Canadian Underwriter

An honest assessment of P&C industry’s diversity

April 26, 2022   by Alyssa DiSabatino

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With growing calls for diversity and a shortage of fresh talent, the P&C industry has made some progress by adding more diverse talent to its roster, but industry experts say more can be done to make it truly diverse.

Representation, in particular, is one area where the industry has room for improvement, says the Canadian Association of Black Insurance Professionals (CABIP).  

Sheldon Williams, chair and co-founder of CABIP, gives Canadian Underwriter a personal example of a time he attended an industry conference, and found he was the only Black insurance professional in the room.  

“There are probably 2,000 or 3000 people there, and amongst the sea of people, I only see one Black person,” Williams recalls. “And I kind of wave at him and he comes over to me, and he asks me what I’d like to drink. He was actually an employee there.”  

Williams explains how a lack of representation creates barriers for diverse talent to enter the industry or climb the executive ranks. 

“Being in that type of environment, you don’t feel as comfortable as you would in a more diverse environment,” he says. “You may not feel as confident in going for that next level of job, or stepping out of your comfort zone.” 

The Insurance Institute of Canada’s A Changing Workforce study from 2018 found 16% of P&C employees reported being part of a non-white ethnic group. That’s below average compared to the same year’s Statistics Canada census, in which 23.7% of the working population reported belonging to a visible minority group. 

Still, this is an improvement for the industry since 2009, when only 13.6% of employees reported being a part of a non-white ethnic group.  

However, minority groups are generally under-represented in the industry’s management occupations — only 5% of senior managers in the P&C industry were part of a visible minority, according to IIC’s report. 

“You tend to strive for areas where you see yourself,” Williams says. “And the less that you see yourself, the less chance you think that you can be [there].”  

Representation is also important for an organization’s customer base. Dionne Bowers, vice-chair and co-founder of CABIP, explains it’s because representation helps organizations to better understand those it serves.

“[Consumers are] going to consider buying from someone who can relate to their challenges, or whatever their needs are,” she says. 

Williams says the support he received from his network helped him to succeed in the industry. CABIP’s support is based on the four pillars of advocacy, mentorship, education and networking. 

“I’ve been lucky enough to work with people who have given me opportunities to go over and above what my resume would have been able to,” Williams says, “and give me a chance to fail, which obviously gives you a chance to succeed.”

Along with being a tool for the wider industry to strengthen their DEI initiatives, Bowers says CABIP aims to open doors for Black professionals to enter the industry or climb the ranks. 

“We’re hoping that with CABIP, we can demonstrate that this is a very good industry, a viable industry to work in, because there are so many opportunities,” says Bowers. “But we really have to [demonstrate to] those that are coming up, who want to change their direction from a career perspective, that this can be done.” 


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