At 37 years old, Kristin Campanelli said she has seen progress when it comes to diversifying the workforce, and she wants to be part of making it even more inclusive as the state Department of Insurance’s new chief inclusion officer.
“I have seen improvements for sure,” said Campanelli, whose official job title is Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Government Relations. “When I was young, I remember hearing stories. My mom would share stories at our dinner table about things she saw going on at the workplace and times she was passed over for promotions. Things like that had a profound impact on me as a child. She would tell me how she was working to be part of the solution and I knew that I had to work to be part of the solution because women and other groups of folks deserve to be at the table and I think the table is better for having those people there.”
Campanelli said Insurance Commissioner Andrew N. Mais has made the issue of race and inclusion a big priority on a national level as well as for the department itself. He has established an Inclusion Council, which Campanelli now chairs.
“We want to discover, attract and retain a diverse workforce,” she said. “We want to do that by partnering with the communities we work within.”
The Connecticut Insurance Department’s Inclusion Council has partnered with the State Education Resource Center in providing instructor-led diversity training across the department, officials said.
The staff at the 150-person Department of Insurance is supportive of these efforts, Campanelli said. A recent online training, that was optional, drew 95 percent of the agency, Campanelli said, and work is underway to set up a ‘Cultural Day,’ a monthly event that could feature someone talking about their heritage and the group sharing in a meal.
“Another one of our big goals is training so that kind of goes along with the workforce part,” Campanelli said. “We’re developing a workforce of course, but we want to train the folks that we have who currently work for us so we can create a more inclusive environment and a place for folks to feel comfortable. We want everybody to feel comfortable.”
The insurance department is working on the next “NextGen Career Academy,” which features industry professionals who talk to participants about career opportunities in finance and insurance.
The department is also preparing its Connecticut Conference on Climate Change and Insurance in October. The event is a platform for a national audience to hear – from climate, government, and insurance professionals – about how climate change is affecting communities, regulatory efforts and businesses, officials said.
“So we are doing lots of different things like that to build a pathway into the insurance industry for some of our young people to hopefully gain some interest there,” Campanelli said.
In addition, there is an initiative, announced by Mais in April, to make sure insurers licensed by the state Department of Insurance are adhering to state and federal anti-discrimination laws when using technology and Big Data. The Department is now requiring insurers to submit an annual data certification.
“I have seen no evidence of this in Connecticut, but one of the stories I have seen in some practices from an insurer that is out there is that they would avoid selling policies to folks in certain communities and they can use rating factors to make it look legitimate,” Campanelli said.
That means the insurance department will be looking at data collection to really understand what insurers are doing with their rating practices and whether they are being discriminatory, even if not on paper, she explained.
“We are going to have to start asking for more in-depth types of data. I think we are going to have to start asking folks to start reporting some race data, some ethnicity data, some gender data because we need to know what is going on and I know other states have had some success in doing that,” Campanelli said.
Campanelli said she wants to work to help those who are marginalized, starting first with those within the department.
“I am a gay female in a multi-racial relationship,” she said. “This is something I live every single day so it is important to me that people like me feel comfortable in whatever working environment that they’re in. This work is incredibly important.”
However, she said she also wants to make sure groups not marginalized understand the worlds of those who are. “We’re trying to make everyone happy and comfortable and bring everyone together.”