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Making gains on diversity and inclusion

Much is made of the insurance industry’s urgent need to adapt and innovate to survive in a customer-led and technology-driven world.

Far less is said about the equally important revolution required to attract diverse workforces – but that could be about to change, following a hugely successful Lloyd’s Dive In festival.

The inaugural celebration of diversity and inclusion was held in London last year, but this time around it extended to 10 countries, including Australia.

Sydney hosted functions focusing on gender diversity; lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) inclusion; multiculturalism; mental wellbeing; and physical disability.

The response was phenomenal, with more than 20 insurance companies coming together for the event and the industry uniting in an unprecedented way to support the message.

“We have been completely blown away by the reaction from the insurance industry,” Lloyd’s General Representative in Australia Chris Mackinnon told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“It can be a bit like The Hunger Games or Lord of the Flies, in that we are constantly trying to kill and eat each other.

“But for this festival we ceased hostilities. It is like we came out of the trenches for a game of soccer on Christmas Day, and the barriers we put up during the working week came down.

“It has been a breath of fresh air.”

Not forgetting, of course, that one of the over-riding messages from the festival is that there remains a huge amount of work to do.

Mr Mackinnon says while some progress has been made, Australian insurers have generally been slow to act and risk losing the war for new talent.

“As a service industry our customer base is diverse and multicultural, and we have to reflect that in our workforce,” he said. “Young people look for a strong diversity and inclusion culture, and if we don’t have that, we won’t attract them.”

The festival heard almost half of LGBTI Australians hide their sexuality at work – and that greater openness would increase productivity up to 30%.

A staggering 60% of LGBTI people experience verbal homophobic abuse, and 20% suffer physical abuse.

People whose first language is not English are three times more likely to experience workplace discrimination than a native English speaker, and almost one in five Australians report discrimination at work due to their skin colour, ethnic origin or religion.

Global research has shown organisations in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians.

One in five Australians have some form of disability, but we have one of the poorest employment rates in the developed world for disabled people.

An estimated $43 billion could be added to Australia’s GDP over 10 years if disability discrimination was addressed, and $25 billion would be added if more people aged over 55 could find paid work.

On gender, most employees in finance and insurance are women, but men dominate the top jobs and the 35% pay gap is the largest in any industry.

Mr Mackinnon believes the moral case is clear – but the facts demonstrate a pressing economic argument for increasing diversity too.

Lloyd’s CEO Inga Beale – the first female CEO in the market’s 328-year history and openly bisexual – provided a video message to those attending in Sydney, urging them to continue spreading the word.

“Our work doesn’t stop at the end of this festival,” she said. “We all have to go back into our own environments and our own businesses and display inclusive behaviour.

“We must make sure we have practices that welcome everybody, whatever their background, their experience, whatever it is about them that perhaps makes them a little bit different.

“It’s up to all of us to go out there, to start conversations, to start spreading the word about how good diversity and inclusion is for business.”

Mr Mackinnon says Sydney is sure to take part again next year.

“We have been incredibly pleased with how the event has gone, and we will be running it again, bigger and broader, next year,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au. “This year has just been the tip of the iceberg.”

Australian companies participating in the festival included Allianz, Aon, Arch Underwriting, Axis Underwriting, Beazley, Dual Australia, Finity Consulting, Gen Re, GSA Insurance Brokers, JLT, Marsh, McInnes Wilson Lawyers, Norton Rose Fulbright, QBE, Sparke Helmore Lawyers, Spinal Cure Australia, Suncorp, Willis Towers Watson and XL Catlin.

XL Catlin was the platinum sponsor of the event, and an interview on the subject of diversity and inclusion with its Deputy Chair of the company’s insurance leadership team, Kelly Lyles, will feature in the October issue of Insurance News (the magazine).

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