Racial equity is different from diversity efforts, and Derrik Anderson told NAIFA members how and why this is so.
Anderson is executive director of Race Matters and spoke during Thursday’s portion of NAIFA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Impact Week. He discussed why DEI is a critical issue for any organization and provided some practical steps on what individuals can do to advance the cause of racial equity.
Racial inequity was part of the U.S. from the beginning, he said, with government passing and enforcing laws that determined everything from who could vote to where people were permitted to live.
People are socialized by the environment in which they grew up, he continued, with all of us becoming the sum total of our experiences.
So what exactly is diversity? Anderson explained that “diversity suggests that by simply adding more color to an organization, its problems will be solved. While some gains will be made, danger comes in not naming racism and white privilege.” If the organization’s leadership and staff have not built the skills for moving racial equity forward, then diversity becomes “window dressing,” giving the appearance of real change but without such change occurring.
When someone claims to be “color blind” toward people of another race, that phrase might be well-meaning, but it does untold damage to communities of color, Anderson said.
“By not seeing color – or at least pretending that you do not – the approach strips people of color of their identity, their experience and their cultural assets, and signals that they do not matter,” he said.
Unconscious bias and microaggressions are subtle forms of racism that damage and harm relationships. Anderson said unconscious bias includes the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner. We are not aware of some of our deep-rooted values and beliefs, and how they shape our worldview and influence our behaviors.
Anderson gave some examples of microaggressions.
- The ways in which individuals are singled out, overlooked, ignored or discounted based on unchangeable characteristics or differences.
- Using gestures or a different type of treatment, language or tone of voice.
- Subtle slights and snubs.
- Indirect offenses.
How does racial equity impact the financial services profession? Anderson provided some statistics showing people of color – particularly Black people – are underrepresented in the industry.
Sharing some statistics from McKinsey, Anderson said:
- The proportion of people of color in financial services drops by 75% from entry-level position and the C-suite.
- Black people are nearly half as likely as their white counterparts to be promoted to manager, senior manager or senior vice president.
- Black employees are more likely than their white counterparts to experience microaggression on the job.
Anderson provided three steps toward achieving equity in the industry.
- Attract diverse talent.
- Foster belonging.
- Ensure fair promotion.
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at Susan.Rupe@innfeedback.com. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.
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