Complacency is the enemy of change

For the insurance profession to realise the gains possible with the richness of diversity, it needs to actively value and celebrate the multiple facets which make up a person, writes Sian Fisher, chief executive of the Chartered Insurance Institute.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly, in the digital age, revolutionary changes can happen in what seems like the blink of an eye.

For those of us who have had the opportunity to witness the complexity of the journey towards social change when it comes to diversity and inclusion (D&I), we can attest this shift has not happened quickly.

Equal pay for equal work, for example, received royal assent in the UK only 50 years ago, and while this may sound like a long time ago to some, we know from ongoing research by the Fawcett Society that this still represents a goal, not a battle won.

Society still faces a significant problem with the gender pay gap, which has been exacerbated by the events of 2020.

Research has shown the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately impacted the earning potential of women, with sectors employing a greater proportion of women than men among those that have been hardest hit by the economic fallout of lockdown.

This has potentially set back the date for gender pay parity to 2110, according to figures in the most recent Insuring Women’s Futures report, “Living a financially resilient life in the UK beyond COVID-19”.

By looking closely at gender pay, we can see that the making of a commitment, be it by a government or an organisation, is just the start of the journey.

“Fairness of opportunity will be the driver of meaningful change.”
Sian Fisher, Chartered Insurance Institute

In the earlier months of 2020, we saw a dramatic increase in awareness around the impact of racial inequality in society, spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement. The protests highlighted to us that complacency that good intentions will deliver impactful change can have dire consequences, ones which ripple out to affect us all.

It has reminded us how vital it is for all those working in the insurance and personal finance profession not to be complacent and think that change will come about naturally through the passage of time.

What is needed is expression of intent, constructive planning and affirmative action to get to where we collectively feel we should be heading for the benefit of all.

As the conversations around diversity and identity continue to broaden, it becomes clear that diversity is actually about the majority group, not a minority, as we have historically been inclined to believe.

To be diverse and inclusive is about realising we all exist within a diverse and intersectional identity, one which is personal and unique.

For the profession to make gains on accessing this richness of diversity, we must learn to value and celebrate those multiple facets which make up a person.

The Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) has long maintained that the key to innovation and success is found in properly accessing the diversity of ideas found within the full breadth of society.

It is important to accept and understand that when our talent pool is limited, we are in fact limiting ourselves as an organisation, and therefore limiting the benefits we can bring to those we serve.

Addressing D&I should be one of the highest priorities within the profession if we are to dismantle any unjust barriers that prevent people from accessing careers in insurance.

Senior leaders need to understand where the barriers are that hinder the progress of talented people from all backgrounds from moving up the career ladder.

Financial services is a profession where 84 percent of current executive directorships at FTSE 100 companies are held by white men, according to the Bonhill Group’s “The DiversityQ FTSE 100 Board Diversity Report 2020”.

While efforts are being made to create a business environment where diversity permeates every corner and professional level, more work is needed to reach a situation where all staff feel they operate on a level playing field; one where talent is truly recognised and nurtured.

The effectiveness of measures taken to address inequality will be shown in pay gap analysis, but fairness of opportunity will be the driver of meaningful change in terms of ensuring the insurance profession reflects the society it serves.

“We have encouraged all CII staff to take part in diversity training that challenges all forms of bias.”

CII manifesto

Internally, the CII’s 2016 strategic manifesto committed us to making ourselves more relevant, modern and diverse, and to deliver relevant learning, engaged membership and insightful leadership to our united profession.

Our work in promoting diversity internally has continued, having followed the Investors in People programme since 2011, and in 2018 we became signatories of the Women in Finance charter.

Our plan is to maintain this focus going forward while broadening our agenda, looking at our Black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) and international representation.

Currently, this representation needs to be improved on our board, committees, and at senior management level and we are working towards addressing this.

The CII understands that as a professional body, it is important for us to lead by example.

We have encouraged all CII staff to take part in diversity training that challenges all forms of bias, unconscious or otherwise.

The CII has an employee-led BAME group plus an LGBT advocacy group, which gives employees a place to raise concerns outside of HR and their line managers and a safe place to suggest improvements to the way we work.

We also actively support events that promote diversity, such as Gay Pride, Black History Month, and International Women’s Day.

The past naturally impacts the present, but it is here in the present that we build the future.

This simple fact needs to guide our process of thought as we lay the groundwork for the future of our profession, and the future of society as a whole.

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Image courtesy of Shutterstock / New Africa

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