Marlin Woods, founder, and CEO of Benefits PLUS Consulting, a vendor management firms, was interviewed for the article “The long, hard road to improving diversity in the benefits industry,” by Paul Wilson, published in the national magazine BenefitsPro, featuring expert business owners, CEOs, and Presidents in the benefits industry who spoke about how the insurance industry is lacking in racial diversity.
This article, published on benefitspro.com, featured valuable insight from African American benefit professionals who have recognized the lack of diversity in the industry, speaking about their experiences and providing advice on how to take effective action for fostering diversity and inclusion as a consistent part of a company’s goals.
While some companies in the benefits industry have taken steps toward progress in diversity, the article discusses how the industry is “spinning its wheels.” Woods said although he has finally begun to see greater inclusion of women over the years, “If we’re talking about racial dynamics, there has not been progress.”
Woods went on to say that the lack of improvement is baffling since there are countless reasons that change is desirable, beneficial, and, yes, profitable.
The article also discussed that in an ideal world, each candidate going for a job interview would have an equal chance at the position, but that is not the reality for African Americans with the double standard sometimes referred to as the “black tax.” Woods explained, “Before every Black family sends their children off into the world, they tell them, ‘You will have to do twice the work to receive equal treatment or pay.’”
These types of biases and obstacles extend into the field for many. The article stated that oftentimes African American advisors feel the need to include their white peers in their meetings with clients and prospects to avoid potential issues. “I understand that it will often break the ice and create a warmer lead to include a white male with salt and pepper hair in the conversation. It helps them feel safe,” Woods said.
Woods also discusses how diversity and inclusion not only need to be intentional, but the companies have to actually want it. “But prior to intention, they have to actually want it. You have to see the value in having diverse talent at the table. All of the talent in the country isn’t reserved for white males. Many people are as talented, or in some cases, even more, talented than the people who currently make up our industry.”
Woods said if people truly want to see the industry and their organization thrive, they will do whatever it takes to ensure that the best talent is engaged and at the table.
“Otherwise, it embodies the definition of what racism is: The denial of access to equality. And if you’re denying access to certain people, you’re also denying your organization access to quality. That means you can only be so profitable, so influential, and so successful because you’re ignoring talent that can help move the needle,” Woods said.