Standards for work place diversity have no doubt improved over the last two decades.
Not only is it the law, but the business case has been very clearly articulated. Creating a diverse workforce means you generate different points of view, find new approaches, have richer discussions, make better decisions – and ultimately do better business.
Organisations have duly introduced diversity policies, appointed HR leads, and established Committees.
But the truth is that the majority of people in senior positions within the insurance sector are still overwhelmingly white, male and straight.
I believe 2021 is a good time to challenge ourselves to do better.
Diversity is going to have to become part of the everyday operations of our businesses and the everyday working lives of our people.
What’s more, it needs to do so not because of a business case, not because we think customers might like us more, and not even because we’re trying to attract and retain top talent by being seen to be progressive. All of that’s great, sure, but it really needs to be integral to everything we do because it is - in and of itself - important. People are important.
At Atlanta, we’ve always prided ourselves on our support for our communities. For example, we sponsor local Pride events, go full rainbow for Pride month, raise awareness through our channels – and we even sponsored the British LGBT Awards this year, which was enormously inspiring. But we need to do more to drive diversity within our own organisation - and as a broader industry - because our make-up does NOT reflect our local communities in terms of race, gender, ability, age or sexuality.
We need to do more to drive diversity within our own organisation because our make-up does NOT reflect our local communities in terms of race, gender, ability, age or sexuality
So what are we going to do differently? Our own plan is based on four pillars – awareness, education, inspiration, and connection.
It means we’re going to be starting conversations. It means encouraging colleagues to bring their whole, authentic selves to work. It means we’re going to be doing a lot of active listening. It means promoting understanding about different groups and the challenges they face - and learning how to be effective allies inside and outside our organisation. It means educating ourselves, and challenging our own thinking. It means encouraging difficult discussions around the water-cooler and in the boardroom - about George Floyd, JK Rowling, white privilege and trans rights. It means asking questions, and being vulnerable.
In the end, it means taking a good hard look at ourselves and being really honest about where we’re going wrong, what the systematic barriers and biases are in our own structures and processes – and then working out how to dismantle them and build better ones from the ground up, from the inside out.
We want to not just to make a safe space for people and to hear their voices, but to actually harness their life experiences and unique skills for our business, in every corner, at every level.
At the end of last year we launched six new community forums open to all and led by Executive sponsors which will explore and champion different groups. Their job is to check how we’re doing, and then actually respond - creating opportunity pathways to boost those communities within our business, and advocating for them within our communities.
I’m part of the LGBTQ forum. Let me be clear – I’ve got no doubt I’m going to get things wrong along the way. I’m almost certainly going to put my foot in it at some point, probably sooner rather than later. The important thing is that I’m putting that foot forwards. I remain absolutely determined that fear is NOT going to stop me from talking, and trying, from listening and learning, from doing and then BEING better.
It’s time for meaningful change, true inclusion, and eventually, I hope, for a fully representative workforce. That’s our goal at Atlanta, our challenge, and our promise.
A version of this article was originally published in Insurance Times, February 2021