7 ways Protective is growing a diverse, equitable + inclusive culture

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Martina Winston Protective
Protective’s Martina Winston. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

Protective is not only one of Birmingham’s largest companies, but it’s also leading the way in terms of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I), an area that’s increasingly important in businesses and organizations here and around the world. To learn more about what they’re doing, we talked with Martina Winston, Senior HR partner and Diversity Equity & Inclusion Leader.

Meet Martina Winston

Protective DE&I
Martina Winston is a mover and shaker at Protective + in the community. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

Martina Winston is a woman of many talents and a whole lot of hustle. 

At Protective, Winston serves as the senior HR and global talent leader. She also leads the company’s DE&I efforts. 

What is Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Protective + why it matters

When Protective first got started on its journey toward increasing DE&I within the company, Winston and her team interviewed people both within and outside of the organization:

  • Diversity: Diversity is leveraging the collective differences of people—not just what you see on the outside. 
  • Equity: Recognize that everyone’s path to success looks different. Leaders have a responsibility to create that path.
  • Inclusion: Are we creating a space for everyone to thrive?

Winston’s happy to see how much work they’ve been able to do in just a few short years. And, she says “we’ve got a long way to go—this is a journey.”

We thought it would be most useful to pull out four concrete steps Protective has taken within the company and three in the larger community to serve as examples that other organizations may want to follow. 

4 concrete steps Protective has taken within the company

Diverse team at Protective
Protective is hiring. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

DE&I work calls leaders and staff members to grow—in their understanding of themselves and each other. In this arena, Protective aims to do the following: 

  • Steward growth and opportunity
  • Develop their staff
  • Attract the best talent

To cultivate a more diverse and inclusive culture, Protective has taken a number of steps within the company.

1. Inclusive leadership training

In 2020, more than 600 people completed inclusive leadership training, helping them identify blind spots and opportunities within themselves and the company. 

2. Diversity month virtual cultural celebrations

What better way to get a window into your coworkers’ lives outside of the office than by joining their celebrations? In 2021, Protective hosted several virtual diversity month cultural celebrations, including: 

  • Black History Month, with Urban Impact
  • Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, with Protective’s Tokyo-based parent company Dai-ichi Life
  • Disability Awareness Month, with United Ability and Workshops, Inc.
  • Women’s History Month, with KPMG and Momentum
  • Pride Month, with the Magic City Acceptance Center, Magic City Acceptance Academy, Magic City Wellness Center and Birmingham AIDS Outreach
  • Hispanic Heritage Month, with HICA! (Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama)
  • Veterans Day

All together, more than 1300 employees engaged with these events.

3. My story campaign

It’s so easy at work to see people solely in terms of the roles they play within the organization. Protective’s “My Story” campaign provides employees the opportunity to share the things that make them unique, leading to candid conversations that would not take place otherwise. 

Since this ongoing series began in February 2020, more than 50 diverse colleagues have shared their story. 

4. Floating holiday

In addition, Protective has added one floating holiday per year for each employee to use for cultural celebrations, religious observances or other days that are important to them. 

Of course, DE&I isn’t only an internal affair. It also has to do with a company’s relationships with the broader community. Protective is leading in this arena, too. Here’s how:

3 ways Protective is promoting DE&I within the broader community

Martina Winston Protective
Martina Winston + colleagues outside at Protective. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

1. Sourcing and tracking diverse suppliers

In June 2021, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin challenged organizations to track their current spending with diverse suppliers, then increase those spending levels over time. 

Protective is one of 10 local organizations participating in the VITAL (Valuing Inclusion To Accelerate and Lift) Program. 

The program helps companies learn new tools for sourcing and tracking diverse suppliers so they can expand their pipelines of minority-, woman- and disadvantaged-owned business enterprises. 

2. Investing real dollars in the community

In 2021, the Protective Foundation allocated 30% of its funding toward community programs that support Equity, Social Issues and Diversity and Inclusion. 

3. Serving the community

Finally, employees give back through company-sponsored community service hours. The Protective Foundation also organizes various community activities throughout the year including community clean-up days and serving as guest readers at local schools.

Interested in growing your own career at Protective?

Protective DE&I
Chatting in the hallway at Protective. (Jacob Blankenship / Bham Now)

If you want to work at a company that values the same things you do, you’ll be happy to know that Protective is committed to attracting employees with different identities who bring diverse perspectives. 

They’re also committed to increasing overall diversity for leadership roles and pipelines of talent by maturing hiring practices, offering robust development opportunities and focusing on retention of key talent.

Two concrete ways they’re doing this: 

  • Collaborating with the Culverhouse College of Business at The University of Alabama by providing a $1M gift to attract more underrepresented students into the school. This helps build a diverse pipeline of future leaders. 
  • Working closely with the City of Birmingham’s Birmingham Promise program, strengthening their involvement with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other organizations to hire a more diverse intern class. 

Because Winston’s been a leader in the DE&I arena, where many organizations want to improve, we asked her what she would recommend to others. Here’s what she said:

  • Be intentional.
  • If you say you’re going to do something, do it.
  • Don’t be afraid to share where you are in your journey—people are hungry for transparency.
  • Don’t be afraid to say we’re not ready for that—sometimes self-discovery is the next best step.

Curious about careers at Protective? Visit their website or follow them on social: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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