According to an IIABA Diversity Council report from 2019, 88% of agency principals and senior managers are white. 4% are black. If we look at non-principal agency managers, producers, and customer service representatives, between 87-92% are white.
I’ve met many agency owners claiming to want a more diverse staff but feel their applicant pool lacks people of color. How can we promote diversity if we aren’t taking active steps to combat racism? I know this question well because it’s something our agency struggles with also.
What solutions can we employ to better promote diversity within our agencies?
Listen to increase dialogue
How do we receive feedback in the workplace? Do we receive feedback from people of color in the same way? Defensiveness is a normal reaction when humans feel singled out or attacked. We as agency owners must be consistently thoughtful and aware of the undercurrents in our workspaces.
- When people of color give feedback on racism, it can be professionally and personally risky. Do not take it lightly.
- Feedback on racism is difficult to give and discuss. Focus on the message itself instead of delivery or forming a response.
- White comfort maintains the racial status quo. If we feel discomfort as agency leaders, we must recognize it as not only necessary but important.
- There is growth in discomfort. Increasing our capacity to endure discomfort will help work towards addressing many imbalances racial tension can cause.
- Racism hurts and can kill. Being dedicated to removing racism in our agencies is more important than our own feelings, ego or self-image.
Commit to learning
What has allowed the top and leading professionals in this industry to overlook how to address racism in the workplace? It is standard to have sought out education on management and insurance topics; why then aren’t we relentlessly pursuing knowledge that allows us to be more inclusive? Learning to manage a diverse workforce is equally important to being a policy form expert.
Strong agency leaders face their shortcomings head-on. Being able to recognize where we can improve and how to amplify marginalized voices allows for growth to begin. Self-awareness is the first step towards demonstrating thoughtful productivity in holding agency leadership accountable.
Listening to increase dialogue, committing to learning, and demonstrating humility are just the beginning steps in building more diverse organizations. Only once our workspaces are truly inclusive can we more effectively recruit and retain people of color.
Agency leaders must actively solicit feedback to ensure that all voices are represented and heard. It’s on us to nurture and implement the change we want to see. Let’s get to work.
Ben joined The Rathbun Agency full time as a business and personal insurance agent after working at Auto Owners Insurance Company throughout college. He became a partner in 2019. Ben graduated from the Michigan State University with a degree in finance and has a Master’s in Business Administration in Risk Management & Insurance from Olivet College. He also hold the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) and Certified Authority on Workers Compensation (CAWC) designations.
He lives in Lansing, MI and is very involved in many community organizations. Ben is a Support Group Facilitator and Community Board Member at Ele’s Place and serves as Chair of the Michigan Association of Insurance Agents Young Agents Council. Ben claims to make the best bruschetta and enjoys playing his baby grand piano.
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