Canadian Underwriter

Why insurers should be active diversity allies

September 1, 2021   by Brooke Smith

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Insurance companies now need more than just a diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) strategy; they also need to apply it.

With 3,000 employees in 30 countries, Charles Taylor Ltd. knows something about this. The London, U.K.-based service and consulting provider for insurance companies launched unconscious bias training in 2019 as a requirement for all line managers. That training is also available to all staff, as is a bystander intervention training workshop, which launched in 2020.

The insurer also has a DE&I area in its intranet. “There are tons of resources, from training, to articles,” said Robert Paxton, vice president of strategy and performance at Charles Taylor, “resources every single employee has access to.”

The insurer has also responded to employee surveys and feedback. For example, at the beginning of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the U.S., employees wanted to learn more about it, as well as a space to voice concerns and opinions. Charles Taylor added a BLM section within the DE&I area of its intranet.

Paxton stressed that effective DE&I includes concrete plans, or what he calls “active allyship.”

“The focus is moving beyond showing support and sharing our thoughts about inequality, to taking actionable steps to develop and put a plan into action to drive real change,” Paxton said, further explaining that active allyship involves “intentionally promoting a culture of inclusion and supporting and advocating for people who might be marginalized or underrepresented.”

Research shows that DE&I makes sense from many business aspects. According to a survey by the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion, 95% of senior leaders in Canada believe diversity is a “business strategy that positively contributes to innovation, creativity and problem solving.” And 100% believe “diverse viewpoints add value to their organizations.”

But a key aspect is financial. McKinsey & Co.’s 2019 global study found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.

Another key aspect is employee retention. “If people feel heard, they feel there’s equity in the company, there’s equal opportunity for them to be successful as anybody else, we’ll improve our retention,” Paxton said.

Even more important is recruitment. A PwC survey indicates that 86% of the 122 respondents working in insurance said an employer’s policy on DE&I is a deciding factor in choosing a new job. Another survey, Millennials@Work: Perspectives on Diversity & Inclusion, indicated that 47% of millennials stress the importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace in job hunting.

Integrating DE&I into recruitment takes time and investment, Paxton said. For example, if there weren’t many candidates from diverse backgrounds applying for a role, Paxton said, it’s not about giving up and moving on. “We have to realize it’s a systemic problem. If we’re not getting diverse candidates for particular roles, can we go to universities, can we create different opportunities for younger people, can we bring people from outside the insurance industry and train them within our company?”

While he admits that none of those options is easy or quick, “It’s just how far upstream are we willing to go. And the answer to that is as far upstream as we need to go,” he said.

“DE&I is important to us as people, and it’s important to our organization for continued success. And I think companies in the industry understand that.”

A Charles Taylor spokesperson said its global workforce is 43% female and 56% male. Collection of other diversity data is a “work in progress.”

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