Susan Neely (Credit: ACLI) Susan Neely (Credit: ACLI)

The American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) has joined an effort by big U.S. companies to reduce inequality of opportunity.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched the initiative Wednesday.

Susan Neely, the ACLI’s president, will be part of the initiative’s national steering committee. The companies participating in the effort will start by holding a national townhall meeting June 25. The participants in the townhall will include a federation of trade associations and state and local chambers of commerce.

(Related: TIAA Responds to the Crisis With ‘Be The Change’ Program)

Suzanne Clark, president of the U.S. Chamber, said in a statement that promoting greater diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace is the right thing to do, and that there’s evidence that greater diversity helps the American businesses and the American economy.

“The senseless death of George Floyd has called renewed attention to the inequality and injustice in America,” Clark said. “We stand in solidarity against racism and advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in our society and economy. As a nation, we must address this issue with a robust plan of action.”

The ACLI said in the announcement of its participation that the initiative organizers hope to look at education and criminal justice reform, as well as employment and entrepreneurship.

Neely said organizations need to work together to mobilize the capabilities and the contributions needed to tackle deep-rooted, fundamental problems.

“Standing together and working together we can take meaningful actions to improve the lives of individuals and their families and, in turn, change our society for the better,” Neely said.

 

One immediate impact could be an increase in funding for historically Black colleges and universities. The U.S. Chamber now helps fund a scholarship program for historically black colleges and universities, an executive speaker series and a faculty research support program.

In related news, the head of the National Association for Fixed Annuities has put out a statement, and Lincoln Financial Group  has put out a statement and a blog entry.

NAFA

Charles DiVencenzo Jr., chief executive officer of NAFA

NAFA supports the fight against systemic racial injustice

Our nation is currently witnessing the culmination of fundamental disparities and long unaddressed issues in our society. We are obligated as a community to do more than stand by as witnesses to racism, discrimination, bigotry and other forms of injustice. The events surrounding the horrific and unjustifiable death of George Floyd clearly illustrated that we cannot remain silent; we must come together as an industry and as one nation in support of those working to ensure a just legal system and to end this senseless violence.

While we don’t begin to have all the answers, NAFA is committed to inclusivity and working to identify areas in which we can help educate all Americans on retirement security, particularly those who have been underserved or marginalized. We would also ask our members to share best practices on inclusion, employee training resources on abolishing intolerance, and strategies that encourage employees to embrace diversity. Together, we can work toward a more equitable future, building a strong interwoven network to help restore the frayed social fabric of our society, renew every American’s sense of opportunity and heal any divides. I hope you join with us to learn from this moment and choose to be part of the solutions that will help positively impact our collective tomorrow.

Lincoln Financial

Dennis Glass, CEO

The recent events across our country have made plain that systemic racism remains pervasive in our nation and cannot be ignored. It is clear, that as a society, we have a long way to go.

Our namesake Abraham Lincoln said, ‘the struggle of today is not altogether for today — it is for a vast future also.’ Lincoln Financial Group is proud of our connection to our 16th president and we recognize that this is a learning opportunity for all of us. We are hopeful the awakening that has come from these tragic events will result in a better ‘vast future’ for America, and Lincoln is committed to help advance that goal in the interest of our employees, our customers, our partners, our communities and all of America.

The unrest caused by institutional discrimination, the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn have distressed and discouraged us all — but particularly the African American community. Ultimately, we will prevail over these serious challenges. But to help improve our world for the better and to promote equality and belonging for all of us, we must speak out against racism and discrimination and renew our efforts to find empathy and bring comfort to each other whether we work in the private sector, government or our communities.

I was moved by the words of Allison Green Johnson, Lincoln’s Chief Diversity Officer describing the ways large and small that recent events have affected her. I, along with the entire Lincoln community, must be and will be guided by her words and those of others in the black and brown community as we move forward. While I am proud of Lincoln’s work to instill a culture where every employee should come to work every day, feeling safe, respected and valued, it is clear that there is more that we must do both inside Lincoln and in our communities to reach that goal.

Lincoln Financial

Allison Green, chief diversity officer

As a black woman in America, please believe me when I tell you the mix of emotions I have felt over the last week, although unfortunately not entirely new to me, have been more poignant, more pointed and more painful than I would like to admit. When I read about the Caucasian woman in Central Park who called the police on an African American man (a birdwatcher) and said he was threatening her life because he asked her to put her dog on its leash, I am angry. When I see the video play over and over of George Floyd begging for his life, begging for a breath, and nothing happens, I am heartbroken and terrified.

What we’ve seen over the past weeks is a national tragedy. While extremely emotional for me, we all have feelings about what we’ve witnessed. Please know one fact remains, the African American community across this country is grieving, hurt and in mourning. Unfortunately, the most important message, a message about injustice and inequality and racism, has been sadly overshadowed by those who used this opportunity to incite riots.

As a new wife and stepmom, I’m saddened that my stepchildren and nephews are growing up in a world where black and brown people are still threatened, hurt and killed every day because of the color of their skin. Imagine the difficulty trying to explain to a child that we’re too worried about his safety to allow him to leave the house to take the garbage cans to the curb for pickup.

As a corporate executive, I’m astounded that so many are tone-deaf at a time when all of America should be shouting from the rooftops its outrage over racial injustice. As an employee at Lincoln Financial, I am encouraged that, while we don’t get it perfect all the time, there are almost 12,000 people working alongside me who want to see their African American colleagues, and all our colleagues, succeed. I truly believe that diversity, inclusion and mutual respect are more than just words on paper at Lincoln. They are a part of our culture and, for many of us, it’s the reason we came and the reason we stay.

And that’s why, as Lincoln’s Chief Diversity Officer, a role that means the world to me all the time, I feel an incredible sense of responsibility for helping our employees and our extended Lincoln community digest what’s happening in the world around us, understand the implications, learn from our past and the current events, and help us move forward.

Racism is serpentine and devious… not always as brash and in your face as it has been over the last week… and sometimes it finds a hiding place in the well-intended, polite interactions of companies. As a leader, one of my roles is to help recognize the ways in which bias, racism and discrimination can coexist with the well-mannered positive intentions of the workplace.

When talking about discrimination, people often use the terms “racism” and “bias” interchangeably. However, it’s important to note there are vast differences between the two. Racism is a conscious action intended to exert power over someone — to their detriment because of their race. It’s all about power and privilege. Biases — or more appropriately, unconscious biases — are learned stereotypes that are automatic, unintentional and sometimes deeply ingrained. While they have the potential to influence behavior, we can choose not to act on them.

What happened over the past weeks were intentional acts of racism, which is completely unacceptable to our society — and our company. They present an opportunity for all of us to reach out to others to provide support, have the uncomfortable conversations about what’s happening today with children, friends and family, learn more about race relations and the history of African Americans in this country, and take positive and productive action to support anti-racism efforts around us.

No doubt the recent events have shaken us to the core, but we must not allow them to bring about a feeling of defeat. Rather, we must strengthen our resolve and deepen our commitment to diversity and all it encompasses.

At Lincoln, we’re proud of the strides we have made, and we must continually remind ourselves that this is not a “one-and-done” activity. We have embarked upon an ongoing journey of improvement together. It’s not just the “right thing to do,” it’s a must-do for our company and the well-being of our nation.

— Read How the First Black CFP Built His Practiceon ThinkAdvisor.

— Connect with ThinkAdvisor Life/Health on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.