Industry the June 2024 issue

Unifying Voices: Empowering Diversity in Insurance

Five organizations united in April for an extraordinary event to move DEI forward in the insurance industry.
By Carlos Herrera Posted on May 26, 2024

This collaborative event brought together leaders across various insurance organizations to engage in meaningful dialogue about DEI. While most participants were from Chicago, representatives from companies and organizations around the country joined this event sponsored by Ryan Specialty and RT Specialty.

Whether in the workplace or at our dinner tables, DEI is in everyone’s everyday lives, whether people know it or not. By embracing DEI, the insurance industry can be even stronger. It is important for us to learn from each other, support each other, grow with each other. That was the purpose of the conference in April.

My work in corporate DEI started in 2006 to honor my past, accept who I am now, and lead me toward the person I want to be. Having been in the insurance industry for 20 years, I know that there is an opportunity for diversity-focused insurance organizations to collaborate more in moving DEI forward in the industry. Starting last summer, I reached out to leaders from the Asian American Insurance Network (AAIN), National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA) Chicago, Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies (LAAIA), LGBTQ+ Insurance Network (Link USA), and Association of Professional Insurance Women (APIW) Chicago. As we have more power together than alone, the organizations were enthusiastic about the idea of a shared event, but that was all it was at first: an idea.

UiN brings together five powerful groups committed to advancing DEI within the insurance industry and to amplifying our voices and strengthening our commitment to our respective members.

We worked together, met regularly, and things were shaping up. We knew we were creating something special: an opportunity to bring together people who are passionate about DEI and tired of the status quo. This group was ready to embrace the change we need in insurance. Together, the working team joined under the informal name the United Insurance Networks (UiN). Are you in? Are you in insurance? Are you in to move the DEI needle? Are you in to make a difference? Are UiN?

UiN brings together five powerful groups committed to advancing DEI within the insurance industry and to amplifying our voices and strengthening our commitment to our respective members. In the face of potential misinformation and some resistance to DEI efforts, we aim to prevent regression in this space.

Through panel discussions, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities at the event, we explored:

How affinity associations can work together to move the needle forward Uncomfortable issues and how to address and improve where we stand today as an industry Perspectives from students and industry experts as to how we view and prepare the next generation.

Our speakers, moderators, and panelists went above and beyond our expectations. They were open and honest to their newest 150 friends, sharing some positive experiences and some not-so-positive experiences. Most importantly, it was real; this DEI space can be deeply real. It was fantastic to see all the smiles, the laughter, the interaction between many people. Why wouldn’t companies want that as well? That is what happens when you make DEI a priority in your company. Open the door and welcome in the talent, the progress, and the future accomplishments.

I am so proud of being part of the team that created this space and let it flourish. The working team shares it best:

“What a powerful and impactful afternoon for our inaugural event! There was such an energetic atmosphere with the thoughtful and transparent perspectives shared by each of the panelists.”  —Debbie Babcock, associate director, Katie School of Insurance and Risk Management/APIW

“Our event was a resounding success thanks to the commitment of every single attendee to DEI. The atmosphere throughout the day’s events was palpable with excitement and passion. The message is clear: we will keep working towards our DEI goals until we are undeniable.” —Jeff Chen, VP, Claims, EMC Insurance/AAIN

“Words cannot describe how incredibly proud I am to have participated in the Unifying Voices: Empowering Diversity in Insurance collaborative event in Chicago. Given the current climate surrounding DEI, it’s critically important that we embrace our intersectionality, amplify underrepresented voices within the industry, and co-create an inclusive future where we all can thrive.” —Brett Carter, managing director, Jacobson/NAAIA

“The excitement, enthusiasm, and energy felt throughout the course of this inaugural event was incredible! When you bring these five powerful groups together, great things are bound to happen. I’m excited to continue what we’ve started to ensure DEI remains a focal point for all of us.” —Chris Reilly, SVP, Amwins/Link USA

“It’s an honor to have worked with such passionate individuals to put together this groundbreaking event. My hope is that we can serve as a model to our industry and, dare I say, our communities that open communication about DEI
is a gateway to unity and progress.”
—Javier Naranjo, president and CEO, Everisk Insurance Programs/LAAIA

The question on top of everyone’s mind is what’s next. Having launched our inaugural event, we intend to continue working together to strengthen our collective efforts. I cannot see into the future, but something needs to happen. The insurance industry has opportunities, and we must work together to realize them. It can’t be like many other DEI efforts, all talk, no action. Let’s stop talking and start doing.

When I think about what’s next, I begin to dream. I dream that everyone has an opportunity to be hired at a company. I dream that everyone can be successful at any company. I dream about truly diverse teams, working together to accomplish all they can. I dream that leadership teams reflect the communities in which they live and work. I dream about leadership at every insurance company understanding what DEI means and supporting these efforts. I dream that everyone outside our industry finally realizes the greatness of our industry. I dream about doing all this together. I dream about how this will support the dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. come alive.

Carlos Herrera VP, Diversity, equity, and inclusion, Ryan Specialty Read More

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