The Canadian Association of Black Insurance Professionals is looking to empower and bridge the gap of opportunities for Black insurance professionals.
“The mission was derived collectively from our own lived experience growing up in this industry,” says co-founder Dionne Bowers. “What we may not have had in the industry when we first started out, we’re trying to make those tools and resources available for the new generation.”
Co-founder Sheldon Williams adds the mission is to ensure a different landscape for Black insurance professionals both now and in the future. “When we jumped into the industry, there was nobody in any senior role at all,” he said. “So, it was never a thought that you’re going to get up there.”
Launched in the fall of 2021, CABIP advocates for the representation, inclusion and advancement of Black insurance professionals by providing career development opportunities, mentorship and resources for their members.
After the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, which followed the death of George Floyd by Minnesota police, someone approached Williams during a rally and suggested he start an initiative in the insurance industry.
He and co-founder Richard McGee brought Dionne Bowers on board to help reach out to their networks and build the board of directors’ formation team.
CABIP’s initial idea was to become a Canadian chapter of U.S.-based National African American Insurance Association because they are well-established with access to many resources. “But after having some great discussions internally, we realized that we actually need to stand alone, we have to be Canadian owned and operated,” says Williams. “We have to be independent of NAAIA, but partner with NAAIA as well on different initiatives.”
Alongside advocacy, education and networking, CABIP is also working on mentorship initiatives. “We are now in a position where we can now transfer knowledge and help…the next generation,” says Bowers.
The founders say they are looking for people who support the cause, whether through mentorship or partnership, to help guide and support Black insurance professionals in Canada.
Mentorship is critical for the progress of Black professionals from entry to leadership levels. “It’s about building what I like to call a critical path for the mentee…and putting the person or the individual on the right track to success,” Bowers says.
CABIP’s leadership is Black, but the founders emphasize membership is not exclusive to Black professionals.
“There might be people out there who are still trying to navigate, ‘Where do I go? I’ve been a broker for 15 years, for example, and I’ve just gone from personal insurance to commercial insurance. What else is there?” Bowers poses. “We are [leveraging our] experiences primarily for the Black [professional] community…but we can also be a resource for others to tap into.”
Williams said the group is working “with our allies, with other Black insurance professionals, to heighten the attention to the differences and issues, and work through them together to advance ourselves.”
Still in its infancy, CABIP is in the process of building itself out further and “assessing, reassessing, measuring, and going through that risk management phase,” says Bowers. “We are accessible, at the end of the day, to have these conversations with anyone who wants to want to listen and participate.”
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