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Time to ramp up action on diversity: RIMS president

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SAN ANTONIO — The Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc.’s first African-American president says diversity and inclusion has to be more than just a conversation — it has to be about action.

But diversity is not just about gender, race and social economic background — it’s also about diversity of ideas and thoughts, Robert Cartwright Jr., Exton, Pennsylvania-based safety and health manager at Bridgestone Retail Operations L.L.C. and president of the RIMS board of directors, said at the society’s first-ever diversity and inclusion meetup at the RIMS annual conference in San Antonio on Sunday.

“My belief is that we’re in the 21st century, and 21st-century risk management has to be totally different than what we’ve known in the 20th century,” he said. “It’s not just about people who buy insurance. It’s people who use it. The end user. The folks who are making the change and looking at innovation, this generation (and) the next generation that understands and embraces technology — we have to put those two together, taking the next step to make risk management effective and relevant in the 21st century.”

RIMS has put together a diversity and inclusion task force, led by Jennifer Santiago, RIMS board member and director of risk management for Novartis Pharmaceutical Corp. in East Hanover, New Jersey.

“My passion is about diversity,” Mr. Cartwright said. “Let’s use this opportunity to really get this thing moving forward.”

Liz Cole, chief human resources officer for Marsh L.L.C. in New York, discussed the importance of having not just a diverse workforce, but an inclusive environment.

“You can have a diverse group of people in the room, but if that diverse group of people doesn’t feel like they have a safe place to actually express a diverse opinion, you’ve lost, everybody’s lost — not just the person, but the company,” she said.

“When I think about what will make us successful, I completely believe in my heart that we’ve got to get different people at the table to solve unique problems, and we’ve got to listen to every single voice,” Ms. Cole continued. “And that’s why I think this is such an important conversation that we need to be having. I’ve been in human resources for a long time, and I’m disappointed in us. I think that we should have made more progress. I’m a little bit tired of talking about it. I really want more action.”

Attendees of the meetup broke into small groups to discuss a variety of diversity and inclusion topics, including how a lack of diversity could result in negative impacts such as the loss of valuable insights and perspectives and the loss of talent, while a diverse workforce has economic and other benefits.

For example, one group discussed a case study focused on the struggles companies continue to have to ensure women are fairly represented in top management. It cited a 2017 McKinsey & Co. report called Reinventing the Workplace to Unlock the Potential of Gender Diversity that found only 17% of executive committee members in Western Europe are women and women account for only 32% of corporate boards.

In the United States, the figures are 17% for executive committees and just under 19% for boards. The study also found that there could be a 3.5% increase in gross domestic product, with every 10% increase in gender diversity within senior executive teams leading to a potential global GDP increase of $28 trillion.

Other groups focused on LGBT diversity issues, emphasizing the importance of not just having diversity conversations occur once a year and having those conversations led by members of the LGBT community.

“It has to be part of the fabric,” said Christine Shimasaki, moderator and president of 2Synergize Inc., a San Diego-based consultancy working with convention and visitor bureaus on sales and marketing solutions. “It has to be part of the culture. It can’t just be an initiative that you break out once a year.”