Misha: Welcome to the GSD factor podcast. I’m your host Misha Bleymaier- Farirsh today. My guest is Elisa Stampf. She is passionate advocate for improving workplace culture and ensuring that everyone feels welcome. She has spent over 13 years in financial and insurance industries feeling out of place. In 2021, Alyssa co-founded Insure Equality to change the displacement she felt in an industry that is about taking care of people. She loves art and board games with friends. You can find her curled up on the couch or traveling. Elisa, thanks so much for joining us today. 

Elisa: Oh, I’m so excited to be here, Misha. Thank you so much for having me. 

Misha: Yes. So Elisa,, first things first, let’s go ahead and start talking about Insure Equality and what was your reasoning for starting this nonprofit organization? 

Elisa: Yeah, let’s talk about it. And then I also want to give a little shout out and kudos to you as well, because I looked this up in advance of our call, Misha and I first met in late August, and she has been instrumental in the process that we are in now.

Elisa: And as a board member, so major shout out to you for your contributions for being there, because you kind of saw the messy beginning, right? 

Misha: We’re all works in progress. 

Elisa: We are, we are. So, Insure Equality you kind of hit on it in the, in the bio of mine. And then you also talked about it a little bit, but yeah.

Elisa: I never really felt like I was supposed to be in that industry. I always felt like I was kind of kept at arm’s length. And you and I have talked at length about stories that we’ve both had, where we felt kind of like we weren’t supposed to be there, but it was kind of this lightning bolt moment in 2020 the year that literally everything happened.

Elisa: And I got forced out of a company that I was very happy to join. And originally they were very happy to have me come on board. And what it did was make me take a step back, reflect and start having conversations with people. That’s when I was like, wait a second. There’s probably more of us having the same type of feeling and you and I, again, echoed that we have members of the board that you introduced me to that have echoed the same thing.

Elisa: So we realized that the time for change was now. So IE was founded on the premise of uplifting the voices in our industry that are typically excluded or minimized. I was one of those. You were one of those and, and we are not the only two. This industry has been around for centuries. So we know that we have some work to do here, but I’m really excited about the momentum that we’ve already built.

Elisa: So when we talk about IE and what it is that we do, I am so pleased to say that today’s the day that we were declared officially a 5 0 1 C3 nonprofit tax exempt organization. That was a long time coming to cross that hurdle. Yes. And we’ve got really three, three tenants that kind of fit into the phases of who we are.

Elisa: Accountability, community and transparency, and that spells out ACT because without action, none of this actually gets done and it’s all just inspiring, but kind of falling flat. So I’ll walk you through each of these pieces, but I’m going to do accountability last because that’s the piece that I think people are going to be super interested in when they listen to this pod. 

Elisa: So the transparency piece is what we started with first. It is the story telling and the pledge signing. So like we’ve mentioned already a couple of times, talking about our experiences is really what helped me kind of come out of like my dark period of time. And that’s not for everybody.

Elisa: Not everybody wants to talk about it and that’s totally fine, but there are some people that never get to have the conversation of “This is what I went through and it was awful!” So they’re missing the validation… they’re missing, you know, the resonance with other people. So that’s a piece as well as a pledge from companies in the industry saying, “Hey, you know, we recognize that as an industry, we’re a little behind.”

Elisa: And by a little, I mean, a lot, what, let’s be honest, what do we do to take this to the next step? We’re all going to attest to it and I’m really pleased to say that even in just our short time out, we launched the beginning of November at the end of 2021, we’re averaging at least 10 pledge signers a month, but that is continuing to ramp. Yes. Yes. So the second piece I’ll talk about is “Community” because this, of all of them, like I’m really excited, but the community piece, I think is huge because like I said, I felt super alone and kind of displaced in the industry and I didn’t really have the conversations with other people.

Elisa: So I felt like I was on my own island. And the more I talked to people, the more I realized they felt like they were on their own island. So the community piece is bringing people together. We’re building out individual and company resources to make all of our practices more inclusive. So that could range from anything from individual coaching to therapy.

Elisa: We talked about potentially meditation today. So that’s a potential resource. And we’ve also partnered with the translation service. So say you’re a small agency and your community speaks more than just English. You now have access to a translation service that is women and Latin owned that will help you transcribe one pagers or have one-on-one conversations with clients, which is huge. But, the last piece and what you and I talked about focusing on today is accountability.

Misha: Yes. 

Elisa: And that’s severely lacking in a lot of cases because everybody’s kind of siloed in their own area or doing their own thing individually. So the accountability piece for us was super, super important because it’s like we can have the pledge, we can tell the stories and we can provide the resources, but where’s the teeth? 

Elisa: Here it is. So what we’re doing is building a “culture rater” so that people can come to our site and it’s called Medusa. And talk about their experience with the culture of the organization they’re in, not whether or not they had a good or a bad time. We have Yelp for that. But whether or not the culture was a fit. And we’re doing it based off of components of culture.

