Canadian Underwriter

How P&C companies can improve their DEI outlooks

August 11, 2022   by Alyssa DiSabatino

Three wooden blocks stacked on one another, each with the words "equity," "diversity," "inclusion" on them on after another.

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Although many in the industry understand the value of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), companies that aren’t sold on the value proposition may nevertheless benefit from viewing DEI as risk management, suggests The Canadian Association of Black Insurance Professionals (CABIP).

“We’re in the insurance and risk management [industry] and if you’re not taking a risk management approach to this, then you may not have the success that you’re looking for,” says Dionne Bowers, co-founder of CABIP. “You run the risk of zero to very little growth within your organization.”

Thirty-seven percent of respondents in a Canadian Underwriter survey described their organization as “leading” in making diversity a core principle in their business, supported by best practices. Another 28% said their firm is “aspiring to create a more diverse workforce.” A further 25% said they are beginning to make changes, while 11% said DEI efforts have not yet started.

“The more diversity [a company has], the happier your workforce is,” says Sheldon Williams, co-founder of CABIP. “And the happier your workforce is…the better your retention [is].

“There’s no downside to a more diverse, inclusive and happier workforce.”

Companies wishing to improve their diversity track records can start by identifying existing barriers in their business, suggests Williams. One way to do this is to collect employee data and tailor solutions based on the results.

“One of the things associations should do when they’re having their strategic plans…is talk to their employees, do the research,” he says. “What do we have in terms of demographics? How do our employees feel about their lived experiences in our corporate culture?”

By collecting this data, businesses can set systematic goals and growth targets for improving their DEI, and then establish strategies for reaching them.

Among organizations that don’t lead on DEI, the survey finds top challenges included a lack of resources and skills (23%). Another 22% said it was not a priority at their firms, 18% said they weren’t sure where to start and 14% said there was resistance to change where they worked.

Businesses should be aware that improving diversity is often a top-down effort.

“What I would like to see and expect from organizations is to ensure that key stakeholders (starting at executive leaders at the top, and proceeding down through middle and lower management) are all in. It’s important to understand that this is not an HR function. A growth plan for diversity requires everyone’s support and involvement in order to be successful,” says Bowers. 

Organizations should also ensure all employees, especially those at the front of hiring, have sufficient diversity training.

“[If] the person doing the hiring doesn’t have proper training, doesn’t understand what unconscious biases are, doesn’t understand what microaggressions are, that same hiring practice will continue to repeat,” says Williams.

It comes down to “making sure that you’re intentional and…building something that’s sustainable, that involves all your key players,” says Bowers.

CABIP also emphasizes they are available to be a resource for the industry’s DEI efforts.

“We’re leading an association to help to have the DEI conversations,” says Williams. “We’re here to help educate…and work with our allies to make sure that we get to the bottom of it, and get some solutions built in place.”


Feature image by Dzemidovich