Canadian Underwriter

Brokers believe their firms can improve diversity

April 27, 2022   by Philip Porado

Diverse employees on a Teams call.

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Most Canadian insurance brokers believe their firms can positively change their track records on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), according to a late 2021 Canadian Underwriter online survey of 208 brokers across Canada, made possible with the support of Sovereign Insurance.

Fully 95% agreed with the statement ‘positive change is possible,’ and there was almost no discrepancy among firms with diverse leadership teams and those without.

As for what activities could best promote change, 61% said ‘building a culture that champions diversity and inclusion,’ 38% advocated ‘offering formal diversity and inclusivity training and management programs,’ 34% saw value in ‘developing a diversity and inclusion hiring strategy,’ and 30% said firms should offer ‘formal unconscious bias training.’

In written comments, one respondent with 20 years in the business said, “Training doesn’t necessarily embed understanding and awareness, and the tools to achieve this vary from business to business. However, it all starts with awareness and communication, which requires psychological safety to be part of the culture too.”

Respondents also supported creation of DEI committees and working groups (27%), adding DEI benchmarks to management’s key performance indicators (21%) and giving company leaders performance measures and incentives (20%).

Most brokers (72%) said they’ve seen their firm use at least one of those strategies to build a DEI-friendly workforce over the past year.

“We continue in the path started many years ago,” said a respondent with more than 20 years in the industry. “We have employees of different backgrounds.”

But firms with no diversity in their leadership were far less likely (29%) to use any of them, compared with 95% at firms with diverse senior management.

One broker at a Quebec firm said COVID-19 temporarily sidetracked the firm’s DEI initiatives. “It was/is a priority,” they said, “but that priority has shifted to mental health as of late.”

While 84% of brokers said their firms had diversity plans – and the number reaches 97% at firms with diverse leadership – 61% said responsibility for implementing those plans rests with leadership.

Only 12% said brokers or middle management drove DEI at their companies, and 11% said the push comes from clients.

Concerns about organizational diversity were voiced by 36% of brokers (with 6% answering ‘very concerned’), while 39% were ‘somewhat concerned’ and 25% ‘not at all concerned.’


Feature image by Pastukh