Elisa: So Accountability being one. Communication, Transparency, even recognition, how people are recognizing their employees. This is all part of the culture of an organization. And what this is going to allow us to do is to signal to employees. “Hey, what’s your top cultural value? What do you value most in an organization?”

Elisa: Because as we’re moving and shifting and going through this big upheaval with talent, you’re going to want to be where you feel welcome. You’re going to want to be in a place that honors, what is most important to you. So as we do this, as we build this out, as we collect this information and display it, employees can go, You know, transparency is the big one for me. I really need to know what’s going on. And so Communication would be number two. So you can go to our site and take a look at who’s doing super well in transparency and communication and start your journey there. I know that was a lot…

Misha: No, that was perfect. Couple of things that I think that resonate and is important for our GSD listeners to hear. Number one, if you’ve been in this industry, specifically in the insurance space, you’re not alone right? There are tons of us who’ve had these conversations who have had these stories who have had these experiences and being able to reach out and talk to somebody and just have to have somebody listen is very healing.

Misha: Right? I know that you and I, when we first connected, when we shared our stories with each other, it was extremely healing. It was a fast friendship because all of a sudden we had this common ground of “You’ve been through something similar, I’d been through something similar.” And I think that’s what Insure Equality is really building in that community space.

Misha: Is those safe places to have those conversations and talk to those other individuals that have experienced this. Talk to us a little bit about. As you’ve been talking and hearing from people’s stories, are you seeing that? And is there a way that people can share their stories and is it confidential or how does that work?

Misha: Talk a little bit about that for me. 

Elisa: Great. Tee off for me. Thank you, Misha. Like I said, I’ve been having dozens, scores of these conversations and across the globe. This hasn’t been a localized U.S. Issue or a localized, I sit in Chicago. It’s not just a Chicago issue. This is globally an industry issue.

Elisa: And I will say it’s very much the same feeling that you and I had that first time of like, Oh wow. Like I, I felt seen in a way that I hadn’t felt seen in a while. And for so many people that’s that same experience. So there is a spot on our website. If you go to insureequality.org and that’s insure spelled like you’re insuring something, I N S U R E.

Elisa: There is a spot under the individual TAKE ACTION tab for telling your story. It is completely anonymous. We will not give away details of who you are, or that could tip off like what company it is, because that was something that was really important to me. I can share vulnerably, something that happened to me over the course of my process.

Elisa: So when everything went down and I got kicked out of the agency and, you know, I had my really bad, terrible, awful year. I started going to therapy again, and I was diagnosed with PTSD. And many of us are, or have this. And I’ve seen PTSD from the other side because my father was a military vet. So it didn’t like jive with me at first said, “Oh, I have this!”, but let me tell you, when you are in another business situation and something happens that reminds you of that situation. It’s big. 

Elisa: So that’s why telling me stories are important, you know, first and foremost, because it helps you heal, like you said, it reminds you that you’re not alone and your story could help somebody else because they can see a bit of themselves in you. But I want to take a second to talk about, like, you mentioned safe, feeling safe.

Elisa: Cause that’s a big piece about what this is about. As we’re building Medusa, the culture rater, something that we were very intentional about was creating and allowing space for questions for people to answer, honestly, that would still factor into the score without ever being shared. So we are implementing, I don’t even know if I’ve told you this.

Elisa: So this is really cool. We are implementing something that is called a safe haven question. If you happen upon a question that has a little feather, just like our logo, it is a safe place for you to share exactly how you feel without fear of retribution or retaliation. Because that is that’s key. I think that informs a lot of our decisions as we move about in the world. 

Misha: Absolutely. And I think what’s really important is in this day and age, right. Of NDAs and non-competes and all those different things, I think there’s a hesitancy to say, What can I share? What can I, what can I share enough to heal or not? You know, it’s through those different experiences.

Misha: And so I’m so glad you touched on that. Cause I think it’s really important for people to know that their information is safe, that they are safe to be able to share, because we do want the insurance space to heal. Talk to me a little bit about from your perspective. And I know we’ve talked about this before, right?

Misha: Is the industry, the insurance industry is definitely taking a shift, right? We’re definitely, we’re probably that what I’ll call the middle generation. There’s still a lot of those that are more seasoned… there’s a huge gap, right? As we talk about the next generation and we talk about bringing them on board.

Misha: Into the insurance industry, because it does mean change. There is opportunity there for digital transformation and technology innovation, which is very near and dear to my heart. But talk to me about, you know, how can Insure Equality help us bridge that gap into bringing in the next generation?

Misha: Because I do feel like there is a gap there, right? 

Elisa: There massively is. I remember when I joined, I was just talking with somebody else about this the other day. I started as an underwriter and entered the old traditional way of insurance, which is you fall in, like somebody tells you about it and you kind of find your way now people actually go to school for this.

Elisa: But, at the time I walked into insurance as an underwriter and I was handling paper files on a Doss system. 

