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Getting to Know: Amy Cole-Smith

The Institutes' Director of Diversity left academia to bring a DEI focus to the industry

December 21, 2022 Photo

From Academia to Insurance

Cole-Smith describes her journey from academia to insurance as a happy accident. When she was searching for her next career move, she stumbled upon a job posting from The Institutes and assumed it was an academic think tank. Once she realized that the position involved risk management and insurance, she did what any former professor would do: she did some research and realized that when it comes to DEI, higher education and insurance have a lot in common.

“I would like The Institutes to be known as a leader in diversity for the insurance industry, as well.”

Cole-Smith, who says she wants to assess the various layers of structural racism and discrimination within the industry then work with a team of industry partners to develop a long-term plan to solve each one using actionable and measurable goals.

Getting to Know BIIC

One of Cole-Smith’s main priorities is coordinating closely with the non-profit Black Insurance Industry Collective (BIIC), which recently affiliated with The Institutes, the parent company of CLM. This group of racially diverse insurance industry leaders addresses the challenges of increasing the representation of people of color within the insurance industry. Because BIIC is the first initiative of its kind, Cole-Smith is excited to work with the 30 diverse industry executives involved in its creation.

“History comes with a lot of mistakes and growing pains, but in time, it leads us to something much better and positive.”

Cole-Smith, who says she believes looking at the past and using that knowledge to be a changemaker leads to a more equitable and diverse future.

The Path to Stewardship

Cole-Smith worked as a GED instructor at a detention center, which opened her eyes wider to the inequities of access to education. Hearing the first-hand stories as to why and how the students got into their current situations usually involved a lack of education, inadequate housing, and food insecurity. From there, she decided to shift her career path and started looking into policies and practices to address the disparities.

“I used to be on Sesame Street!”

Cole-Smith, sharing a fun fact about her past. In her free time now, she enjoys reading, watching crime and historical documentaries, snowboarding, and traveling anywhere that requires a passport.

About The Authors
Eric Gilkey

Eric Gilkey is vice president of content at the CLM, and serves as executive editor of CLM magazine, the flagship publication of the CLM.  eric.gilkey@theclm.org

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