The power of being heard: DEI expert reveals the importance of "lifting people up"

The power of being heard: DEI expert reveals the importance of "lifting people up" | Insurance Business America

The power of being heard: DEI expert reveals the importance of "lifting people up"

How can you judge whether an organization is serious about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) – or whether they are just engaged in “window dressing”?

That’s one of the topics in the spotlight at Women in Insurance Atlanta on April 07 – particularly in the session ‘Diversity and inclusion initiatives that are working’, a speaker panel moderated by Safiya Reid, director, diversity, equity & inclusion, PURE Insurance.

“Sometimes you can tell how serious a company is about DEI by looking at where the function sits in the organization,” Reid reflected. “I’ve spoken with some DEI leads that don’t even have access to the demographics of the organization. So - how do they know what to do or where to move the needle on?

“Some organizations are just concerned with the optics of DEI: they want to show that they ‘care’ about it … but are not really doing anything to dismantle any of the structural obstacles that are in the way for marginalized folks.”

Thanks to Reid’s leadership, this is certainly not the approach used at PURE Insurance – where she has instilled a powerful philosophy that advocates “actively including” to avoid “unintentionally excluding.” “If people feel seen,” she explained, “then they will naturally come to you with whatever concerns or challenges they have. And it’s usually the ability not to share those concerns and challenges that can result in employee relations issues. So, the foundation of [our approach] that we gleaned from the NueroLeadership Institute’s INCLUDE workshop on how to cultivate smarter, inclusive teams,  is to find coming ground, create clarity, and lift people up.”

The notion of ‘being heard’, it turns out, is something that marked a vital turning point in Reid’s career – and indeed set her on the path to becoming a determined DEI professional.

It was one particular conversation with a senior manager that really opened up the floor, Reid recalled.

He kept asking her what was wrong, and she hesitated for days before finally abandoning her routine response that everything was fine. “We sat down in his office,” Reid said, “and we talked for an hour and a half about the school to prison pipeline, the wealth inequality gap … just everything.”

“That felt so good, not to just hold that in. What often happens is you have these moments [of frustration] and you just kind of push them under the rug. Because otherwise - as James Baldwin said – you’d just be in a constant state of rage all the time.”

Reid’s extensive knowledge of DEI concerns impressed management so much that a new DEI position was created – which she was soon promoted to.

“I knew I wouldn’t have to convince anyone that DEI is an investment,” she enthused. “I didn’t have to combat that battle – which some folks in DEI are still fighting, that initial battle just to get people on board.

“I knew that there was full support from our entire executive committee and the organization and that we were aligned on the things that we wanted.

“Support from the top is absolutely necessary … but DEI is still everyone’s work. That is really our philosophy at PURE.”

To hear more from Reid as she moderates a panel on how to ensure DEI initiatives are appropriately prioritized, activated and measured, be sure to attend Women in Insurance Atlanta, taking place at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel on April 07, 2022.