The likelihood that Canadian insurance industry employees benefit from diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs is largely keyed to both the makeup of senior leadership and the size of the firm.
A Canadian Underwriter online survey, fielded in January 2022 and made possible with the support of Sovereign Insurance, found 37% of respondents described their organization as “leading,” having made diversity a core principle that’s supported by best practices.
Another 28% said their firm is “aspiring to create a more diverse workforce.” A further 25% said they are beginning to make changes, while 11% said DEI efforts have not yet started.
The survey reached 208 Canadian insurance professionals – 65% in commercial insurance, 44% in personal lines and 2% in other areas. The majority (89%) indicated they worked at retail brokerages, 10% worked at MGAs and 1% listed ‘other.’
An organization’s DEI progress was generally reflected in its leadership structure.
Those who said their firm’s senior leadership “reflects a vast amount of diversity” totalled 14%. Another 19% said “over 50% of our leadership team belongs to a historically marginalized or underrepresented identity group.” That’s 33% for the top two categories, in line with the 37% who described their firm as “leading.”
Just over half (51%) said leadership reflected some diversity and 16% indicated there was no diversity within their firm’s leadership team.
Written responses indicated much of the change has taken place over the past five-to-10 years; many stressed companies are working to create meaningful change.
“A large number of female leadership at high levels as well as an ethnically diverse group at leadership levels – especially in major urban centres,” said one respondent.
Another described their firm’s lack of racial diversity as “not intentional” and highlighted its gender equity. “Our shop is family owned and operated, and we happen to be homogenously Caucasian. Saying that, our leadership is 50% female, and the rest of our team is 100% female.”
Among those at organizations that don’t lead on DEI, 64% said they’ve experienced difficulties building a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Top challenges included a lack of skilled diverse talent (36%) and a lack of resources and skills (23%). But 22% also said it was not a priority at their firms, 18% said they weren’t sure where to start and 14% said there was resistance to change where they worked.
Nearly all brokers surveyed (98%) said they believe benefits accrue from working in diverse and inclusive environments. Top reasons cited include a positive workplace culture (63%), while 51% said it brings more diverse perspectives and 41% said it helps the firm understand and serve its clients.
What’s more, 37% said diversity created “a sense of feeling included” for both employees and clients, 36% said it created tolerance to people who are different, and 27% said it produced a stronger pool of job candidates.
Written responses pointed to the business advantages of having team members who speak and write different languages and noted broader candidate pools enhanced their firm’s ability to innovate.
Some respondents said their locations in smaller communities created issues finding diverse talent but generally expressed an openness to hiring all those willing to join the industry.
As one broker put it, “We are challenged to find labour in general. We do not look at humans at being different. We are all one.”
Feature image by iStock.com/Goodboy Picture Company