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Encourage middle managers to step up

Middle manager

Many insurance executives have embraced diversity and inclusion strategies, but that enthusiasm doesn’t always trickle down the ranks to middle management making day-to-day decisions on who to hire or promote, experts say.

Creating ways to engage middle managers more systemically is a chronic problem in this field, said Susan Johnson, Hartford, Connecticut-based chief diversity and inclusion officer of The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. “Middle managers always have gazillions of things being asked of them from all stakeholders. Our opportunity in diversity and inclusion is to continue to demonstrate both overtly and covertly that … this is how to attract the best talent.”

Middle managers often don’t see the need “to be part of the conversation,” said Amy Waninger, a diversity and inclusion expert based in McCordsville, Indiana, who started her career at Bostonbased Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.

“From the perspective of a lot of managers, (D&I) looks like one more thing they have to do and it’s not necessarily something that’s a priority for them, either because they’re not being measured on it, they don’t see the value, or there’s a failure to articulate a good business case as to what’s in it for them,” she said.

“It’s sometimes the middle management guy that you work for that won’t give you the opportunity because people by nature like to do business with people that are like themselves,” said Bonnie Boone, executive vice president at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.. “I’d like to see the industry take some accountability about keeping minorities once they have hired them. We need someone to shepherd them and guide them through the system.”

Shelley Yim, managing director of San Francisco-based Aon PLC, said companies need to demonstrate to newer managers that if they want to be senior leaders, they need to “demonstrate that they’re willing to make a personal investment to attract and retain top talent” that may not look just like them.









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