Frustration at Dive In ethnicity panel after c-suite execs drop out

Dive In BAME pay gap panel

Senior insurance executives scheduled to appear at a diversity event pulled out after discovering the session would be on the "sensitive" issue of the industry's Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic pay gap.

The BAME pay gap event, in association with the Insurance Cultural Awareness Network, took place yesterday evening at Aon’s offices in the Leadenhall Building.

Appearing on a panel to discuss the pay gap were Aon UK CEO Julie Page, PWC UK director and head of client experience Heather Melville, former Mitie Group CEO Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, British Insurance Brokers’ Association CEO Steve White, Zurich Municipal managing director Andrew Jepp and Aon Human Capital Solutions CEO Michael Burke.

Topics included reverse mentoring, sponsorship, machine learning bias and Inclusion at Lloyd’s freshly launched data toolkit and challenges surrounding ethnicity reporting in the workplace.

During the debate it was revealed that other senior executives had agreed to appear on the panel, but changed their mind once they found out the topic would be on the BAME pay gap, prompting anger from members of the audience.

Melville said: “Some of them said yes, until they heard it was a very sensitive subject. It was going to be the B word.”

An attendee from a major UK insurer was greeted with a round of applause when she said: “I have seen too many of these panels now, where there are well-meaning people on the panel speaking to people who get it.

“People who were invited to talk on the panel, but who dropped out because it was too difficult. We should call them out. And we should make them be here, because actually we are perpetuating the issues here and we are not going to move the dial. I believe all of you and I get your passion and I get your authenticity, but unless we move at scale and unless we collaborate and unless we get people who don’t want to be on this panel here, we are not going to make a difference.”

She added: “You know what, that’s 90% of your organisation that aren’t with you on this.”

Dive In declined to name those who had been approached to appear on the panel when contacted by Post.

A spokesperson for Dive In said: “Senior leaders are encouraged to speak at events to inspire change from the top but unfortunately may not always be able take part- either due schedules or because they do not feel they are best suited to cover the topic in question. This can sometimes be the case when we explore new ground, however we are delighted to have had MD of Zurich municipal insurance Andrew Jepp, CEO of Aon UK Julie Page, CEO of BIBA Steve White, CEO of Aon Human Capital Solutions Michael Burke join Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith CBE and Dr Heather Melville OBE talk on the topic of closing the BAME gap in yesterday’s Dive In festival.”

Frustration

Further frustrations were exposed when another attendee, an underwriter at a global London market insurer who was asking a question on what advice they would give to entry level BAME individuals, told the panel: “I’m now 14 years into my career and for maybe 12 I’ve felt like an impostor. And largely down to my race. And many BAME people feel perhaps more differential to their team. When you feel an impostor at work it is very hard to be confident at work.”

Allegations were levelled that the industry does not “care” about the issue; Page’s response was interrupted by a delegate.

“There are very few senior leaders that don’t care. There are lots of senior leaders who don’t know how to turn what they care about into an outcome or a dialogue. We spend a lot of time as insurance industry,” she began to say.

The interrupting audience member jumped in: “Then they don’t care enough, right?”

Page agreed: “That’s probably a fair challenge.”

Slido

In excess of 50 questions appeared on the interactive Slido app, which allows audience members to ask questions anonymously.

Some of these exposed further anger at the industry and its level of accountability.

They included:

“Great to see white senior leaders promoting this cause as they are the change makers. What is the ethnicity of all their direct reports please?”

“If my senior leaders just don’t care about the BAME pay gap, what can I do apart from leave the organisation?”

“Where’s the anger? Why are 4/6 up there white?”

“How serious are organisations about race issues? It will be interesting to understand how many CEOs are here - if at all - this evening.”

In her closing speech, Zurich head of sales operations and planning Maxine Goddard chose to highlight one of these. She said: “Are you feeling angry? Or are you feeling guilty? It’s always an emotional topic and we know it’s a hard one. This is the fifth year of Dive In and one of the most popular questions on the Slido is: ‘Where is the anger? Four out of six are white.’

“The first year of Dive In we were angry. The second year of Dive In we were angry. The third year we were really angry, but also starting to feel guilty. We needed to do something. The fourth year we said we need to show how we can move the dial; it’s going to be about solutions. Last year was all about the toolkit, what we can do, a call to action.

“Year five we are still feeling guilty, we are still feeling angry. The year of impact. The year of impact is [the year of] accountability. And that is why we have got four senior executive members from the industry on this stage. I would have loved to see Asian CEOs, black CEOs, [CEOs of another ethnicity]. That is a challenge.”

Culture

The heated session came as culture in the London Market has come under fire, following the release of Lloyd’s market-wide survey.

The insurance centre hit international headlines on Tuesday, after 500 of just over 6000 respondents said they had seen instances of sexual harassment in the market.

Lloyd’s CEO John Neal said he was “appalled” by the results, which showed one in five respondents did not believe people have equal opportunities.

It also found that one in six felt senior leaders did not take responsibility when things went wrong.

The corporation revealed it would take further measures with the intention to improve the culture in the market.

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