One year ago, New York Life’s Social Justice Steering Committee and Social Justice Working Group rolled out their recommendations for advancing New York Life’s diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) and social justice programs. Much has happened in the 12 months since as the company introduced both advancements in existing social justice-related employee and business work and new initiatives now underway.
Catching up with the DE&I Center
One of the outcomes was evolving the Office of Diversity & Inclusion (ODI) to become the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Center for Awareness and Advocacy (DE&I Center). The DE&I Center continues New York Life’s existing focus on inclusion and engagement initiatives while expanding development programming with the goal of optimizing advancement opportunities for all diverse employees.
The DE&I Center’s purpose is to support New York Life’s inclusive culture by building on the company’s efforts to integrate DE&I into the company’s approach to educating, engaging, and developing employees. The DE&I Center helps employees identify their personal goals and thrive in their careers, supports managers in developing diverse talent, and connects employees across the company. The DE&I Center has been hard at work introducing new development, coaching, and mentoring programs that are open enrollment, making them great opportunities for all to take control of their careers.
The DE&I Center also continues to raise awareness and focus on education through New York Life’s ongoing Social Justice in Action campaign, the company’s Coming Together Courageous Conversation Series, employee resource group activities, and enhanced communications.
Cathy Council became head of the DE&I Center in October 2021. “Taking on this role at an exciting and important time in New York Life’s DE&I journey and is not something I take lightly,” she says. “I’m proud of all that we’ve accomplished since launching the DE&I Center in the fall, but at the same time know there’s always more work to be done. I look forward to continuing to partner and collaborate with employees across the company to make our programming even more impactful.”
Embedding DE&I and social justice in New York Life’s business
The reach of New York Life’s DE&I efforts goes beyond the four walls of the company to initiatives designed to make a significant impact on the communities where we live and work. For example, in the fall, Eric Jackson was appointed Agency’s first Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. This is a new role designed to help Agency’s efforts to focus on equity and inclusion, better nurture diverse talent, and more effectively advance the cause of social justice in the communities we serve.
Another piece of the strategy is New York Life’s $1 billion impact investment initiative to help address the racial wealth gap. Launched in April 2021, New York Life will invest in underserved and undercapitalized communities over a three-year period with a focus on supporting small businesses, affordable housing, and community development. Like many of the company’s strategies, this new initiative has the dual objective of driving positive social impact while producing market returns to support New York Life’s policy owners.
According to Martin King, head of impact investments, “Our long-term impact investment strategy is to develop large-scale solutions and investment structures that aim to deliver broad and inclusive economic outcomes linked to job growth, health and wellness, and personal and household advancement.
Building upon New York Life’s established programs
Although there are many new things to talk about, as a result of the Social Justice Working Group, New York Life continues to expand upon the company’s more established programs as well. Some of this work includes providing grants and scholarship programs to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Building on the company’s relationships with Howard and Hampton Universities, New York Life has awarded 18 scholarships totaling $400,000 to students at Hampton and the company is hosting interns from the school this summer. New York Life will award scholarships to students at Howard in 2023. New York Life has hosted professional development and bereavement support for students including over 21 grants and sponsored alumni events as well.
Building on the work previously conducted through the $50 Billion Empowerment Plan, New York Life and the company’s African American Market Unit (AAMU) recently launched “RISE: The Empowerment Plan for the African American Market.” Standing for Reach, Inspire, Secure, and Empower, RISE was founded to help change the financial future of Black America and help close the wealth gap by focusing on three key pillars: financial empowerment, educational empowerment, and community empowerment.
"The AAMU continues to play a major role in the success and growth of New York Life’s field force,” said Mark Madgett, New York Life’s Head of Agency. "Building on the AAMU’s momentum is vital and in Wykeeta Peel, the AAMU’s new lead, we have a proven leader who has a keen understanding of the financial issues most relevant to the Black community. She also brings insights gained from her work as a core member of Agency’s Social Justice Steering Committee over the past 18 months. We know she will continue to be driven by a passion to bring insurance and financial products, services, and wealth education to the African American community."
Additionally, LJ Williams, New York Life’s CEO Action for Racial Equity (CEOARE) fellow, sits on the Fellowship’s HBCU engagement team, which educates companies about HBCUs with a goal of expanding support across all 101 schools and creating sustainable corporate engagement. The fellowship has been extended an additional two years through 2024.
Beyond supporting these institutions of higher learning, the New York Life Foundation is expanding the reach of its social justice-related civic engagement and philanthropic efforts too.
Also of note is New York Life’s much expanded Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Report. The 2021 edition contained expanded data and personal stories to provide readers with an even fuller picture of New York Life’s culture and commitment to DE&I and social justice initiatives. The report can be found here.
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