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Diversity in the workplace: What women want, how minorities feel

Posted On: Aug. 1, 2019 12:00 AM CST

Women and minorities

If your company is thinking of embarking on a diversity and inclusion program, your top three priorities, based on the 2019 Business Insurance diversity survey, should be to demonstrate fairness in performance and compensation decisions, increase the focus on retention and development of diverse talents, and ensure diversity at all levels of management.

However, priorities may differ depending on who you ask. In the age of the #MeToo movement, Business Insurance thought it would be interesting to look at what women want compared with their male colleagues and how minority groups feel differently from their white/Caucasian co-workers.

As in years past, Business Insurance commissioned Signet Research Inc. to conduct this year’s survey.

To reach a more diverse sample pool, Business Insurance also reached out to its partners, including the National African-American Insurance Association, the Women’s Insurance Networking Group, Women in Insurance & Financial Services and members of the Business Insurance Diversity and Inclusion Institute to send out the survey link to their respective members. A total of 897 responses were received during the survey period between May 29 to June 20, 2019, including 120 from members of our partners. The base used is the total answering each question from U.S.-based insurance and risk professionals.

Following is the profile breakdown of this year’s survey respondents (some percentages may not total 100% due to rounding):


Over 20% of survey respondents said they are in top management positions. However, male respondents were three times more likely than female to respond that they are in top management. Considering that male respondents have been working in the insurance industry for an average of 23.09 years vs. female respondents at 19.57 years, it may take a while longer for more women to reach top management positions.

Conversely, 44.6% female respondents said they are in nonmanagement positions compared with 25.1% of male respondents. Almost 10% of survey respondents said the top job in their company, the CEO, is held by a woman or minority person. About 78.5% said women hold top management positions in their organizations, and 13.3% said African-Americans hold some management positions in their companies, making them the highest percentage among minority groups holding management positions.

The top challenges to diversity included the lack of diverse job candidates, lack of understanding of what diversity can do for the industry and lack of consistent leadership on the issue.

However, among nonwhite minority groups, which include black/AfricanAmericans, Hispanic background/ancestry, Asian or Pacific Islander, Alaskan Native/ American Indian and others, 43.4% see the lack of understanding in their organization about the benefits that diversity and inclusion can offer to the business as the biggest challenge, compared with only 22.0% of white respondents.

Minorities, 38%, also think that there needs to be more consistent and visible leadership on the issue, and 31.3% even feel that there is an unwelcoming culture for underrepresented groups, such as women, disabled people and ethnic minorities, which rounds out the top three challenges for diversity and inclusion — and not due to the lack of diverse job candidates, which is what their white counterparts, 42.3%, think is the biggest challenge to having a diverse workforce.

And compared with their male colleagues, 11.8%, women are also twice as likely to respond that they feel an unwelcoming workplace culture for underrepresented groups at 26.2%.


Fifty-four percent of the total respondents said CEOs should be accountable for their company’s diversity, and 21.6% said it should be the chief human resources officers. In other words, three-quarters of the respondents felt that their companies’ cultures, specifically on diversity and inclusion, are on the shoulders of these two top leaders.

Female respondents and minority respondents were significantly more likely than male respondents and white/Caucasian respondents to feel that there is insufficient diversity. However, a majority — more than 60% — in all groups felt that their organizations do recognize diversity and inclusion as a business priority.

However, top priorities changed with different groups. When asked what the top priorities should be, male respondents and white/Caucasian respondents, 38% and 42.8% respectively, tend to think that demonstrating fairness in performance and compensation decisions should be the most important priority for diversity/ inclusion efforts in the insurance industry. Female respondents, at 45.2%, feel that retention and development of diverse talents should be the most important, while nonwhite minority groups, at 43.4%, think that ensuring diversity at all levels of management should be the top priority, including more than half of black/ African-Americans, at 53.7%, feel that should be the top priority.

Sixty-five percent of the total respondents think that their companies’ diversity programs are effective overall, though male respondents — 70.4% — are more likely to think that the program is either very or somewhat effective compared with their female colleagues at 58.2%. White respondents — 66.1% — are also more likely to rate their companies’ diversity programs as very effective or somewhat effective compared with nonwhite minority respondents at 60.9%.

Consequently, male respondents and white respondents are also more likely to rate their companies’ diversity efforts good or very good across all categories compared with female respondents and minority respondents.

Political affiliations, age and religion remain to be the top three things that employees hide about themselves, reflecting no change from prior years’ surveys.