CHICAGO – Insurance leaders must support, participate in and fund diversity programs to attract and retain diverse workforces, said a leading diversity officer in the insurance industry.
Creating inclusive workplaces requires investment in data analytics and a willingness to take a nuanced approach to increasing diversity, said Ivy Kusinga, Philadelphia-based senior vice president and chief culture officer at Chubb Ltd.
She spoke on Business insurance Diversity and Inclusion Institute’s Leadership Conference in Chicago on Wednesday.
To be successful, diversity programs require senior leadership who have the courage and are willing to provide the necessary resources, Kusinga said during his keynote address.
In the insurance industry, for example, women make up the majority of workers, but they are generally clustered at lower levels; the situation worsens for people of color, she said.
“That̵7;s why it’s a business issue, not a social issue,” she said. But “the courage to look at systemic issues is limited.”
For example, to address the pay gap among a workforce, senior managers must be willing to pay the accompanying price tag, Kusinga said.
Additionally, companies must be prepared to appropriately staff diversity efforts and bring in expertise to provide the necessary metrics. “You have to hire someone who does deep analytics and bring them into HR,” Kusinga said.
And as they seek to create a fairer workplace, leaders must recognize that ambitions to establish so-called meritocracies face complex challenges, she said, adding: “In reality, meritocracy is a science and an art.”
People feel connected to certain groups, and they are nice to people they know, which gives them an advantage when it comes to climbing the corporate ranks, Kusinga said. As a result, it’s important for diverse employees to have a few powerful people in their networks, she said.
Leaders should also be interested in current events, how they affect staff and customers, and be willing to speak up about them, Kusinga said. “The leaders need to be more socially adapted,” she said.
In addition, leaders should signal their commitment to diversity and pay attention to diversity data in their organizations, Kusinga said. And they should set the tone for zero tolerance and address casual racism.
“Be the kind of leader who doesn’t allow casual comments to go unchecked,” Kusinga said.