Sunday, July 12, 2020
The California-based website WorkCompCentral presented, this week, a free webinar featuring a panel discussing the challenges that African-Americans, Latinos, and other people of color face in entering and rising through the ranks of the workers’ compensation industry.
The panelists were Marques Torbert of Ametros; Rosa Royo of the Miami Dade County Public Schools; and Margaret Spence of Douglas Claims & Risk Consultants. If you have attended the gala WCI workers’ compensation event in Orlando over the years, these names and/or faces may be familiar to you.
This amazing session, which I highly recommend, was inspired by the current unsettled character of race relations in our country, brought on, proximately, by the shocking video of the beating death of Mr. George Floyd.
The panelists, one of whom identified as lesbian, extended the discussion beyond the program title to capture industry challenges faced by members of the LGBT community. The addition was remarkable in that, traditionally, issues of equality and discrimination faced by Blacks have been conceived of, by some, as qualitatively different from those of LGBT individuals. This has been so because most gays can hide their orientation and/or be untruthful about it; and because sexual orientation, in the past, has been thought of, incorrectly, as a matter of choice.
In any event, the basic thesis of the panelists, all of whom were people of color, was that the workers’ compensation industry endures as a decidedly white male enterprise. True, efforts have been made over the decades to recruit Blacks into the field, but such efforts are said have to have been inadequate. Further, once such minorities secure the basic industry job – claims adjuster – they are rarely promoted. Instead, upper-level jobs within insurers go to outside hires, presumably white, who are said to be more qualified. The panelists suggested that either racial animus, or at least obliviousness to giving people of color a chance (the inequity of the title), is the culprit. Meanwhile, Ms. Spence, at least, ridiculed the frequent recruiter complaint that qualified people of color are simply not available for hire.
Notably, the term “industry” was the ubiquitous phrase to describe the workers’ compensation field, and the webinar focus was indeed on the familiar world of underwriting, claims, and the vendor community. Still, Ms. Spence did import the legal profession into the discussion, noting that law firms, those for both injured workers and employers, had not done enough to recruit Blacks into practice.
The panelists asserted that industry leaders should do more to recruit and promote people of color. They also strongly suggested that the best and the brightest of the next generation will reject employment opportunities at enterprises that have no minorities on staff. It was in this aspect of the critique that LGBT individuals were seemingly implicated – such potential hires, along with Blacks and Latinos, will be dissatisfied with seeking employment at a workers’ compensation enterprise which lacks diversity and is perceived of as unwelcoming.
The panelists acknowledged that the insurance industry as a whole had made strides in the area of diversity and inclusion. The panelists recognized recent efforts by the magazine Business Insurance to highlight the issue. However, the panelists asserted that workers’ compensation endures as an exception to such progress.
Ms. Spence suggested that many gestures within the corporate world at diversity, in general, are mere tokenism. Consistent with the frank nature of the panel’s discussion, she admonished, “African-Americans should stop taking the ‘Diversity Director’ position.”
The moderators stated that the session will be available for subsequent viewing. It is well worth an hour of one’s time. If you are like me, you will be highly affected by it.
I am unable at this moment to track down the URL, but for more information, see https://ww3.workcompcentral.com/education/course/course_pk/1320.