Beyond diversifying their advertising, some say that companies can do far more than they previously have to fight discrimination and support social justice. Carriers including State Farm, Chubb, AIG and Root state that they are either already taking or preparing to take those broader steps.
Derede McAlpin of LEVICK, a crisis management public relations firm, explains that the Black Lives Matter global protests and their aftermath have raised the bar in terms of how companies should respond to calls for more diversity.
“In the wake worldwide Black Lives Matter protests, corporations rushed to issue statements denouncing discrimination, racial inequities and social injustice. However, more often than not, even the most well intended support triggered backlash accusing the same companies of hypocrisy,” said McAlpin, a crisis management expert who serves as chair of LEVICK’s litigation and diversity & inclusion practice groups. “From racial discrimination and toxic work culture allegations, to complaints about harassment and inequities in pay and hiring, companies are being called out for diversity and inclusion failures in record numbers.”
Band-aid remedies don’t work. Recognize the path to redemption takes time, effort and facing the unvarnished truth. Pledge to move beyond statements.
Derede McAlpin, LEVICK
“Company statements can expose glaring disconnects. A single news story or viral social media post can kill a well-established insurance brand in seconds,” McAlpin said. “Therefore, during these unprecedented times, it is crucial for insurance carriers to reexamine the past for issues not yet put to bed. Review your organization’s leadership, history, HR and local market data, values and corporate purpose.”
Insurers say they are doing just that, working continually to promote diversity and inclusion within their own ranks.
Diverse Recruiting Pools
State Farm does not set specific quotas but the insurer workers hard to recruit from a diverse pool of candidates to find the best individuals for the job, said Public Affairs Specialist Gina Morss-Fischer.
She explained that the insurer as a matter of policy “does not tolerate or condone discrimination of any kind and believes it is “stronger and better when we seek the broadest perspectives.”
Right now State Farm’s current workforce is 40 percent minority and 57 percent female, she said, adding that as of the end of June State Farm’s new external hires were 68 percent minority and 62 percent female.
As well, the insurer provides training and mentoring to its employees and agents in order to help better ensure advancement opportunities, Morss-Fischer said. That includes recent work by State Farm Chief Diversity Officer Victor Terry with colleagues on a Diversity and Inclusion Agent Champion Network to “provide opportunities for agents of all backgrounds to build each other up and provide advice, resources and tools to be successful with their independent small businesses.”
Also State Farm has a new mentoring app that lets employees “select and connect with mentors who can provide them with the specific type of just-in-time support they need at various points in their career,” she added.
Other efforts include hosting of career fairs and interacting with prospective employees at conferences and workshops for women and minorities, and boosting State Farm’s presence on LinkedIn and other social sites to attract diverse talent.
Improving an “Inclusive Meritocracy”
Carriers such as Chubb have made specific statements about the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as plans to address systemic racism and reinforce efforts to promote diversity within the company.
Chubb President and CEO Evan Greenberg said during the insurer’s second-quarter 2020 earnings call that Chubb considers itself “an inclusive meritocracy” that works to make every employee feel comfortable and recognized for their contributions through a variety of efforts.
The insurer has developed a new action plan, Greenberg said, designed to help enhance “individual and collective understanding of racism in society and strive within Chubb to be antiracist” in its behavior.
Greenberg described plans to hold executives and other leaders accountable for leading an inclusive environment. The insurer, he said, has also developed plans to eliminate “policies and practices that potentially create bias and inhibit our ability to create a greater racial mix of our workforce at all levels of the company.”
The company’s website notes that it has a dedicated regional Diversity & Inclusion council with senior representatives from across Europe, Eurasia and Africa.
As well, Chubb’s website notes that it is working on areas including the gender pay gap.
AIG CEO Brian Duperreault said the insurer is taking steps to address racial equality and improve diversity—issues raised globally by examples of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter protests that began earlier this summer.
These steps follow “courageous and often difficult conversations throughout our organization,” Duperreault noted during the insurer’s 2020 second-quarter earnings call on Aug. 4.
Duperreault said the insurer has worked in recent years “to foster a culture of diversity and inclusion,” but it recognizes the need to do more.
AIG also maintains a number of Employee Resource Groups that are designed to promote inclusion, employee engagement and a sense of belonging, according to the company’s website. Those groups include the Asian Leadership Network, Black Professionals & Allies, DisAbilities & Allies and Generations.
Other AIG Groups focus on interfaith issues, Latinos, LGPT employees and allies, multicultural and Middle Eastern employees, veterans, women, working families and young professionals.
Even InsurTechs are paying increasing attention to diversity issues.
Root, an InsurTech that sells renters and auto insurance digitally, recently announced plans to remove credit scores from its pricing model to build a fairer system. Root noted in its announcement that the use of credit scores and other demographic factors like occupation and education in car insurance rates builds bias into pricing. The insurer said that this process negatively impacts “historically under-resourced communities, immigrants, and those struggling to pay large medical expenses.”
In the end, McAlpin said, insurer efforts to create diversity within their ranks as well as support it in society come down to credibility.
“Credibility is key,” she said. “The wrong message or conflicting messages could appear desperate or offensive. Band-aid remedies don’t work. Recognize the path to redemption takes time, effort and facing the unvarnished truth. Pledge to move beyond statements and empower your leadership to walk the walk.”