2017 D &I Institute Conference Dates, Keynotes Announced

Diversity & Inclusion Institute | 2/15/2017

The second annual Diversity & Inclusion Institute Conference will be held Sept. 18-19 at the Westin Michigan Avenue in Chicago. The theme of this year’s conference will be “Maximize Your Bottom Line: How Inclusive Cultures Pay Off.”

Lenny Comma, CEO and chairman of Jack in the Box Inc., will serve as the morning keynote on Tuesday, Sept. 19, providing insights into how values and culture influence American’s purchasing decisions, ultimately impacting businesses’ financial performance. Mr. Comma has more than 25 years of experience at two major public companies with extensive retail and franchise operations: Jack in the Box and ExxonMobil.

As the conference’s opening keynote on Monday, Sept. 18, Walgreens Chief Diversity Officer Steve Pemberton will share how his personal experience as a mixed-race orphan helped to influence his career path. One of America’s most inspiring executives, Mr. Pemberton brings a deep personal understanding of human differences and the human experience to his position. He was a ward of the state for much of his childhood, an experience he chronicled in his 2012 best-selling memoir, “A Chance in the World.” The film adaption of his life is currently under way.

For additional information about this year’s conference program, please contact Joanne Wojcik, Business Insurance’s head of programming, at

2017 D&I Institute Annual Conference

Maximize Your Bottom Line: How Inclusive Cultures Pay Off

September 18 to 19

Westin Michigan Avenue, Chicago

September 18

  • Conference Registration Opens
  • Opening Session and Keynote
  • Conference Sessions
  • Cocktail Reception with Technology Expo

September 19

  • Registration, Continental Breakfast, Technology Expo
  • Keynote
  • Conference Sessions

Events of the past few years---including the recent police shootings, homophobia and concerns about illegal immigration—are negatively influencing workforces across the country, according to Howard Ross, founder and chief learning officer of Cook Ross Inc.

Speaking on “Managing in a Time of Fear” during last fall’s Business Insurance Diversity & Inclusion Institute conference, Mr. Ross explained how managers can help ease their employees’ fears by demonstrating their concern for what is happening in the world around them.

Later during the conference, Eric Alva, the first American soldier wounded during Operation Iraqi Freedom, spoke about his battle to overcome his injuries and the difficulties he encountered after leaving the military and coming out as gay. From learning to walk with a prosthetic, to his desire to continue his education and obtain his degree, Mr. Alva inspired his audience to persevere by demonstrating how he conquered such obstacles.

A panel of insurance industry executives candidly shared how “covering at work” can inhibit employee performance, and that employees should be encouraged to “bring their whole selves to work” to enhance organizational effectiveness.

During a closed-door roundtable held on the morning of the second day of the conference, eight insurance industry CEOs gathered to develop a “commitment statement” that was later revealed during a session addressing the business imperative for embracing diversity and inclusion.

The conference, held Sept. 28-29 in Chicago, also featured innovative diversity training by Second City Works, the B2B side of The Second City, the world’s leading comedy theater and school of improvisation. Another session used gamification to connect the concept of diversity with inclusion, as attendees played Contineo, an interactive game that uses conversations, challenges and other engaging activities, to teach the fundamentals of D&I.

Other conference sessions addressed:

  • D+I considerations in client engagement

  • Insurance regulator focus on driving diversity in the industry
  • Demonstrations of technology designed to facilitate diversity and inclusion.
  • The latest D&I research conducted by the Institute and in conjunction with the Families & Work Institute
  • Executive Insights – short, inspirational speeches by industry leaders from Ryan Specialty Group, The Hartford, Willis Towers Watson and Zurich

The Absolute Inclusion Leadership Conference was the inaugural event of Business Insurance’s Diversity & Inclusion Institute, which was launched in December 2015 to promote and advance diversity and inclusion throughout the commercial insurance industry. The 2017 Institute conference, which will address ways that D&I can improve corporate image and profitability, is in the planning stages.