Industry the October 2021 issue

A Renewed Focus on DE&I

Allyship fuels diversity, equity and inclusion.
Sponsored by CNA Posted on September 30, 2021

For diversity to result in improved business outcomes, companies must be supported and enabled by inclusion. It’s not one or the other, it is both. And “allyship” is the key to unlocking both. While it has many definitions, allyship can be summed up as “the process of building trust and accountability in which people of privilege empathize with, support, and help to mitigate the headwinds faced by marginalized groups.” By putting allyship at the forefront, businesses can level the playing field and progressively achieve equity in an ever-changing workplace.

Allyship isn’t separate from inclusion; it is the foundation and fuel for it—and by extension, for diversity. Inclusion in a corporate context isn’t—nor is allyship for that matter—only being a nice place to work or a nice employer. It runs far deeper than that. It’s about how a company conducts all its operations and business processes, as well as the policies it adopts across its operating model.

This is to say that an inclusive environment—one built on allyship—is reflected in all aspects of a company. This includes recruiting and hiring practices, employee learning and development programs, compensation and benefits, and workforce policies. It also includes the vendors, suppliers, and businesses that a company aligns itself with, the community organizations it supports, and the end-to-end customer experience it delivers.

When underwriting or even working with a vendor or supplier, it is important to assess the maturity level of a company’s DE&I program, and that includes its actions regarding allyship.

Commitment to DE&I

Strength in DE&I enables companies to better connect and understand the variety of customers they serve by bringing together diverse thoughts, perspectives and backgrounds. With this broader range of thinking, companies that are committed to DE&I are better positioned to support clients’ wide range of needs in what continues to be an evolving—and sometimes unpredictable—risk landscape.

When underwriting or even working with a vendor or supplier, it is important to assess the maturity level of a company’s DE&I program, and that includes its actions regarding allyship. This effort will also help to build and reinforce your own inclusive environment. Conversations about DE&I can set the stage for shared learning about the importance of DE&I for each company as well as the industries they serve.

Practicing Allyship

Elevating the awareness and practice of allyship starts with senior leaders. Leaders can take several steps to ensure they are practicing allyship as well as creating an environment of inclusion. These include routinely reviewing diverse talent across the enterprise, thoughtfully planning for the development of talent, and helping initiate career moves that accelerate the growth of top-performing, diverse talent at all levels—especially those poised for an organization’s leadership ranks. Leaders can become verbal champions of allyship by discussing the benefits of true inclusivity with colleagues and peers during meetings as well as making it standard protocol to address DE&I (including the headwinds some groups face) during collaboration—both internally and externally.

As senior leaders increase their efforts to be more thoughtful about DE&I, it will help create a stronger culture of allyship throughout the entire organization. It is increasingly clear that when people experience a culture of inclusion—a true sense of belonging and ability to be their best—business performance improves.

A holistic and well-executed DE&I program can help an organization create a culture of inclusion and innovation, driving financial gains and business objectives. That power of a united organization, one that makes a change toward inclusion and focuses on allyship, benefits the long-term health and productivity of the entire workforce.

Doug Worman is EVP and chief underwriting officer at CNA.

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