NAIFA’s 8th Annual Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Symposium: REPRESENT was a resounding success! With more than 175 participants, the program featured top speakers sharing their experiences with diversity, how to recruit more diverse talent into the insurance and financial services industry, and strategies to reach underserved populations.
The event kicked off with remarks from NAIFA President Bryon Holz, NAIFA CEO Kevin Mayeux, and OneAmerica President of Individual Life and Financial Services (ILFS) Dennis Martin. Martin addressed the ongoing efforts to increase diversity, saying, “DEI is a journey, not a destination.”
The first session featured Diversity in Government Relations Coalition (DGR) Co-Founder Cicely Tomlinson and New York Life Vice President of Office of Governmental Affairs Whytne Brooks. Tomlinson and Brooks stressed the importance of attracting and retaining culturally diverse talent, cultivating a culture of belonging, and a commitment to serving a diverse range of Americans.
Next, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Chief Knowledge Officer Alexander Alonso took the stage to discuss trends in hiring practices and workplace demographics. He addressed workers’ changing expectations as millennials and Gen Z make up more of the workforce, including flexibility to work remotely, and the disconnect between companies’ diversity efforts and how employees view those efforts. “Most of all, workers want managers who have gone through allyship training and sponsorship training,” he said.
Following Alonso, the National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA) hosted a panel discussion including NAAIA Executive Director & COO Omari Jahi Aarons; Aurelius Consulting Group, Inc., Co-Founder & CEO Amir Ali; and C&F Bank Assistant Vice President Pierre Greene, MBA. Moderated by NAIFA Trustee Christopher Gandy, LACP, the panel examined the findings of NAAIA’s research study, "The Next Steps on the Journey: Has Anything Changed?” The panel discussed the difference between checking a box and moving the needle, sharing that most companies’ diversity efforts are more focused on checking a box. They shared suggestions for helping to move the needle, including hiring more diverse workers into C-suite positions, developing relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), joining NAAIA, and doing business with people who don’t look like you.
Sara Hart Weir, MS, was the next to speak. Weir is the Executive Director of the Kansas Developmental Disabilities Council and a Senior Advisor at ABLE today. In her talk, she discussed the road to passing the ABLE Act and the benefits of the legislation, which helps designated beneficiaries pay for qualified disability expenses.
The next speaker was Rachel Pearson, Founder of Engage and President and CEO of The Complete Agency. Pearson discussed the economic thread of a woman’s life and the disparity between men's and women’s wages. She emphasized data showing that women outnumber, outvote, and outlive men and shared prospective solutions to the gender pay gap and how to promote women’s economic security.
A panel of NAIFA’s Diversity Champions then took the stage. Moderated by NAIFA Vice President of Marketing and Communications Suzanne Carawan, the panel consisted of Christopher Gandy, Stephen Kagawa, Aprilyn Chavez-Geissler, Brian Haney, and Evelyn Gellar. Each champion shared insights from a market they serve. Gandy discussed the role of African American advisors and the need for more financial literacy education. Kagawa shared his experiences with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. Chavez-Geissler talked about working to increase financial literacy among women, Hispanic Americans, and indigenous communities. Haney discussed his work with the LGBTQ market. Gellar shared her experiences serving women and the Hispanic community and emphasized the need for a workforce representative of the American population.
The keynote address was delivered by Marques Ogden, an executive coach, corporate trainer, and former NFL player. Ogden shared his life story, including his financial struggles due to a lack of financial education and his efforts in hiring a diverse team for the construction company he owned. “Being a change agent takes courage and dedication,” he said. He also shared the steps to becoming an inclusive leadership team—consciousness, courage, commitment, and collaboration.
Thanks to all who made this year’s Diversity Symposium a success, including our sponsors OneAmerica, Northwestern Mutual, Cambridge, Guardian, New York Life, and Ameritas; our advocacy partners Women in Insurance & Financial Services (WIFS), the Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies (LAAIA), and National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA); and our diversity partners Coalition for Equity in Wholesaling, CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion, and Diversity & Inclusion in Government Relations Coalition.
We’re #NAIFAproud to represent Main Street USA.