A new year, a new focus: diversity at the forefront in 2021

Legislators and employers are taking a keen interest in D&I, despite the challenges of 2020, indicating that the desire to go further is not just anecdotal, says Maurice Rose, senior manager, insurance risk and regulation, PwC, and chair of Link.

Despite the difficulties 2020 has thrown at us all, diversity and inclusion (D&I) remains high on the corporate agenda, with heightened focus from market participants and regulators. This continued emphasis is welcomed by the insurance sector.

However, as an industry, we still have further to go.

Culture and its interplay with D&I has received heightened focus across the insurance industry. Firms, if not there already, are becoming alive to the fact that a diverse workforce brings huge benefits, for the organisation in question, staff and clients alike.

Not only is this the right stance to have, but the UK Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) has begun to take a keen interest in this ever more important area.

The need and desire to go further is not just anecdotal—it has been observed by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). In September 2020, the FCA commented: “Within the financial services industry, although there has been increasing recognition of a need for more diverse boards and executive leaders for some time, to date progress has been limited.”

Further evidence of the focus UK regulators place on D&I came in 2020 in the form of a letter from executive directors across the PRA to chairs of authorised firms urging them to “reinforce the importance the PRA places on diversity for improving decision-making and providing effective challenge”.

In addition, the PRA has outlined its expectations in relation to insurers’ boards and says it expects insurers to “put in place a policy to promote diversity of the management body”.

The impact of the increased scrutiny has yet to be seen, but it is hoped that this regulatory focus will move the dial and increase the pace of change across the insurance industry.

“It is hoped that this regulatory focus will move the dial and increase the pace of change across the insurance industry.”
Maurice Rose, Link

Meeting new challenges

2020 was certainly a challenging year for many, with lockdowns creating new, and heightening existing, issues in terms of social isolation, poor mental health and higher levels of domestic abuse.

Many LGBT+ individuals face the question of whether it is safe to stay at home. Almost a quarter of young people at risk of homelessness are LGBT+, usually because their families reject them, and more than one in 10 LGBT+ people have faced domestic abuse from a partner, rising to 19 percent for transgender people.

Non-acceptance or violence within the family home, not being out while being stuck living with their family, a loss of the support networks of their chosen families, as well as being more susceptible to mental health issues due to discrimination all add up to a more challenging experience.

These issues are more reason than ever for LGBT+ people to stay connected, to have a sense of belonging, and highlight the importance of organisations such as Link, the cross-industry LGBT Insurance Network. Link was founded more than seven years ago and now has a membership of over 1,500 with representation from over 300 firms across the insurance industry. In 2019, Link was awarded the Queen’s Award for Volunteering, in recognition of its efforts to improve LGBT+ inclusion across the sector.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Link has sought to connect our members through online events with an educational, and sometimes more importantly a social, angle. With technology we have been able to move from being a very London-centric organisation to connecting a truly national and international audience, which has been hugely positive.

At Link, our mission is to attract and retain the best LGBT+ talent for the insurance industry. We do this through education and events, to drive forward change in the industry. We are looking to connect the dots among the industry, share best practice and use our size, influence and support to root out discrimination.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic we saw an increased number of LGBT+ employee resource groups (ERGs) established, creating networks for LGBT+ individuals to connect and raise awareness around the issues they face. ERGs have been, and continue to be, key in breaking down barriers within organisations and improving inclusivity.

This has been fantastic for many LGBT+ individuals across the insurance industry, but more work is needed to address the intersectional issues faced by many, such as individuals who identify as both LGBT+ and as black or from an ethnic minority.

The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 highlighted the multitude of issues and the heightened level of discrimination faced by ethnic minorities in today’s society, and when additional layers of diversity are applied, the complexity and levels of discrimination often increase. It is therefore important that we concentrate not just on LGBT+ inclusion, but begin to focus on inclusion, and importantly, equity for all.

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Image courtesy of Shutterstock / Vladislav Mavrin

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