, to those that are less obvious, but just as damaging.” Some of those less obvious signs stem from unconscious bias, and both Commissioner Mais and Director Lindley Myers agreed that the ‘implicit bias’ training sprouting up in corporate America is an important step (though doing it once is not enough), but it is just one part of a comprehensive approach.
At the NAIC, and across the country, “Opening up the conversation -- the ability of people to talk to each other, and to listen to each other, and to learn from each other – is critical,” the Commissioner said, adding that candid internal discussions where Commissioners shared their own experiences from all different backgrounds, were invaluable as they laid the foundation for NAIC’s DEI efforts going forward.
What are some of the key factors needed to drive diversity in any organization? Having metrics to track progress, tying it to compensation – and setting the right “tone at the top.”
Moderator Balitaan pointed the discussion to the tragic events of George Floyd and the resulting social unrest, noting that, “As a result, companies have made pledges to make workplaces more diverse, and a priority for 2021. While commendable, to me it feels a bit deja vu. What's the difference this time?” he asked.
Director Lindley-Myers expressed hope that this event (and others like it) would bring much needed recognition, and a broadening of ‘thought patterns” in society as a whole, that will propel progress. Commissioner Mais noted that, as has been seen in response to incidents throughout history, our society has reached another inflection point.
The NAIC has created a special committee on insurance and race, which is looking at a variety of issues, including equal access to insurance and the growing gap that continues to emerge for people of color and historically underrepresented groups. The committee’s work is a multi-year effort’ with multiple workstreams underway, focusing on various functional areas within the industry. The Commissioner, who chairs the Property & Casualty workstream, says he is pleased with the progress and emphasized the wide breadth of issues that need to be addressed. NAIC’s efforts will be driven by information and data – identifying and delving into myriad issues – just one example being what happens as more insurance business goes online and there is a technology gap. How does that impact serving and servicing underserved communities?
“We, collectively as a group of regulators, are in agreement that it can't stay the same … it's reached a point of becoming an ongoing and supported priority for all of us …. to build a more inclusive and diverse population, not only in our businesses, but also in our culture.,” Director Lindley-Myers said.
More details on the status of NAIC DEI workstreams will be presented at the NAIC Spring Conference, the Commissioner notes. Meanwhile, visit the NAIC website for more information on the DEI framework. And view the entire Regulatory Brief from the AAIS Pulse newsmagazine segment above.