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84% of Black Insurance Professionals Face Obstacles Due to Racial Bias

The National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA) report sheds light on the strides the industry has made over the past five years but also lays bare the opportunity deficit Black people still face in the industry.
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84% of black insurance professionals face obstacles due to racial bias

Recently, the National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA) launched the second installment of its groundbreaking research on the insurance industry, “The Next Steps on the Journey: Has Anything Changed?"

The research follows a study released in 2018 called “The Journey of African-American Insurance Professionals." Both studies were commissioned by Marsh McLennan and conducted by Dr. Leroy D. Nunery II, president, Evolution Advisors.

Through quantitative and personal insights from more than 650 professionals in the risk and insurance industry, the latest study sheds light on some of the strides the industry has made over the past five years but also lays bare the opportunity deficit Black people still face in the industry.

“On one hand, there is a prevailing sense from Blacks/African Americans in the sector that companies are seeking to find credible and practical ways to solve longstanding inequities," says Omari Jahi Aarons, executive director and chief operating officer, NAAIA. “However, the report highlights that many of these actions are falling short because they are not addressing inequities at the foundational level."

Respondents identified the tragic murder of George Floyd and many other Black Americans as the catalyst for centering conversations on race, and the risk and insurance industry has responded with a host of new initiatives to address disparities. 

Most survey respondents agreed that their organizations were committed to diversity (60%) and inclusion (61%), and nearly half of those surveyed felt that their organizations were committed to advancing equity (43%) and equality (48%). Also, respondents reported increased exposure from initiatives, specifically diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)-related training (57%), support for employee resource groups (35%) and mentorship programs (21%).

However, these initiatives have not translated to career advancement. Sadly, a higher percentage of survey participants this year compared to five years ago marked racial and gender bias as top barriers to entry to the industry. Further, most respondents felt that the lack of promotions or advancement is the most significant barrier to retention (75%), followed by the lack of growth opportunities (70%) and lack of mentorship (68%).

In one of the starkest findings of the research, 84% of respondents remarked that they continue to encounter obstacles in their career progress compared to other under-represented groups because of either conscious or unconscious racial bias.

The report also highlights changes employers, professionals and organizations like NAAIA can make to meaningfully cultivate and empower Black Americans. The top three recommendations were enhancing recruitment and talent identification initiatives, including a greater focus on recruitment from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and institutions with substantially diverse student populations; the promotion of Black Americans to officer-level roles; addressing compensation and pay inequities while increasing pay transparency; and increasing levels and frequency of mentorships and providing more opportunities to network with executives.

“There is no single panacea for solving this systemic challenge," said Nunery. “It will require both widespread industry action and individual initiative to create a more equitable risk and insurance industry."

For 25 years, NAAIA has been on a mission to diversify the insurance industry. The association was organized to create a network among people of color and others employed in or affiliated with the insurance industry. The association currently has 1,700 members and 22 chapters, with others in development throughout the nation, and its members represent every sector of the industry. NAAIA's focus is the professional development and personal empowerment of its members, and to serve as a gateway to diverse talent at every level of the industry.

Visit NAAIA's homepage to learn more about the association or view the entire “The Next Steps on the Journey: Has Anything Changed?" report for more recommendations and actions that employers can take to be more inclusive.

Will Jones is IA editor-in-chief.

Thursday, March 2, 2023
Diversity & Inclusion