State Farm Exec Apologizes to Angry Agents, Says ‘We Made a Mistake With Our Involvement” With GenderCool – Opinion

State Farm agents across the country fielded angry phone calls on Monday from customers who were either threatening to cancel their policies or who flat-out canceled them after hearing news that the company had partnered with The GenderCool Project to donate books regarding transgenderism and gender fluidity to schools in order to “increase representation of LGBTQ+ books and support our communities in having challenging, empowering, and important conversations with children Age 5+.”

Jose Soto sent a memo on January 22, 2022 announcing his program.

After the CEO had reportedly received more than 2000 State Farm agent referrals (and likely a large number of customers), Monday’s close saw the company announce that the partnership it has with the GenderCool Project was over. RedState reported this first.

How did it happen? Did State Farm agents learn about the partnership? And were they able to agree to it?

Obviously, the Florida agents who received Soto’s January email and at least a few other agents across the country were aware of or participated in the program, but more than two dozen State Farm agents I heard from since Monday say they were not aware of the program and were furious that State Farm was involved with GenderCool. None of the State Farm agents that I spoke to wanted to have their names printed due to contractual arrangements. A female Midwest agent said this:

We’re an insurance company who’s known to be conservative. It’s why it is so alarming. I can assure you (I’m on a private Facebook page for agents only at 4000 members) that 99 percent of us are beyond pissed.

One male West Coast agent said that:

We have suffered so much from this low-level, woke employee. Our agents work independently and are paid 100 percent commission. Apart from supporting my family, I also employ three people, two of which are single mothers. I am concerned about the impact on our business, as well as having to lay off someone. My own sister said that if it wasn’t for me, she would change insurance companies immediately.

An agent of the West Coast third-generation shared this:

This bothers me so much because this is the family I’ve known and loved my whole life. And today, for the first time, I’m not proud to be an agent.

According to a third-generation Southeast agent:

The Bloomington offices are being inundated with calls and emails. Our agents only desire for our agency to fix the cars of our insureds, rebuild their homes and provide life insurance for those who have lost loved ones.

This was a question that agents were asking themselves. As a second-generation agent who’s told me:

A big “why” that was circling among agents and in private Facebook groups Monday night was: “How in the world was something like this green lighted and not run by agents’ groups for vetting?”

This would never have been approved if it had been done by agents.

Numerous agents mentioned that State Farm’s 100th anniversary convention is about to take place in Las Vegas, and they expect that executives will be bombarded with questions, complaints, and demands that agents have a say in decisions about the company’s philanthropic efforts, since agents are the first line of contact for customers and these philanthropic efforts are ostensibly undertaken in the agents’ names.

While we still don’t know exactly who greenlit this partnership, how far up the corporate ladder they are, and if they were given complete information about what the partnership entailed, according to a voice message sent to agents Tuesday morning the partnership was not reviewed at the highest levels before it kicked off.

As noted in a previous story, Soto is far down the corporate food chain from State Farm’s Chief Diversity Officer, Victor Terry, who ultimately is the one responsible for the now-terminated partnership. Soto’s title is “Corporate Responsibility Analyst” and his areas of responsibility are listed in his email footer as “Florida and National Hispanic Relationships.” According to agents who spoke to RedState, Soto reports to David Coakes, Corporate Responsibility Manager, who is also located in Florida. Apsara Sorensen is the Director of Public Affairs at Bloomington’s company headquarters. Sorensen reports to Rasheed Merritt, AVP of Corporate Responsibility/Diversion & Inclusion, and Merritt reports to Terry.

In that voice message, State Farm Executive Vice President and Chief Agency, Sales, and Marketing Officer Rand Harbert admitted that the “involvement” with The GenderCool Project was a mistake and strongly suggested that the partnership was not reviewed at high levels.

RedState received a transcript of Harbert’s voicemail. Harbert said (emphasis mine):

Michael and myself have received many emails over the last 24hrs. He and I are in constant communication regarding our participation in GenderCool’s book program. First, let me tell you that I am available to answer your questions. we made a mistake with our involvement in this program – and we’re sorry.After we had fully grasped the issues Monday morning, we decided to end our association with the organization. To be completely clear, we believe that children should have conversations about their gender identity and sexuality at home.

The philanthropic budget of our company is $60,000,000 annually. We work hard for those dollars to be used in causes that matter to our agents and customers. As much as we would like to be aware of every program and involved in every decision, it’s simply not possible as most of these gifts are small.This case was worth $40,000.

We recognize that even the smallest decisions can make a huge difference. we’re taking the necessary steps so nothing like this happens again. I’m sorry you and your teams are having to spend time on this issue. We’ll provide a link today to a statement that you can share with customers. This is something I felt I had to bring up because it can be distracting for your office.

Thank you for everything you do to serve our customers… and especially for what you’re doing right now.

An insider at State Farm’s corporate headquarters, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that State Farm is quietly reviewing all of its philanthropic relationships in depth.

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