At this year’s Dive In Festival, Brenda Trenowden CBE, Partner in Diversity & Inclusion consulting at PwC, chaired a discussion on how the insurance industry can attract and retain diverse talent.
On the panel was Trevor Edwards, Finance Director at the Chartered Insurance Institute, Irem Yerdelen, Client and Business Development Director at Willis Towers Watson, and Vivek Syal, Group Chief Risk Officer at Tokio Marine Kiln.
Kicking off the session, Brenda outlined what she described as the fundamental difference between diversity and inclusion, noting that the industry focuses too much on the former (which is essentially a numbers game), and not enough on the latter, where real, tangible impact can be made.
Talk then turned to the current state of diversity in the industry. Statistics show that 93% of the insurance sector’s workforce is white, making it significantly less diverse than the wider UK population. Moreover, only 12% of firms claim to have any sort of talent strategy focused on fostering social mobility – making it the lowest scoring diversity metric.
Taking these inequities into account, the panellists kicked off the discussion by describing their own personal experiences as minorities in the workplace. Irem recounted the difficulties she first faced as woman in a male-dominated industry, Trevor described the lack of workplace support networks for minorities and Vivek recalled the challenges of adjusting to a new environment that was in many ways, a stark contrast to his background.
Despite these challenges however, a unifying theme across all their accounts was their determination to remain authentic, celebrate their differences and adopt ‘a style’ which mirrored the culture they wanted to see in the workplace.
Diversity quotas were described as somewhat of a ‘blunt instrument’ by our panellists, but it was agreed that they are essential to the wider goal of measuring, adapting and implementing initiatives to foster a more inclusive workplace. For quotas to be truly effective, however, they must be part of a wider strategy that sees firms establish research and focus groups that delve deep into their existing hiring practices, to discern whether there are in-built biases or other barriers to access.
Mentors were considered crucial in retaining diverse talent, with each panellist citing at least one mentor who had been instrumental in their career success. Mentors have an important role to play – whether they act as a useful networking contact, a confidant, or advocate on behalf of an individual – they are key in helping to build the skillset and morale of individuals throughout their careers.
Above all, the panellists agreed that for the insurance sector to achieve inclusivity, companies need to adopt an enterprise-wide approach; talent strategies must target mid-and-senior level management as much as school leavers. After all, it is the individuals at the very top who create the vision for the wider company.