Industry the Jan/Feb 2024 issue

A Special Group of People Out to Change the World

Meet The Council’s DE&I Advisory Committee.
By Elizabeth McDaid Posted on January 24, 2024

They are talking about ways to make the world a better place and are willing to do the hard work to make that happen. They are totally realistic but still open to dreaming. They use the phrase “what if” instead of “we can’t.” They are patient and kind with each other while discussing topics that might be difficult for some. Where are you, you ask. Congratulations, you have just stumbled into a meeting of The Council’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory committee.

This member-led committee was formed and board appointed in 2021. Starting with five members, we grew to 15 as we added people we came across who we believed are dedicated to making a difference in our industry with respect to DE&I.

This committee’s role is to advise The Council’s board on the opportunities and challenges faced by Council membership on important industry issues relative to diversity, equity and inclusivity. It is this focus that will keep our industry competitive. The DE&I committee is designed to inform and influence in the areas of education, partnerships and collaboration, and measurement and accountability. It provides perspective on DE&I trends and helps drive critical and real industry change.

At our last meeting, I asked the committee members to share with me why they agreed to join and work on this committee.

For some, it’s about working together to make a change. In forming the committee, we brought DE&I leaders from different member firms across the country to work together on the challenges our industry faces. “I love the idea of our industry coming together to tackle the challenges we face when it comes to DE&I,” Carlos Herrera, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion at Ryan Specialty, told me.

Some of our committee members are motivated by the impact DE&I can have on their organizations and on the industry. Leaders should make an ongoing commitment to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion in both their workforce and the customer demographics they serve. Demonstrating such commitment could help close the trust gap that has often undermined the industry’s credibility with key stakeholders. “When we are intentional about being more diverse, equitable and inclusive, we create better outcomes for all stakeholders,” says Pamela Wheeler, chief diversity and inclusion officer at NFP.

“DE&I brings more diversity of thought, which allows us to bring more innovation to the insurance industry and ultimately better serve our clients,” says Rodney Johnson, divisional vice president for culture and inclusion at Gallagher.

Some want to create inclusive cultures. “I’m convinced that a diverse workforce cultivates inclusive teams,” says Kevin Davis, president of Kevin Davis Insurance Services.

Highly engaged workers are more productive and creative, and they’re less likely to look for a new job. Companies with high levels of employee engagement are more profitable, experience fewer safety incidents, and have more loyal customers.

“Building an inclusive culture yields business advantages and often leads to higher employee engagement, which tends to result in an increase in productivity,” says Christine Tricoli, corporate senior vice president and chief human resources officer at H.W. Kaufman Group.

We have committee members who want to enhance the role our industry can play in changing the world. We know that insurance plays a critical role in the sustainable growth of an economy. The world depends on insurance to safeguard against the significant risks that come with operating a business—from data breaches and natural disasters to injuries and supply chain disruptions. “When you are given an opportunity to leave things and the world in a better place than you found it, you take it! This industry is about improving people’s lives, and DE&I work is therefore a logical extension of that,” says Steve Sublett, senior vice president of CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services.

Promoting and highlighting DE&I efforts helps employees feel safe, respected and more connected, which can lead to a stronger sense of community and increased productivity. ”I am compelled to facilitate connections, community and belonging in our industry and to ensure people of all backgrounds and experiences feel supported and have pathways to success,” says Jessica Pires, DE&I leader at Brown & Brown.

Some committee members are DE&I champions and want to use this committee as an opportunity to continue to make a difference. For DE&I to succeed in the workplace, we need DE&I champions. These are people in a company who actively support DE&I in the workplace. DE&I champions are in the forefront, setting expectations and modeling what a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization should look like. They work to reduce bias and discrimination. “When you stand up for others and for what is right, you will make a difference in this world,” says Ruth Rohs, senior vice president of communications for IMA Financial Group and executive director of the IMA Foundation.

 “Whether I am in my role as a DE&I leader or as neighbor down the street, I fervently believe a person’s identity should not enhance nor jeopardize their rights, opportunities, protections or access to a life where they can thrive with dignity and respect,” says Kira Kimball, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Marsh and McLennan Agency.

For some it’s a mission. “For more years than I can count, I have reminded so many that, if you have passion, you have the time. I have been blessed to have courage and passion to continually advance the values of DE&I… which translates into belonging,” says Nancy Mellard, executive vice president and general counsel at CBIZ Benefits and Insurance Services.

And finally, for some committee members, it’s personal. “In the summer before starting college, I participated in an ACT 101 program (a course for students with low ACT or SAT scores) with 30 other black men. I only graduated with three of those black men. I vowed that day to get educated on DE&I and ensure I stand up and advocate for all marginalized groups. I went to graduate school and obtained a master’s degree with a focus on DE&I,” says DeWayne Anderson, diversity, equity and inclusion program manager at Newfront Insurance.

From changing the world to changing our industry to changing ourselves, each member of our committee brings a very special passion to this role, and it is truly my pleasure to work with them. If you would like to learn more about the committee and perhaps bring some of your own passion to it, please reach out to me at can’t wait to include you in this amazing group.

Elizabeth McDaid SVP, Leadership & Management Resources, The Council Read More

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