Roundtable: Measuring progress in diversity

Diversity roundtable
Pictures, l-r: Michaela Gibson, representing Insurance Families Network and Link – the LBGT network; Erik Johnson, representing Inclusion at Lloyd’s; ​​​​​​​Benjamin Hindson, representing the Next Generation Insurance Network; Jane Harley, representing the Gender Inclusion Network; and Kishan Mangat, representing the Insurance Cultural Awareness Network

As part of the Inclusion at Lloyd’s programme six partner networks have been set up to help bolster diversity and inclusion in insurance. Before the lockdown, Post gathered representatives from some of the networks together to find out what progress has been made and what the focus would be on in the future

Dive In – the diversity and inclusion festival for the insurance market – will see its sixth year this September and firms from across the insurance sector claim to be tackling D&I across the board. Network representatives agreed there have been steps in the right direction.  

 Michaela Gibson, representing Insurance Families Network and Link – the LBGT network, started: “It’s actually been quite a steep improvement over maybe five years. That is when people started to think about it and a large part of that is down to Link. Link paved the way for all of us. Then Inga [Beale, first woman CEO of Lloyd’s] and then Dive In, was the big kick.

Kishan Mangat, representing the Insurance Cultural Awareness Network, agreed: “From an iCAN perspective, we did an event with Dive In last year in September and focussed on the Black, Asian and minority ethnic pay gap – they are two really taboo subjects which five years ago you would never have really mentioned, let alone do an event on. There’s obviously been progress now because the conversation has been started and we feel that we have a safe space in which to have the conversation.”

Erik Johnson, representing Inclusion at Lloyd’s, added: “There was a time if you went to a CEO and said you’d like to be involved in the network or host an event you would feel a little bit risky, whereas now you’re pushing against an open door which is fantastic.”

Measuring diversity

However, he queried if progress could be measured: “We don’t really have any baseline data on the make up of the market in terms of demographics that’s reliable. The Lloyd’s Culture Survey will help with that, around tracking if peoples’ attitudes are changing. Companies don’t know what to collect and don’t know what to do and they’re going to increasingly come under pressure to do it. Say maybe 15% of your staff are BAME, but only 5% report that, your data is going to be meaningless. But there is still work to do on how to define what inclusion is? Then how do you measure that progress?”

Attendees mused that inclusion could be measured in ways other than numbers, for example, many companies are featuring a ‘dress for your day’ policy or flexible working is being introduced. However, Jane Harley, representing the Gender Inclusion Network, argued these trends might not be moving that fast across the whole market: “Probably 80% of the guys in Lloyd’s still have a shirt on and smart trousers. The guy who sits beside me, today he looks as though he’s dressed for an interview, he doesn’t have any meetings, he’s just doing that because he thinks that’s the way to progress in his career by looking the part.”

Johnson echoed this, adding that Lloyd’s allows people to enter the underwriting room not wearing a suit but nobody does this: “At Pioneer we were approached to strongly encourage our staff to go to the box wearing whatever they want to wear. Not a single one of our underwriters did. Mainly I suspect due to the peer pressure from not their own teams but from the brokers and underwriters in that market. There’s a strong culture that this is what you wear. You’ll get called out otherwise.”

Benjamin Hindson, representing the Next Generation Insurance Network, added: “I’ve spent however much money over the years buying suits, shirts, shoes, my wardrobe’s divided between work and non-work. But also most of the senior leaders within the industry are still very corporately dressed and that’s how you see the progression. You’ve got to have people further up the chain sending that message down.”

Flexible working

Positives and negatives were also seen in measuring flexible working [this event took place before the outbreak of Covid-19]. Hot-desking isn’t for everyone as Mangat admitted: “When I come in if my train’s been delayed and I’m two minutes late I find it frustrating if I haven’t got a seat.”

While Johnson felt the wrong people were being targeted for flexible working: “I was at Deloitte when it rolled out hot-desking and if you were the most junior you had to hot-desk. If you think about it, that’s reverse of what it should be, because actually I know everybody in the office so I could sit anywhere but if you’re in your very first job and you never get to sit with your team – that is not a nice work experience.”

Hindson echoed this: “Being sat with the people – they’re investing in you, they’re teaching you, and you gain their trust to be able to do things quicker than if you were thrown around a business every three months, where you’re not actually taking roots. There is that challenge around agile working and flexible hours, is how do you provide the same level of training – a junior broker not sitting with the lead broker and the senior brokers who are teaching you how to negotiate, how to do the deals, if you’re not seeing that, how do you progress?”

Solutions in silos

The discussion then moved from how to measure success to whether groups should be looked at and their needs met separately or whether a holistic approach was better. Harley explained: “I see Dive In as being great but it’s always annual events where people focus on a certain point in time and that shouldn’t be the case, it should just be continual. Now we’re getting to the point where there should be a lot more collaboration, we’re all wanting the same outcomes and it’s the same target audience, ultimately, so how do we get to that point?”

Johnson explained that history had a part to play here: “We’ve got a whole bunch of different networks targeting different people, and that was what companies did. For example, if you were competing in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index you needed to have an LGBT Network.

