Post Blog: The great diversity cover-up


For the past four years I have worked as a journalist in the insurance sector, learning the trade, meeting the people that matter and, most importantly, serving the readers of Post Magazine.

In this time I have learnt that it is the job of the press to shine a mirror onto its subject, reflecting back its true face for the wider public. If I can report accurately on the sector so readers of our publication remain well informed I have done my job.

However, the pursuit of facts relies heavily on contacts, PR staff and ultimately - the industry itself. If there is an unwillingness from these parties to be transparent the mirror becomes distorted and blurry.

In May last year, I began work on the Insurance Census - a study into diversity in the industry with the aim of taking a look at its record on age, race and gender. Thursday's edition of Post Magazine will feature the first of its three parts.

You could be mistaken for thinking - especially as many in the industry talk of diversity and transparency (a search for transparency on the Post website yields almost 2200 hits, diversity more than 1200) - that a journalist tackling the subject would be unfettered in his research.

However, the process has proved to be an eye-opener. For the study I approached 129 of the UK's largest insurers and brokers, explaining that I needed basic data on their staff. Each company that took part was guaranteed anonymity - this was not an exercise in praising or criticising individual records on diversity.

In the end I received 30 responses.

Despite ringing each company personally explaining the study and its remit less than a quarter agreed to take part. Some never took my calls, others agreed and never came back with the data and a few rejected the notion out of hand without reason.

Similarly, I found it difficult in many instances to speak to the high profile ethnic minorities and women in the industry finding my pathway blocked.

The data covers roughly 80 000 staff, and although the research is representative, it could have been more in-depth, more detailed and more comprehensive. While I can't publicly thank the companies that agreed to put their heads above the parapet, their openness makes the Census worth reading.

If the insurance industry, like it says, really wants to attract a more diverse workforce, surely it has to be open enough to reveal its potential shortcomings. Only then can it shake its image of being the preserve of middle aged white men and begin to build for the future.

The Insurance Census is published on 7, 14 and 21 February

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