Samantha Eustace, Communications Lead, Gender Inclusion Network
In the last few years we’ve seen #MeToo, the centenary of voting rights for UK women, a female prime minister and discussions about the gender pay gap. The dial is turning – but what happens now?
As a society, we hold too many subconscious biases and too many prejudice-filled, stereotyped ideas. We raise the next generation with the best intentions, but people still worry about being judged if they express who they really are or what they truly believe. Diversity is a vast topic, with gender just one of the key strands.
The last 12 months have focused the spotlight on the topic of gender parity across the globe. The New York Stock Exchange appointed Stacey Cunningham as the first female CEO in its 226-year history. Theresa May continues to lead the UK government through some of its most turbulent times. The UK marked 100 years since women first got the vote. Gender pay gap reporting was made compulsory. Donald Trump announced the Democrats now have a 58:42 female to male split, and the red carpets at the Oscars turned black in support for the #MeToo campaign. The topic of diversity is everywhere we look, and it screams the question: what happens next?
Some people still ask why improving diversity is so important. It should not be a privilege, it should be a societal norm. Every individual has the right to be accepted and included for their own unique identity, no matter what. Regardless of the business case, in order to flourish, companies need to be representative of their wider stakeholders and their customer base. That’s a given, but there is also a need to think differently, with a diverse range of input and ideas supporting innovation and product development. Improving diversity within the workforce isn’t just the latest business bandwagon, it is an essential change which will impact the bottom line.
The Gender Inclusion Network for Insurance (GIN) is an industry-wide initiative, supported by the 10 largest brokers and insurers in the UK market. A network for its people, GIN delivers a variety of events and workshops that members attend throughout the year, across the UK. Co-chairs of the network Sabrina Pyneeandy and Louisa Lombardo explain: “GIN aims to share and leverage best practice, instigate and drive tangible change in the industry and act as a wider go-to resource for anyone wanting to network across the insurance market – all with the goal to further advance gender parity. We network, we challenge and we will change our industry for the future leaders of tomorrow.”
The stuffy, traditional stereotype of the financial services sector in general, and insurance in particular, still persists. The first woman was not allowed to trade in the Lloyd’s insurance market until 1973, but we have come a long way since then, seeing this historic market eventually being led by its first female and openly bisexual CEO, Dame Inga Beale. We still have a long way to go on our journey to reduce the average 30 per cent1 gender pay gap, and the 57 per cent2 bonus gap, but the dial is starting to move.
In September this year, Lloyd’s will host its fifth Dive In festival, an event originally created to help the insurance industry get fit for the future, highlighting the business case for diversity and inclusion and providing practical ideas for how to bring about positive change. Since its inception in 2015, the festival has grown exponentially, with events taking place in more than 50 cities across 27 countries and attracting more than 9,000 people. In 2018, events were staged in locations such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan for the first time, at the request of the women working in these markets. The enthusiasm for Dive In and the rate at which it has expanded into other countries with the efforts of volunteers at grass-roots level, as well as leadership support, proves beyond doubt that there is now overwhelming appetite for action and change.
July 2018 also saw the launch of the Insurance Inclusivity CEO pledge, co-led by Zurich and Lloyd’s of London. Now signed by more than 100 organisations across the industry, companies pledge to make inclusive behaviours the norm with everyone accepting of diversity and calling for zero tolerance of undesirable behaviour. Commenting on the pledge, co-founder and CEO of Zurich Tulsi Naidu stated: “My experience is that the insurance industry is a great place to work, but we do still see instances of poor behaviour which undermine the whole – that’s why we think this pan-industry initiative is so important.”
As the pledge suggests, gender is only one part of what makes up “diversity”. So many other factors, visible and hidden, come into play. Collectively, NGIN (Next Generation in Insurance), iCAN (Insurance Cultural Awareness Network), Link (LGBT+), Insurance Families Network and ASSET (The Insurance Apprentice Network) and the disability and wellness network iDAWN, along with GIN, are moving the dial, holding organisations to account, sparking change and influencing action across the industry. Because that is the biggest factor now – talking just isn’t going to cut it anymore, and we need to see tangible actions and positive change.
So what next? The view from here suggests we should all start holding our companies to account, shouting that little bit louder and taking a stand, because together we will achieve more. As business guru Stephen Covey said, “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities,” and more than ever we want to become stronger, together.
Learn more and join our movement; visit www.genderinclusionnetwork.co.uk
Notes for readers