Diversity and Inclusivity

As we reflect on a month of diversity and inclusion, I’ve invited some friends to join the conversation: Alacia, Elisa, and Vinita. These leaders have strong beliefs and convictions and have turned them into action.  

First, let’s meet Alacia – Alacia Reynolds is one of our team members and is a key contributor to our written content and ensuring our voice and message are clearly communicated. 

Misha: This is only the second year for a federal holiday – Juneteenth. This holiday commemorates African-American freedom from slavery and emphasizes education and achievement. Although it is the longest-running African-American holiday, it wasn’t until 2021 that it was recognized as a federal holiday.  

Alacia, I’m excited to have you contributing to this blog! Can you share your thoughts and perspectives on Juneteenth, its recognition now as a federal holiday, and what it means to you?  

Alacia:  First of all, thanks for highlighting this holiday. I think its importance has gotten lost in all of the confusion and immediate commercialization of the day. Growing up as a black person in South Georgia, I have always known about Juneteenth, but until recently, it felt like something that only black people, specifically those in the south, celebrated. Honestly, I didn’t think this country would ever care enough to acknowledge it and make it a federal holiday. I’m glad to see more people seeking education about its significance, but I hope it doesn’t just become another day for people to be off work. I would love to see us take this opportunity to have meaningful conversations and make efforts to address and correct some of the many, ever-present negative effects of slavery on everyone in this country. Recognizing the holiday is a start, and I remain hopeful that change will follow.

“Inclusivity means not ‘just we’re allowed to be there,’ but we are valued. I’ve always said: smart teams will do amazing things, but truly diverse teams will do impossible things.”

Misha: Of course, June was also LGBTQI+ Pride month- a time to promote self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility. There is much work to be done. 

Elisa Stampff is the Founder/CEO of Insure Equality, a non-profit tech company committed to creating cultural change within the insurance industry by amplifying the voices that have traditionally been excluded or minimized.

Elisa, thank you for joining this conversation. I know that you share a unique perspective on the conversation for equality, especially in the LGBTQI+ community. Would you share the importance of giving space to the underrepresented in insurance and across all industries and communities?  

Elisa: Thank you for the inclusion, Misha! Yes, I do, and I appreciate the space to talk about it. I “grew up” in insurance, and while I was aware of my sexuality, I hid it the entire time I was formally in the industry. In fact, until recently, I did not have a community with other queer-identifying insurance professionals. 

Insurance, like many industries, is not known for celebrating differences the way that it has the opportunity to do so. In speaking with other folks in and outside of insurance, many feel that hiding this part of themselves gives them a better chance to succeed, and that’s incredibly disheartening. 

Younger generations identify as queer at a much larger rate – partly because it feels safer to do so. Yet, with the massive wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, we are reminded that we have a lot of work left to do. We must remind ourselves that this community was always present; it just hasn’t been welcomed. I think it’s indicative of industries experiencing the great resignation en masse.

There is hope! We’re talking about it here and in many other forums, so people are willing to engage. Awareness is a significant first step; we must go from talking about it to creating action.

“A diverse mix of voices leads to better discussions, decisions, and outcomes for everyone”

Misha: The Dive In Festival on September 27 – September 29, established by Lloyds of London, is a global movement in the insurance sector to support the development of inclusive workplace cultures. This movement encourages looking beyond traditional definitions of diversity to level the playing field for talent comprehensively, including gender, gender identity, age, cultural background, sexual orientation, social mobility, faith, caring responsibilities, mental health, and physical impairments.

Vinita Jajware-Beatty holds many roles in the insurance industry, one of which is the Chair of Dive In Canada, serving on the leadership board for Dive In America’s team, which reports to the UK. She is no stranger to the discrimination that women and minorities face in insurance and other industries not only in North America but around the world.  

Vinita – Why is it so essential for us to finally have conversations around inclusive workplace cultures? 

Vinita: Thanks for the opportunity to weigh in, Misha. In 2015, Lloyd’s launched the Diversity and Inclusion festival within insurance, and the momentum within the industry because of many like-minded organizations rallying around this purpose has been significant. The Dive In festival is now considered one of the world’s largest diversity and inclusion events and unites the entire insurance industry around this common purpose.

Since the festival’s inception and my participation with this global movement at a committee and leadership level, I’ve been fortunate to witness the transformation within our industry. Fundamentally, to be representative of the insurance industries we serve, our organizations need to be considerate and reflective of this unified purpose toward Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Respecting all forms of equity-seeking groups, instead of only those facets that typically come to mind, has been so significant in creating a sense of general awareness in our industry. Through the Dive In festival, organizations and individuals have gained access to resources that advance equity, diversity, and inclusion and create a general sense of belonging. We benefit both our organizations and society by creating that sense of belonging and purpose.