Global executives weigh in
Diversity and inclusion
by Mia Wallace
For long-serving industry leaders who have seen insurance through good times and bad alike and helped weather those storms, seeing the progress of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) initiatives has alternately served as a lesson in patience and an illustration of the power of persistence. With that in mind, these leaders are well positioned to address a fundamental question for the future of the market: is DE&I really moving forward?
Advances in DE&I initiatives
Offering his perspective, as someone who has worked in the insurance profession for more than three decades, Alastair Swift, head of global business lines for CRB at WTW and chief executive of Willis Ltd, noted that insurance has changed a lot since it began. . That’s something he’s very happy about, he said, as it would be fair to say that when he first came into the industry, DE&I was not on the agenda for most organizations.
“There has been a massive change for the better,” he said. “Little by little, the industry has grown and his own journey grows with him as he sees the change and sees the benefit of embedding this into the DNA of his business and the way he runs his business.”
AXIS’s director of people, Noreen McMullan, also testified that when she began her insurance career, DE&I was not a topic that was discussed in any meaningful way. At most, she said, it was something included in a report reviewed once a year and filed the rest of the time. However, it has been encouraging to see how far so many companies have come since then, so there is still work to be done.
“Today, more organizations, including AXIS, subscribe to the belief that diversity of talent brings diversity of thought,” he said. “As a result, diverse organizations benefit from a broader range of knowledge and experience that helps drive business results.
“At AXIS, DE&I remains a top priority and we approach this work with a bottom line mindset. For example, we set a DE&I goal to achieve global gender parity at all levels of our workforce by 2025, as well as goals to increase senior ethnic and female representation.”
The evolution of the DE&I proposal
Talking with insurance business Shortly after the release of WTW’s ‘Global Gender Equity in Wealth Report’, John Ball, Britain’s director at WTW, highlighted how action around DE&I has evolved. It started with diversity, he said, and now includes equity and equitable outcomes.
On the issue of gender pay, Ball noted that: “Gender pay is not the only factor that affects retirement wealth, but of course the amount people are paid is a very important factor and differences they can be dramatically exacerbated over the course of a professional career. Several of the strategies we are using to reduce our own gender pay gap include understanding the barriers women face in navigating the corporate environment and focusing on equitable career paths.
“This will help more women reach the highest paying and highest positions and help us close the wealth gap. We also see that retirement plans, including state benefits, are a significant component of accumulated wealth. Our research highlights the importance of employer-sponsored plans and awareness of the financial advantages of these.”
Changing attitudes and new conversations.
The UK CEO of reinsurance brokerage giant BMS, Ian Gormley, revealed that he too has seen changing attitudes towards DE&I and has found it encouraging to see the insurance profession open up to new conversations. He also emphasized the work being done by market bodies and individual market players to create specialized roles dedicated to “navigating the change in recruitment and development strategies that is required.”
“Internally,” he said, “I’ve seen that our conversations have really progressed following the implementation of our Speaking Up and Inclusive Leadership program, which focuses on effective communication, partnership and empathetic leadership. We designed this in partnership with a great provider, using forum theater and actor coaches to bring the sets to life and the impact has been huge. We recognize that real change comes from ongoing conversations and we have invested in ongoing workshops and touch points for all colleagues.”
Commenting on how the outlook towards DE&I in the Lloyd’s market has changed, Lloyd’s CEO John Neal noted that the results of Lloyd’s ‘Cultural Survey’ reveal that the market is now a more inclusive place than before.
He added that it is essential to keep in mind that one of the true differentiators of the insurance market has been its ability to attract talent, which is why the market must be intrinsically inclusive if it wants to attract and represent the best in insurance. The market is very attuned to the need for more education on DE&I to ensure it meets its cultural objectives, she said, and leadership responsibility for change is an important part of changing attitudes.
“Does it feel different on the floor or in the room? I’m not sure it will yet, but I hope that’s the step that follows a change in mindset,” Neal said. “Every year for the last eight years, the insurance industry globally has organized a Dive In, which is all about DE&I. [In 2022], there were more than 25,000 event attendees from 98 countries. This absolutely shows that attitudes are changing, but we have to find a way to turn this into action.”
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