Mentors play a critical role in offering guidance, inspiration, and support for women and people of diverse backgrounds in the insurance industry. Yet their role is only part of the equation for driving change and achieving true equality in leadership roles. Champions, sponsors, and allies are needed more than ever in the insurance profession to ensure that every employee can rise to and flourish in leadership positions.
For Tenesha Frazier-Levett (pictured), global relationship leader at Crawford & Company, based in Atlanta, GA, mentorship, championship and allyship are all critical components of a successful inclusion and diversity (I&D) strategy. With over 16 years of experience in developing carrier and broker relationships, Frazier-Levett joined Crawford in 2019 to support the company’s evolution of its client engagement strategy – but she quickly took on an important secondary role in helping to advance Crawford’s I&D initiatives.
Frazier-Levett, who will be speaking at Insurance Business America’s upcoming Women in Insurance Boston virtual conference, has been instrumental in developing Crawford’s employee resource groups (ERGs). She was involved in the creation of ZEAL (Zealous, Empowered, Authentic Leaders) in 2019, which is an ERG for women and allies. She now serves as the global ambassador of ZEAL, while also sitting on the steering committee of Crawford’s RISE, a multicultural ERG which is focused on elevating I&D.
She told Insurance Business how supporting and developing ERGs within Crawford is one way in which she likes to “serve and help others.” This has been a personal focus for Frazier-Levett ever since her childhood when she watched her grandmother, whom she described as her very first mentor, act as a leader in her local community. The tendency to build relationships and support others “grew organically” within Frazier-Levett, who now enjoys using her gifts of being able to connect and relate to people as the global relationship leader at Crawford.
“I’ve had the benefit of having mentors in my life, both personal and professional, as well as champions who have actually helped me along my career. I’ve taken the lessons that I’ve learned from my mentors and I’m sharing my experience with others,” said Frazier-Levett. “What I’m good at – and I think this is critically important for a mentor – is being able to actively listen. I see a mentor as a coach and someone who provides guidance, so listening to the mentees, understanding their goals, and supporting them is really important.
“The champions that I’ve had in my life weren’t necessarily individuals that I would connect with often, but when I did, the connection was impactful, and they were willing to advocate for me in settings that I didn’t have access to. I want to be able to do that for others, because I know it’s benefited me and helped me get to where I am today.”
Crawford’s ZEAL – Women and Allies ERG revolves heavily around networking and relationship building. Membership in the group, which currently has six chapters across the United States, has grown over 40% so far in 2021, with diverse representation from women, people of color, allies, and, importantly, key executives like CEO Rohit Verma and president Joseph Blanco.
“We have strategic priorities for ZEAL in 2021. One is around promoting our members within the organization, but also externally within the market. Another is around community engagement and investment,” Frazier-Levett explained. “We want to make sure that we’re reaching out into the community. There’s a lot of I&D initiatives across our client base and across the industry, so we will leverage what we’re doing and also look to push I&D in partnership with clients in order to reach a broader base of members, women and allies. Another thing we’re being more intentional about is recruiting and attracting diverse talent, and we’ve had great support from our leadership team in doing that.”
In March, ZEAL sponsored the inaugural Women of Crawford conference, which had great support both in terms of turnout and event feedback. All employees in Crawford’s global workforce were invited to attend the conference, which featured a keynote speaker and a Women of Crawford panel that included women at different stages of their careers and focused on how women can utilize their voice in meetings.
“We live in a diverse world. The community that we live in is changing, and the more that we embrace that change and our differences, the more fulfilling and impactful lives we can lead,” Frazier-Levett told Insurance Business. “For someone who wants to get involved in I&D, the first thing they could do is join an ERG. I always encourage and promote that whenever I can – it’s just the right thing to do. As organizations continue to grow their focus on I&D, the more attractive they will be not only to clients, but also to prospective employees. If you don’t focus on I&D, you won’t survive.”
Learn more about what it means to be a mentor, a champion or an ally for the next generation by joining us at Insurance Business America’s Women in Insurance Boston virtual conference on May 25, 2021. You can register by clicking here.