The Future State of Black Men in Insurance: A Collective Think Piece

                               

Written by Adrien Amoaku, Jordan Cocom, Cameron Long, Spencer Shipp, Jonathan Wheat, Johnny Williams

The insurance industry is known by its professionals as one of the best kept secrets to choose a career in. The Property & Casualty insurance sector employs more than 690,000 professionals spanning across underwriting, brokerages, attorneys, nurses, claims, risk control and many other roles.

Black men are disproportionately underrepresented in the insurance industry. Acknowledging the unique set of challenges specific to the industry can help address gaps needed to attract, retain and promote black men. The continued existence and success calls for attention of the insurance community.

(Left to Right: Jonathan Wheat, Johnny Williams, Jordan Cocom, Adrien Amoaku, Spencer Shipp, Cameron Long)

About the Group

This collective group met early in their careers while working in the property & casualty (P&C) insurance industry in the Los Angeles & Orange County territory. Like many industry veterans, we did not necessarily plan to enter insurance after college and “fell” into the industry. The potential to build a successful career in one of the most undiscovered industries attracted us all.

We provide diverse experiences as brokers and underwriters of the industry, ranging from 3-10 years of industry experience. Each working at different companies, our paths have been aligned in the market and through community organizations like National African-American Insurance Association (NAAIA). We found that we shared many similar experiences as black men despite difference in tenure, practices and organizations.

Our shared experiences helped to identify a few key factors that can ensure the current and future presence of black men in insurance. We hope that you enjoy the think piece, and please feel free to share this with someone or your company!

Representation

It is generally acknowledged that that the insurance industry lacks diversity across brokers, carriers and other stakeholders. African-Americans have been apart of the insurance industry dating back to the 1800's. As demographics in the US become more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, age and gender, these trends are not reflected within the industry.

According to the 2022 CRS report by the US Government, approximately 13.2% of the insurance industry is comprised of Black or African-Americans.

Representation most likely stems from multiple sources including talent acquisition, talent development and retention. Unconscious biases can influence hiring decisions and even promotions. Many companies have D&I initiatives and employee diversity networks to promote diversity but there are additional factors that play into the root of the issue.

The most visible lack of representation in the industry starts with leadership. Diverse leadership has not only shown improved company performance, but also empowers employees to see themselves based on relatability. Having representation is especially important for black insurance professionals, who are often first-generation into the industry with limited incoming connections. Black insurance leaders are crucial to the future development and success of the upcoming generation of black insurance professionals. These are the pioneers who navigated their way to the top from a similar background and have been extremely instrumental in many of our careers.

According to a study done by McKinsey & Company in 2022, 19% of women of color are in entry level roles compared to 8% men of color within the insurance industry

The representation of men of color, specifically black men, is significantly low compared to our industry peers. This is an issue that will not only discourage incoming talent from wanting to join the industry but also affects talent in the industry. The needs for each subgroup within diversity can look different and there has to be a focus placed in order to increase attraction, retention and promotion.

Access to a Level Playing Field

The starting point often looks very different for minorities entering the insurance industry. Access to knowledge, networks, opportunities and experiences early on can set the trajectory for anyone's career.

Lack of access can stunt development and advancement. Access typically ties to relationships. This consists of knowledge transfer, training & development, mentorship, sponsorship, company leadership programs, internal promotions and opportunities. These tools are important to have early on in one's career to accelerate growth.

Pipelines into leadership should also be considered. Middle to senior management can influence anyone's career who is up and coming. Access from leadership goes beyond the tangible benefits of advancing one's career as access to personal anecdotes and lessons learned are also powerful to a young person's career.

Mentorship

Mentorship and coaching are undeniably pivotal tools that has yielded to success for many. It can help supplement competence and bridge any gaps as professionals continue to grow in their careers.

Having a mentor, regardless of race, can help provide insights to navigate and overcome career obstacles. It bridges the gap between potential and success, which empowers the mentee to find their voice and create value. Mentorship can come in various forms: informal/formal, interdepartmental/intradepartmental and even industry mentors. This is a great tool that can also address retaining diverse talent and channeling access.

Sponsorship

The next step from mentorship is sponsorship. Mentors are advisors that provides guidance. Sponsors leverage their influence to open doors, endorse promotions and provide exposure. Sponsorship usually comes from a tenured leader who advocates for the advancement of the sponsored.

Sponsorship holds significance as insurance is a relationship business. Doors often open on the basis of relationship or someone referring and endorsing your reputation. Building connections from scratch without introduction can be very challenging. Having a sponsor for young black men is important because it creates pathways for visibility, access to networks and career advancement. It also provides exposure to potential career trajectory.

Sponsorship transforms mentorship into action and helps bypass some of the inherited historical obstacles. Merit alone is typically not the only factor in continued career success. An endorsement from the right sponsor could assist with career progression.

Community

Building community amongst black professionals is paramount in an industry. Fostering a support system with shared experiences is important, especially if you don't have this.

Attending local NAAIA (LA chapter) event; centered around networking with black insurance professionals

As black insurance professionals, it is not uncommon to be the only black person in the room. This can make connecting with other black insurance professionals challenging because we are spread out. National African-American Insurance Association (NAAIA) has been a domineering pillar that has connected black professionals for many decades. It is a refreshing environment to build community, share information and connect with other likeminded professionals.

It is also important to build solidarity with other diversity networks across the industry. And no--you don't have to be black (or any respective race) to join and be an ally!

Taking Action to Improve the Future State of Young Black Men in Insurance:

  • Commitment from Industry Leaders: The focus of addressing these issues can benefit revenues, performance and morale. Increasing awareness, establishing mentorship and sponsorship programs with middle and senior leaders and promoting diverse talent to the C-suite are a few ways to do this.
  • Recruit & Retain: Build a pipeline of diverse candidates through partnering with local organizations like NAAIA, Inroads, Historically Black Colleges Universities (HBCU's) and community affiliations to increase recruitment efforts. Establish formal training and mentorship programs to provide ongoing support.
  • Sponsorship: Find future leaders to begin sponsoring. Leverage influence and resources to help advance the next generation of leaders.
  • Have Candid Conversations: The hard conversations and questions are needed to extract the right information for a solution. Check in with underrepresented employees to gauge morale and assess needs.

We urge the insurance community and leaders to help create change to combat the disadvantages of black men and minority groups within the workplace. If the industry does not attract more and cultivate its current talent, the black male population could become extinct in the industry. This is also a call to our black leaders, who have been and will always be a conduit, to continue to advance progression. Lastly, this is call for us black men across the industry to support one another and continue to stand together.


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