The Importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Middle Market Companies

As the world continues to evolve, businesses are looking at how they can best improve their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs and policies, from hiring practices to training implementation.

When it comes to middle market firms, most consider DEI important to company culture. In fact, in the last quarter of 2020, Chubb and the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM) fielded a study revealing that 53% of middle market companies include DEI as part of their company values.

While middle market companies recognize the benefits of DEI—not only in terms of company culture, but also regarding its strategic and business value—there’s always room to grow. Middle market companies should actively seek out ways to enhance DEI initiatives in the workplace, no matter how robust their current DEI efforts may be. 

How A Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Workforce Can Benefit Middle Market Businesses

DEI efforts have wide-reaching value across both business and community needs. Data from Chubb and NCMM reveals that more than half of middle market companies believe talent retention and career development (61%), innovation (61%), and supporting the community (59%) are all important considerations when it comes to DEI.

Furthermore, when middle market businesses have a diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce, employees are more likely to feel comfortable in their environment and share new perspectives. This diversity of thought can serve as a catalyst for innovation and ultimately benefit business outcomes. In fact, a recent Gartner study found that 75% of companies with diverse and inclusive decision-making teams will exceed their financial targets by 2022.

Ingraining Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Middle Market Businesses’ DNA

In many instances, both the challenge and the solution to ingraining DEI in businesses’ DNA is the same: turning intention into results. While data from Chubb and NCMM shows most middle market businesses take action against discrimination and promote an atmosphere of tolerance, fewer regularly share information about the diversity of their employees, leadership team, and suppliers or regularly measure, track, and communicate DEI progress and outcomes.

Per Chubb and NCMM’s data, typically, the head of human resources, executive team or chief executive officer have ultimate responsibility for DEI efforts at middle market companies. Even so, only 53% of middle market companies say that leadership teams regularly participate in DEI education and training.

Middle market companies should seek out formal training for not only their leadership teams, but also their employees, from junior-level to C-suite. While informal training can help discourage discrimination and harassment in the workplace, the data from Chubb and NCMM indicates middle market companies deem formal training more effective. There are a number of external resources available to help with DEI training, and, in most cases, middle market companies are relying on a variety of these, including, but not limited to:

  • Consultants: 76%
  • Industry or trade associations: 76%
  • Vendors: 72%
  • Universities/executive education: 72%
  • Community colleges: 64%

Trainings should equip attendees with the tools to recognize and properly respond to bias and discriminatory behaviors. The most effective DEI sessions often offer a baseline understanding of key concepts, opportunity for individual reflection and reinforcement, and include offerings for all title levels. That said, trainings are only the first step. Continued reinforcement, support, and accountability from all seniority levels must follow in order for true inclusivity to be achieved.

Mitigating Discrimination and Harassment-Related Risks

Even if middle market companies are diligent about DEI initiatives, they can still be subject to discrimination and harassment-related risks.

Middle market companies should work with their brokers to ensure that they have the proper insurance coverages in place. This may include employment practices liability insurance (EPLI), which can help protect companies from lawsuits that may arise from alleged discrimination, as well as directors and officers (D&O) coverage, which can help in the event that a discrimination or harassment-related claim is made against the board or other officers.

It is crucial for middle market companies to recognize that, while work still needs to be done, they can take the necessary steps toward real, systemic change by implementing actionable and impactful DEI practices within their organizations. As DEI strategist Arthur Chan says: “Diversity is a fact, equity is a choice, inclusion is an action, belonging is an outcome.”

Winter Washington is Assistant Vice President, Talent & Culture at Chubb.
Kurt Stemmler is Senior Vice President and Branch Manager of Chubb’s San Francisco office.


The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.