(Top) Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO, Accenture; Brian Duperreault (panel chair), Executive Chair of the Board, AIG. (Bottom) Oliver Bäte, Chairman of the Board of Management, Allianz; Segun Osuntokun, Partner, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.
Though there is evidence that diversity among decision-makers makes institutions bolder, more innovative and more resilient, insurance is trending behind other industries in making diversity in the workplace a reality.
Why does diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) matter for companies?
To start, it is an ethical and socio-economic imperative; businesses should do the right thing. Employees, customers and societies increasingly expect companies to reflect their values. DE&I also makes good business sense, with proven links between diverse management teams and higher revenues due to innovation.
How to advance the DE&I agenda?
Company top management should make DE&I a business priority, rather than a ‘to-do list item’. Companies’ DE&I priorities need to run through all stages of employee engagement – from recruitment to retaining and promotion.
Employee resource groups (ERGs), or ‘affinity groups’, foster empathy and understanding, providing a safe psychological space for employees to share experiences. ERG leaders are strong internal change agents and their contributions could more often be recognised and rewarded similar to business performance.
The virtual work environment may support inclusion of those with disabilities – physical and mental (‘invisible’) – more than the in-person one.
Spotlight on gender equity
The insurance industry in particular would need to attract twice the number of female talent over the next 10 years in order to have a gender-balanced work force. However, in countries like Germany, where most top government officials are male, family and childcare policies are not conducive to all parents working long hours, and usually women take on the extra family responsibilities. They also often consciously decide not to pursue more demanding management careers. A pre-COVID survey revealed that 30% of women desired flexible work, yet 91% of businesses did not want to offer it.
Takeaways for insurers:
- Be ‘courageous but careful’: stay true to core, global values, and transmit them through ‘allies’, who can foster effective local programmes.
- Focus not just on putting women in management positions but in business leadership and CEO positions.
- Change approaches to talent: build a fresh, next generation of leaders by promoting based on potential, not years of experience.