While company culture and diversity are no doubt important parts of any good business, they are often put on the backburner when discussing company strategies. Research has shown, though, that incorporating a D&I (diversity & inclusion) strategy can benefit the company significantly.
The London insurance market has a reputation for its lack of diversity, both racial and ethnic: it is majority white and male, which can be intimidating for any minority group, whether it be other genders or non-white races. Leading figures in insurance have recognised that the industry needs to become a more inclusive environment and they have been working together to modernise the industry.
At a recent Insurance Insider event – the launch of their new workshop series Insider Progress– Shirine Khoury-Haq, the outgoing COO of Lloyd’s, was invited to speak about her work with Lloyd’s D&I initiative and her views on company culture. She is a role model and driving force in the modernisation of the industry and shared some incredible insight into her journey and success so far. In her role at Lloyd’s, Khoury-Haq worked closely with former Lloyd’s CEO Inga Beale to maintain the Inclusion@Lloyd’s D&I charter, which created the famous “Dive In” festival and focuses on raising awareness of the business case for diversity and inclusion within a company.
During her speech, she not only talked about all the work she had done with Lloyd’s, but also gave a touching insight into her life outside work and the challenges she had to overcome being one of the few female leaders in the industry of a black or minority ethnic group. She was very open about her past and even spoke in depth about her personal life. She made a case that being open to employees when holding a position of power will allow employees to open up and feel more comfortable at work.
Geoff Godwin, American Insurance Group’s COO, also spoke about his experience in the insurance industry and his journey to becoming COO of AIG. The first thing he revealed about himself was that he was gay. He said that revealing this information was not only to benefit himself but to benefit the people around him. Similar to Khoury-Haq’s ideology, Godwin felt that sharing something personal with employees will allow them to feel comfortable being themselves. “No one is normal,” he said. He also hopes that sharing his identity will inspire and motivate young or new members of the industry. If younger employees have someone to look up to or aspire to be, they will be more motivated to excel in their roles.
Both industry leaders also made the point that being honest and transparent will stop people from making assumptions about identity and background. The industry is highly stereotyped and many people entering it make assumptions about the leaders and how they came to be in their positions of power. Revealing personal details humanises the leaders and allows employees under them to respect their leadership.
As 2019 approaches, it is important to consider reviewing your D&I strategy. Has it been put on the backburner? Do you even have one? Industry leaders have already done so much to raise awareness and develop D&I in insurance, but there is still a long way to go, and the only way to make sure the momentum continues is unanimous participation. The initiative is a critical part of any business strategy and will only benefit the company in the long run.