The tipping point for change
Junior Garba, co-founder of the African-Caribbean Insurance Network (ACIN), is a cyber underwriter at TMK and is a member of the company’s Ethnicity Network Group. As the UK marks Black History Month, Junior shares his views on racial inclusivity in insurance and the progress being made today. For more information about the ACIN or to join, please visit: www.theacin.co.uk
What does Black History Month mean to you?
We know that one can learn a lot about a country or a group of people by what they choose to remember, and by what they choose to forget. Both have massive consequences and say a lot about the societal concerns of that group. For me Black History Month is all about focusing the lens on some of that forgotten history and making sure it becomes part of the history that we choose to remember going forward. Everywhere we look there are relics of black history, many of which have an untold story. It’s important this history is reinvigorated and celebrated in order to acknowledge positive contributions from the black community to society and to break down the notions of black inferiority.
To switch my attention to the insurance market, we know that in some eras the sector has left a bad footprint on black history and in attempt to bury that history we’ve also buried a lot of the positive stuff in the process too. As a proud underwriter at Lloyd’s and ACIN co-founder, I’ll be working with a history ambassador at the Insurance Museum to rediscover some of that positive black insurance history. I know that as a market going forward, we’ll make the right choices in what we choose to remember.
Where do you think we are on racial inclusivity in insurance today?
In terms of representation, the most recent data which was published in 2017 revealed that just 2% of insurance employees are from black and ethnic minority backgrounds and that figure significantly reduces towards board level. I would hope and expect that these figures have improved over time.
On culture, this is an unprecedented period of heightened awareness of racial inclusivity. With the events leading to the Black Lives Matter movement, companies are expressing their solidarity with victims of racial injustice, and they are looking at how these experiences affect their employees and at their own histories. Compare that to a time when simply referencing a person’s race or using the term ‘black’ in the workplace was unheard of. Today, the industry is much more accepting of and comfortable with discussing race and it has become mainstream and normalised. The conversations I’ve had with CEOs, HR directors and junior professionals indicate that there is a genuine and sincere focus on taking action. It is a tipping point for change.
What issues arise from racial exclusivity in a professional environment?
Corporate culture is heavily influenced by the people within an organisation. Working in environments which lack diversity means that people from ethnic backgrounds are faced with higher levels of “acculturation” than their white counterparts, which can be isolating and inhibiting. It can be difficult to integrate socially and can heighten feelings of isolation, and potentially affect your ability to climb the ranks.
In March 2019, the ACIN held its first networking event to gather ethnic minority professionals together, with support from TMK. Collectively we shared stories and I heard the same issues I had experienced personally from many others. Through just one event we created a community and turned isolation on its head.
What can companies do to be more racially inclusive?
The ACIN has outlined six steps to racial inclusivity, which many companies like TMK are incorporating into their inclusion and diversity strategies. A key action all companies need to take is developing, tracking and reporting ethnic representation. As they say, what gets measured, gets done. Companies must also ensure their executive teams are openly committed to action. The work being done today will lead to significant progress in the next five to 10 years.