“People sometimes still do fall back to that silo, but partially that’s because that was how you gained traction because that was best practice. People now realise that we’re all focussing on common topics and audiences working together is a lot better. Some companies are skipping that step and going to a holistic D&I council.”

Gibson cautioned going forwards: “We mustn’t erase the different needs but we need to change the language around using siloes. With the Families Network, we find that once you take on childcare, your whole working life has to be different, as a parent you can be gay or straight, male, female, black, white, young, old, disabled, able-bodied, so it’s really how to look at what some groups have as their main need.”

Hindson agreed: “There are specific needs within every network and every community, but there is a lot that joins up. You don’t need to just fit into one box all the time. The big challenge for our networks and these D&I initiatives is getting people who don’t think they should be there, or don’t feel like they could participate, involved – because otherwise you just get an echo chamber.”

Harley supported this: “Everyone says ‘gender inclusion network – that’s female-focused’. We’ve got one guy who sits on the committee, and that’s it. We’ve got all these great ideas when it comes down to shared parental leave, but I’m not a man, I can’t think on behalf of them – what do they want? Having that engagement where all people actively engage within the committee, that’s one of our main focus points for 2020.”

Filtering further down

Overall the feeling was more needs to be done across the sector to make it more diverse. Hindson said: “It is a demographic challenge because the intake we had in years gone by wasn’t as diverse as the intake you’ve got now. Another challenge is a lot of managers are managing teams that are much more diverse than they’ve ever been and may have no concept or experience of some of it. How do they deal with this scenario?”

Johnson agreed: “Research suggests that diverse teams come to better outcomes, but that same research says it’s harder to manage diverse teams. We’ve all been in meetings where you just wish everyone would agree. How do you train people to manage diverse teams?”

He added: “As an industry we are behind society in this journey. The challenge we’re going to have is, unless we make sure that our culture is inclusive, those people will just leave. Five or six years ago we were told young people would look at a company’s D&I credentials before they join. But they didn’t –they just assumed – because they grew up in an era that this was now a hygiene factor. They were all quite shocked about how non-progressive it was because they assumed, rightly or wrongly, it would be inclusive.”

Some attendees suggested diversity targets need to be linked to performance, for example through pay and bonuses, while quotas did not receive a positive response.

Gibson explained: “There is what’s called diverse slates, so for example looking for a minimum of one woman on every shortlist and if that isn’t possible you have a discussion with your HR seeking out anywhere else you can look.

“Targets are working – there is a target by the Women in Finance Charter for your executive committee to be at least 30% and there’s a target for your board to be 33% and every single insurer should be reporting those two figures as a starting point.”

Embedding diversity in development

But she felt diversity needs to be embedded in the insurance sector in the future: “Career development and manager training needs to be in place so that anyone can achieve their goal of becoming a manager, regardless of their parental or caring responsibilities, and definitely regardless of their colour, their sexuality, their age, and what type of music they listen to.”

Johnson supported this: “It’s going to depend on also what society does because the gender pay gap came out, the gender pay gap reporting came out, it’s driven some change. Some of the data is challenging but it’s started the conversation, things are changing.

“We, as an industry, could say we’re going to get this right and rather than being where we were five years ago where people might think we’re a laggard, five years’ time we will be the industry that’s got it right and they’ll say, can we get your advice?”

Impact in the regions

One area the sector could be getting it right is in its regional messaging. Johnson explained: “Many of the bigger companies are shifting their staff outside of London because the realisation is: you don’t need to be in London to do that role and it’s massively expensive from a real estate and the salary perspective.”

Hindson agreed this is positive: “That is saying, as a new joiner to the industry, no matter what your age is, you don’t have to come to London to have a successful career. At Marsh when I joined you could only be a graduate in London. Now you can be a graduate in pretty much any city, you’ve got graduates in Manchester, Dublin, Glasgow, you’ve got them all over.”

Johnson also explained that apprenticeships were changing in positive ways too: “When Lloyd’s launched the apprentice scheme it thought this is going to revolutionise its intake and then it realised it was all white kids who came from private schools whose parents lived quite close to London. Now the market is looking at what would be a barrier to getting a job – it costs you money for your lunch, for your tube fare, for your suit, and if you’re earning an apprenticeship wage and you’re living in London, you literally fundamentally can’t do it. You’re not going to get people from different backgrounds, or even from outside the M25 applying otherwise because you just could not financially make that work. This is changing.”

So progress can and is being made but Mangat believed networks will be around for some time to come to help out with this: “It goes back to collaboration. Making sure that we do stuff together effectively. That’s where you’ll see the most progress and you’ll see it pushing forward. That’s obviously something for us, as network heads, to discuss and to work on.”

Hindson concluded adding it is also likely to go beyond the six networks in the future: “We’ve got the six Inclusion at Lloyd’s partner networks, which is brilliant, but there are still communities that aren’t represented. We haven’t touched upon socioeconomic difference, which is a huge issue within the industry but no one talks about it. There’s not a network for it and even in society it’s probably still a bit of a taboo. We’ll keep asking how do we keep pushing it forward so we can have more open discussions around taking things forward?”

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