COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Tuesday was the start of the 2023 National African American Insurance Association’s (NAAIA) annual conference. The organization, founded in Cincinnati, returned to its home state for the first time since its inception in 1997.

This year’s conference aims to bring together industry leaders, professionals, and advocates to explore and promote diversity and inclusion within the insurance sector.

“I would say it’s home, it’s family, it’s community,” NAAIA Executive Director and COO Omari Aarons said. “Our focus for the last 26 years of our existence has really been on the professional development of our members and helping them to advance in their careers and to senior manager and executive ranks within the insurance industry.”

The event features insurance companies from all different sectors, networking and hoping to diversify their industry.

“Insurance is one of those industries that still needs to modernize in more ways than one, and that includes representing a modern society,” said attendee Ivoree King, a senior vice president at Newfront. “Let’s make sure our Black professionals are included in that.”

Some studies show that only about 13% of insurance professionals are Black, which is where Aarons said the organization steps in.

“We’re trying to help people get out of entry-level roles where they have been stuck due to racial bias, to some of the structures that exist that work against us in our careers, and really help them move forward into manager and then senior manager and then executive roles as well,” he said.

Those in attendance said the message is inspirational.

“It says, you know, we can be in these rooms, we can be in these roles, we can have generational wealth,” King said. “We can be a part of an industry that, for once, at one time, we weren’t allowed to be.”

Some highlights to come include three main stage plenaries featuring high-profile speakers and experts, 35 interactive workshops on professional development and industry trends throughout the conference, and a gala and awards night recognizing stellar career achievements of African American Leaders in the Insurance Industry.

The conference runs through Thursday.