Misha: Oh, my goodness. 

Elisa: I’m a millennial. Like I, I’m still in my, not quite mid thirties. Like I will be mid thirties this year, but not quite mid thirties. So to put in perspective, we’re behind in a lot of areas.

Elisa: But, I will also highlight the fact that while we’re going through the ‘great resignation’ now, insurance was feeling this talent shortage, even in 2019 and before that. Because of the same issues that we’re talking about today, but 2020 and the pandemic really emphasized it in a big, big way. 

Elisa: So, a lot of what we’re being intentional about is not just how can we take the industry about where it is now and try to help everybody move forward? But how do we harness the talent that wants to be here and use their voice to inform our decision-making?

Elisa: So I’m really excited to tell you about, this will be old news by the time this podcast launches, but we are partnering with Gamma Iota Sigma. They’re the professional insurance fraternity, that is actually, it’s more than nationwide.

Elisa: They’re in Canada also. And they are going to help us by putting a student spotlight in our newsletter. We’re going to be engaging with them, forming a junior board because it’s so important. As you know, and as you’ve stated that these voices are represented in the future, it’s not just about what you and I want.

Elisa: Like how can we change this for everybody to feel welcome and be able to work, advance and lead. 

Misha: Absolutely. Congratulations on that partnership with them. I think it’s, it’s really critical. And I think as we look to the next generation and they’re looking to us as mentors, right?

Misha: To say, if I wanted to get into insurance? What would that look like? Or am I going to be treated fairly? Am I going to have a career there? Right. And I think it’s really important for us to be able to talk honestly about it. Let’s say, “Hey, this was my experience. However, there is a change coming and here’s where you can align with an organization that can help bring about that change.”

Misha: So finally, Elisa talk about some of the studies that you guys are doing. I think it’s really important for our listeners to know, right. This is not just, soft skills, it’s not just stories, right. We’re really looking at it from a study perspective and we’re data driven.

Misha: So really talk about that for us for a minute. 

Elisa: Absolutely. Absolutely. There’s so much there. And I want to say, I just learned something this week in a group that I was in and they said, I’ve stopped calling it soft skills. I started calling it strategic skills because if you think about it, it’s.. (Misha: love it) I love it too.

Elisa: So, I’m going to start using it because if you think about it, having skills of relationship, building communication, and networking, super strategy based. So I want to call it because I think it’s, I think it’s beautiful, but yes, to talk about the research.. So much of this industry. Well, the world really, but like this industry in particular is super data-driven.

Elisa: They want the numbers, they want to know how this, how this calculates out. They want to know people’s opinions. So we’re doing it in a couple of different ways. The first is obviously Medusa. We’re going to have this available to us. We’re going to know what people are saying, what they’re asking for, what they’re wanting, but again, that partnership with Gamma Iota Sigma, it’s going to come in very handy because we’re going to be able to conduct research.

Elisa: With that new generation on what they want. So we’re going to be getting it from two parts. The other thing I’ll say is that as we build out Medusa, our short-term/long-term goal is to add a customer component. So now it’s no longer just about how does the culture feel internally, but how are you interacting with your client base?

Elisa: Because as you know, and I know so much of insurance, whether we like to say it or. It’s really price driven and then you can leverage coverage. You can say, look, my agency does this differently, or this carrier does this differently. And every once in a while, they’ll make the difference. But for the most part, it’s really price driven.

Elisa: And that’s a shame because there’s a lot more that goes into insurance than just the coverage price. As you also know millennials and Gen Z are very, value-based not just in how they interact with the world, but as shoppers and I’m this way as well. Like I pick and choose where I shop based on how that company interacts with the world.

Elisa: This allows that value based consumer option that doesn’t really exist. So now you can walk into a space and go, Hey, I want insurance from this company or this company, because they’ve signed the IE pledge because they value both employees and customers from a cultural standpoint. I don’t care if it’s a hundred dollars more a year.

Elisa: I want my money going there. And I think that in particular is super disruptive in the right way. 

Misha: I 100% agree, and I’m really excited to see everything that’s continuing to come out of you and the Insure Equality team. Thank you so much for being brave and using your voice right too, because we know our voices, our strongest weapon, right?

Misha: Thank you for being brave to have the conversations, to take the stand to all the wonderful work that you and the team are doing. , thank you for joining us here on the GSD factor podcast, and, just give everybody your URLs. They can reach out to you. If they have any questions to learn more.

Elisa: Please do, it’s Insureequality.org.

Elisa: And I’ll spell that for you. It’s I N S U R E E Q U A L I T Y.org. There’s two E’s in there. Yes, please go there. There’s a contact form. There’s multiple ways to engage with us. If you want those resources delivered in your inbox, please hit that subscribe on the newsletter button as well. And Misha, thank you for the time. Super appreciate it. 

Misha: It was so great to have you. GSD factor podcast listeners, thank you so much. And we look forward to seeing you on the next episode. Bye.

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