Aon’s Biddle on inspirational women improving social mobility in insurance

Charlotte Biddle, senior global benefits consultant at Aon, on making general insurance a more inclusive industry for individuals who feel “more Primark than Prada”.

After six years working for various organisations across the financial sector, I started work at Aon in 2021, and for the first time, met female leaders with a similar background to me. 

Stephanie Owen, operations leader in Aon’s wealth business and Romona Paul in our Health and Benefits business, had 40 years combined experience at Aon.

It is hard to feel like you belong in the insurance industry when statistically you do not. 

Being a woman from a lower socio-economic background in the insurance industry can be a lonely place. The Social Mobility Commission found that only 8% of women from working class backgrounds break into professional roles compared with 14% of men.

As part of my onboarding experience at Aon, I learnt about Aon’s Business Resource Groups, including the newest BRG for social mobility. 

I started out as a quiet person as I had little in common with those who talked about skiing trips and designer suits. However, through sharing my journey, I have become a vocal advocate of social mobility and feel more confident in speaking at events and to clients.

Steph drew upon her personal experience to identify a gap and gained executive support to bring together members and allies from all areas of the business. 

The goal of Aon’s social mobility BRG is to support colleagues of all backgrounds and look to reduce and remove barriers faced by colleagues and prospective colleagues from lower socio-economic backgrounds. 

The group created a safe space for colleagues to share their story and the obstacles they had encountered in their careers. 

To raise awareness, Steph and other members of the group wrote about our backgrounds as part of Aon’s This is My Journey campaign. 

This got huge attention from colleagues and even inspired colleagues in the US to look at setting up their own social mobility group.

Steph used her platform to campaign for Aon to collect social mobility data, as part of the firm’s self-ID campaign, which invites colleagues to voluntarily and confidentially share diversity data, such as gender, race or ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The data is used to help Aon develop and implement strategies to create a supportive and inclusive work environment where individuals can be transparent, valued for their unique contributions and supported with opportunities for professional development and career progression.

Sharing stories

Sharing my social mobility story with colleagues sparked conversations and I found several other women from similar backgrounds to myself, including Romona. 

She shared her experience with me and helped me to navigate what can sometimes seem like simple things such as how to order food at work events (so that I haven’t had to Google items on the menu), and in meetings, steer conversations to more inclusive topics.

I started out as a quiet person as I had little in common with those who talked about skiing trips and designer suits. However, through sharing my journey, I have become a vocal advocate of social mobility and feel more confident in speaking at events and to clients. 

I play an active role as committee member of the social mobility group, and recently spoke at an event hosted by The Lord Mayor’s Appeal about social mobility.

We still have a long way to go in to become a more representative and inclusive of those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. However, it is amazing what a small feeling of belonging has done for my confidence and time at Aon. 

I’m now eight years into my career in the insurance industry and while I might always be ‘more Primark than Prada’ and have still not been skiing, I know I am good at my job and that this is all that matters. 

This is all thanks to Steph and Romona who have become my role models.  

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