Black History Month presents an excellent opportunity to reflect on what diversity really means to us and how to keep working to achieve it.
While 2020 felt like a year to forget in many ways, one of the ways it will be remembered is as the year in which racial justice came to the forefront of discussion in America. February marks Black History Month and that is certainly a reason to celebrate diversity.
Black History Month originated as the brainchild of historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926.1 Originally a week-long celebration, it was expanded to a month on the occasion of the Bicentennial in 1976. Marking the occasion, President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.2
Yet nearly half a century after Ford’s proclamation, there is still so much to do in recognizing the contribution of Black Americans to our culture. And businesses are well-placed to help ensure that happens. In fact, a major survey of attitudes to different institutions found that business is now more trusted than the media, government and even non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and is the only one of the four seen as ethical and competent.3
How New York Life celebrates diversity
At New York Life, diversity and inclusion is embedded in programs across the company, and each year we engage employees in a campaign specifically devoted to learning about diversity & inclusion. For 2021, and in recognition of the events that brought racism and racial injustice to the forefront in recent months, the campaign is called, “Social justice in action: let’s talk about us.”
By talking about us—our identities as individuals, the history that has shaped those identities, and what’s important to us—employees have the opportunity to gain different perspectives, be educated, and take action. Throughout the campaign, employees will have many opportunities to participate in events, watch videos, and read articles that help them understand what it’s like to walk in others’ shoes.
Our seven employee resource groups celebrate their respective history/heritage months, and “Social justice in action: let’s talk about us” aligns to those months as well; for example, activities for the campaign in February educate employees on experiences of the Black community, including encouraging participants to attend one of the BOLD (Black Organization for Leadership & Development) Employee Resource Group’s Black History Month events.
The support for diverse communities extends beyond New York Life and into the community—we believe financial security and inclusion is vital to creating better opportunities. To that end we have more than 1,200 agents serving the African American community whose mission is not just to sell life insurance, but to help families understand the importance of building a legacy for the next generation. We also back our beliefs through actions: in the last 20 years we’ve donated more than $25 million to organizations which support the African American community. Most recently we made a $1 million one-off grant to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. And we’ve pledged to match employee contributions up to $5,000 to a range of organizations involved in racial justice and advancement.
We’re proud that New York Life’s diversity and inclusion efforts are recognized externally. Last year we featured in the top 10 percent of companies in the Diversity Best Practices Inclusion Index, which measures a company’s diversity performance based on recruitment, retention & advancement, inclusive culture and workforce demographics.4 If you’d like to learn more about how we create a culture of diversity and inclusion at New York Life, read more here.
1“About African American History Month”. African American History Month government website. Accessed February 02, 2021. https://africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/about/
2“About African American History Month”. African American History Month government website. Accessed February 02, 2021. https://africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/about/
3“Edelman Trust Barometer 2021”. Accessed February 02, 2021. https://www.edelman.com/trust/2021-trust-barometer
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