“I remember still hearing about secretarial pools where all the women worked on a separate floor away from the men,” Jolly told Insurance Business.
“There are times, like in a meeting or a social industry setting, where comments are made that could be considered sexist.
“You have to know how best to respond in those situations because you still want to be respectful.”
Now senior broker relationship leader at Munich Re America, Jolly said the insurance industry has come a long way, but not far enough, to create a truly inclusive industry.
“Have we done better about having conversations about gender and racial disparities in our industry? Yes,” she said.
“But now the onus remains for everyone in our industry to put some teeth into those conversations.”
‘There’s still a way’
At Munich Re, Jolly is responsible for leading strategic engagements and expanding relationships with broking partners. Before this, he worked WTW as a global client advocate and spent 12 years at AIGwhere he served as vice president and executive director of client engagement for the AIG US south zone.
Since she started in insurance, the industry has made incremental progress in moving the needle for women, minorities, and other historically oppressed groups.
“It’s been great to watch the evolution of our industry,” Jolly said. “There are members of the industry doing amazing work when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), but we still have a way to go.”
But he also asked companies: “How can we be more inclusive by having more diverse employees who is part of the success we are trying to achieve while making an impact in the communities where we do business?”
The Munich Re executive views her experiences as a black woman working her way up the insurance ranks as a unique challenge at a time when there are few people like her to serve as mentors and sponsors.
“I look for role models who have stepped up and been promoted [to senior levels] within the firms so that I can feel that I can do that too,” Jolly said.
“But there were very few people of color in senior and executive roles when I started in the industry. So, [one of the challenges was] getting comfortable moving within companies where you’re the only person of color in a meeting, and looking for promotion opportunities and senior executives who can sponsor you.”
Two steps towards DE&I
To help create more opportunities for young insurance professionals, Jolly has given her time and advocacy to groups that promote diversity and equality. He leads the HYPE (Helping Young Professionals Excel) program for the National African American Insurance Association-Atlanta Chapter.
What else can insurance leaders do to bring the industry closer to a more diverse and inclusive place?
The first step is to show a sincere, genuine commitment to diversity and including procurement and maintenance skills, according to Jolly.
“It’s great for us to want to push these initiatives within the rank and file employees in our companies, but the lack of commitment from senior and executive levels will make it even more challenging,” said he.
Exploring historically black colleges and universities for potential recruits, providing resources for employees from diverse backgrounds, and creating spaces of support and community for individuals affected by discrimination because of their race, gender, age, or other factors, are some ways for organizations to position themselves for success in their DE&I programs.
The second step, according to Jolly, is to create an ongoing conversation between management and staff about uncomfortable issues, such as ongoing violence against black people and minorities.
“When you look at companies that are having these challenging or difficult conversations, they’re moving toward solutions and understanding instead of being afraid to tread water,” he said.
What are your thoughts on the insurance industry’s DE&I journey? Share them below.
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