The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and recent protests about racism could have the potential to be a catalyst for change in the (re)insurance industry, panellists said during a virtual Insider Progress event.
Maxine Goddard, head of external partnerships at the Insurance Cultural Awareness Network, noted that previously black people in the industry “don’t talk about our blackness, we leave it at the door”.
However, now there was a new sense of boldness where race and racism can be more openly spoken about, she said.
“I think [after the George Floyd killing] we went through a period of grief, including myself to start off, feeling numb and then you start to feel incredulous. Is this real, is everybody feeling what we’re feeling and understanding how we are feeling?
“Then we move to a feeling of being emboldened, we can speak up, share our feelings, express ourselves and people are actually willing to listen and ask how you are.”
Iveren Yongo, executive committee member and student relations manager of the African-Caribbean Insurance Network, added: “For the black community this [feeling] is not new, I think it is new for those outside of the black community, who are now feeling outrage.
“We have been outraged for so long that we have become numb to it, but… the protests have triggered things internally with people, making them think: What have I experienced that has come down to the colour of my skin?”
Goddard noted that the support for BLM was promising, and this could trigger a “big reset” for the (re)insurance sector.
However, there is now an anxiety about whether words would materialise into meaningful action.
Yongo noted that a lack of black professionals in senior positions and nepotism within the industry meant there was a “perceived concrete ceiling” for black people, noting that existing unconscious biases and structural racism put black people “on the back foot to begin with”.
Both panellists said it was vital for people from black communities to share their experiences to effect change, but added that self-education was also important for meaningful action.
Goddard explained: “You need to self-educate: look at the resources, find the quiet time, try to understand the issues and continue to ask questions but don't rely solely on your black colleagues to help fill the gaps.
“It is exhausting, and many black people don't mind being exhausted to help and clarify. They like the fact that it's more collegiate and people are willing to listen. But remember, it's a tiring experience because it's emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting.”
The panellists have put together a list of resources that can be used to self-educate.
Furthermore, both panellists said data collection and measuring progress were vital.
“If you don’t measure [progress] it won’t get done, so I would encourage all companies to see what actions are out there to make sure there is accountability and that you are tracking and measuring your progress,” Goddard noted.
Yongo added that enforcing measures to address the ethnic pay gap would also help address racial inequality within the sector.
Goddard pointed out that new attitudes from new generations coming into the industry would also be a catalyst for change.
“There is a new generation that are less tolerant and less patient [about racism]. They’re unapologetic about being their real selves, so it’s always a joy to see new millennial and Gen Z coming into the industry, their approach is very different to how I would done it 20 years ago.”