Celebrating Martin Luther King Day and the Hiscox Pan-African Employee Network
This year on Martin Luther King Day, we’re spotlighting the Hiscox Pan-African Employee Network (PAEN) and their important contributions to our company and the community.
PAEN was established in the US, UK, and Bermuda in 2018 and has achieved a lot in that time.
The network is co-led by Anthony Copeland and Ashley Husbands with executive sponsor, Alexis Palmer, head of HR in the US. In addition to supporting the professional development of its members, PAEN aims to raise cultural awareness among all employees in an effort to facilitate a diverse and inclusive work environment.
“The main goal of the network is to help develop and advance employees of African descent or any ally that would like to be a part of the group,” says DeAndra White, Events Lead Coordinator of PAEN and Centralized Services Specialist at Hiscox.
“The network offers an opportunity to increase the cultural awareness of all employees and promoting Hiscox’s diversity and inclusion efforts,” adds Ashley Husbands, who is Underwriting Counsel at Hiscox in addition to co-chairing the network.
How 2020 changed the network
The summer of 2020 saw nation-wide protests for racial justice, and PAEN was called upon to recommend how Hiscox should address these events at our company and ensure that employees get the support they need.
“Having the Network speak up and come together to highlight diversity, racial inequality, and everything that happened last summer was a pivotal moment. It was at a time when the nation was (and still is) facing back to back accounts of injustice and the business relied on the network – we were at the forefront,” says Ashley.
“We are focusing more on producing information to make sure that [PAEN] members are up to date on the latest events. We try to give out motivational content to make sure that when employees come to work, they know we [PAEN] are aware of things that are happening in the country and that they have a safe space to come and speak to someone for support,” DeAndra adds.
PAEN has been involved in some significant initiatives over the course of the network’s tenure at Hiscox. Some of the most notable include:
Hiscox USA Diverse Talent Development Program
The Diverse Talent Development Program (DTDP) is designed to accelerate development, improve readiness, and advance traditionally under-represented employees into positions of greater responsibility at Hiscox. Two employees will be selected in 2021 to do a secondment in a different department for six months. They are also assigned a mentor from the senior leadership team, provided with funding to enroll in a course that helps develop their professional growth, and given membership to an external professional organization dedicated towards the development of diverse professionals.
Diversity and Inclusion Survey with Dr. Leroy Nunery II
With the help of PAEN, Hiscox USA partnered with Dr. Leroy Nunery II, an expert on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), entrepreneur, and author, to embark on a D&I survey to ensure that Hiscox is one of the best places to work regardless of background. Through 210 surveys and 25 one-on-one interviews, the business gained insights about the status of D&I in relation to career opportunities, mentorship, employee/management relationships, and more at Hiscox. An action plan is currently being developed based on recommendations from Dr. Nunery.
PAEN marked Juneteenth (June 19) this year by hosting an educational forum titled “Where Do We Go From Here?” with speakers Dr. Nunery and psychologist Dr. Isaiah Pickens. More than 200 attendees joined the discussion about the history of Juneteenth, cultural awareness, and generational trauma within black communities.
For DeAndra, this event was one of her proudest moments since being a member of PAEN. “I’ve never seen that many employees come to one event virtually or in person. People wanted to learn more about African Americans, about trauma in the African-American community, and also more about how to be an ally.”
After recommendations from PAEN, the Hiscox Foundation USA donated $100,000 each to the Equal Justice Initiative, which is committed to ending mass incarceration and challenging racial and economic injustice, and the National CARES Mentoring Movement, which is transforming the lives of impoverished Black children by recruiting Black men and women to mentor them.
A $5,000 donation was made to Love Beyond Walls, an Atlanta-based charity that is helping to provide portable hand-washing stations to areas with a high population of homeless people across the US.
PAEN also organized a way for Hiscox employees to support Black-owned small businesses throughout 2020. With a matching contribution from the Hiscox Foundation, employees supported at least 164 Black-owned small businesses, donating a total of $16,400.
The role of Employee Resource Groups in an insurance company
When it comes to insurance companies, having Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that support Black employees is especially important because historically, ours is an industry that has lacked diversity.
“The insurance industry, looking at numbers and reports, is not one of the most diverse industries in our country,” says Ashley.
“It’s not just Hiscox, it’s something that is across the board. So having an ERG where you have people of different backgrounds coming together, you can provide feedback to the business as to how to attract more diverse candidates and how to make the workplace better for diverse individuals because we’re not all the same – we don’t all work the same, we don’t all face the same issues, and so you can’t treat it as such.”
PAEN has contributed to more voices being heard and ensuring that more people get a seat at the table when decisions are being made.
“Having an ERG to speak on behalf of or to represent collectively the voices of minorities is definitely a benefit to the business,” says DeAndra.
For businesses big and small, providing opportunities for employees to voice their opinions and concerns is an important way to boost morale and foster a good work environment. We’re reminded on days like Martin Luther King Day just how crucial it is to create spaces where people feel safe expressing themselves and have access to opportunities for personal and professional growth.
For more information about Hiscox ERGs and other goings-on at Hiscox, check out the Celebrate Courage page.