Empathy and checking your privilege can help drive improvement

A panel of experts explain why greater diversity and inclusion in the London Market is important and say that box-ticking won’t cut it if you want to see the benefit on your bottom line. Hear more from the Intelligent Insurer Re/insurance Lounge panel.

A greater awareness of privilege, the challenges faced by marginalised groups and recognition that those in positions of power do not have all the answers on diversity and inclusion (D&I) all formed part of a passionate panel discussion titled “Talent and diversity in the London Market”.

The discussion, available on demand on Intelligent Insurer’s Re/insurance Lounge, looked at the current diversity mix in the London Market, why D&I and its impact on talent is so important, and what employers and leaders can do to drive greater diversity.

Steve Jenkins, corporate development director at the Chartered Insurance Institute, moderated the panel. He was joined by experts in the field, Rachel Crocker, senior project manager at the London Market Group (LMG); Maurice Rose, insurance regulatory, risk and restructuring manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers; Emily Shaw, founder of consultancy firm Pineapple People; and Elisha St Hilaire, project manager, retirement & investment & co-chair of Aon’s Multicultural Network at Aon Solutions UK.

Cognitive diversity and attracting and retaining different kinds of talent are key to innovation, according to Crocker.

She said encouraging different ways of thinking and indifferent opinions was crucial.

“Ultimately that is what D&I is—having different people who don’t look like you and sound like you and who will challenge your opinions.

"That’s where innovation and change and all the good stuff happens. We need to make sure we’re hitting it on every level from employees all the way through the hierarchical system, up to the C-suite and the board.

“We need to make sure that D&I isn’t being given lip service but it is actually happening. That is what needs to continue to change within the market as well.”

Seeing the benefits

Rose said inclusion was a key part of sustaining D&I and gaining the full benefit of it. “There’s no point having a diverse workforce when individuals within that workforce don’t feel included. It’s essential when it comes to retention of individuals and attracting talent.

“We’ve seen it across the market where people don’t feel included, and they have gone to other industries and other sectors.”

He said that Lloyd’s had incorporated a culture workstream within its Blueprint One, adding that a huge amount of work was needed.

“To modernise the market we need to attract new and innovative individuals from other sectors and we really need to promote the industry as a diverse and inclusive place to work in order to bring in that new talent and to help bring us up to date,” he added.

Crocker agreed that there was more to do, highlighting the LMG’s “London Matters” report. “We’re able to look at the statistics of the market and in particular we can look at the male to female split. We can see that over the years it has levelled out but it is still not where it needs to be,” she said.

“By doing these reports, reflecting where we are and then looking at where we need to get to, it’s a good indicator that a lot more still needs to be done to make sure we are creating a workplace that is diverse and inclusive.

“Ultimately there will be different types of people who don’t look like you in the market but it’s also a place where people feel they can bring their whole selves to work—creating that type of environment is very important.”

“Leaders looking at D&I may not be asking the right questions in the first place or challenging ourselves in the right way.”

Elisha St Hilaire, Aon

Shaw, who worked as a project manager in financial services at the Lloyd’s London Market, primarily in the London Market Target Operating Model and delegated authority projects until March this year, and is now a consultant on gender and race, was asked for her views on D&I at Lloyd’s.

She said: “It has been widely publicised in the press and in the Lloyd’s survey results—the amount of work that needs to be done at Lloyd’s to make it a place that people aside from the status quo feel comfortable and want to be a part of.

“Lloyd’s, the London Market, it’s a brilliant place to work. There are some great people and great businesses. But Lloyd’s and the London Market aren’t doing themselves any favours by not being willing to challenge themselves and look at very difficult things.”

Shaw explained that for her, successful D&I is about a “mindset shift”.

“We talk about D&I a lot as something that we need to retrofit on to the systems that are already in place. But the problem is the systems that are already in place are not built for the marginalised groups they tend to keep out.

“This mindset shift is not specific to Lloyd’s, it’s probably across the London Market and a lot of industries. We need to start thinking about ‘why don’t we already have the people we want here?’. And ‘what are the barriers and how can we remove them?’.

“The world of D&I is very much moving forward into this mindset change.”

Commenting on what D&I truly is, Shaw said: “Let’s be honest and name what we’re really talking about, which is the fact that D&I is generally a tag for anyone who is not a white, straight, middle class, cis, man.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a straight white man. But we need to make sure that people who aren’t white, straight, cis, men have the same opportunities.

The fact that they’re not that particular type of person shouldn’t translate into different opportunities.”

The right questions

Aon’s St Hilaire agreed, and said that leaders looking at D&I may not be asking the right questions in the first place or challenging ourselves in the right way.

“Some of the questions we are asking at the moment are scratching the surface and not dealing with the elephant in the room, especially where race is concerned,” she said.

“I know that race is a very uncomfortable question for some people, but people are becoming race-confident and educating themselves to understand what the challenges are, even though they might not be able to walk in that person’s shoes.

“These are all things we need to do to look at ourselves and our organisations and the culture that is perpetuated and the way we can move forward.

"We are all one race, the human race, and we need to make sure we’re being kind and working towards what is an equitable outcome for everybody.”

Moderator Jenkins asked: “Let’s assume that the leadership accepts that the status quo is unacceptable and wants to do something about it. How does it get over the ‘scratching the surface’ observation or realise that it is not asking the right questions, when it might not know how to go about that?

“What help do you think they need? Or is it so obvious that it is just complacency that is inhibiting it?"

St Hilaire’s answer was simple: talk to your people.

“We need to make sure that people who aren’t white, straight, cis, men have the same opportunities.”

Emily Shaw, Pineapple People

“At Aon we’ve had colleague listening sessions that provided our leaders with the opportunity to listen to colleagues who live in oppression, who deal with racism and injustice on a regular basis. That has provided quite a few insights for leaders.

“Give them a picture of what’s going on and what they genuinely don’t get to see because it doesn’t affect them,” she said.

Rose agreed, adding: “The first port of call is to have that open and honest conversation. Often we see at a board or executive level, there’s an ambition and a desire to do the right thing, but they don’t know how to go about it or the questions to ask.

“They may not have been exposed, rightly or wrongly, to different diversity spectrums that we’re all talking about today.

“It’s about having a level of self-awareness and appreciation that they essentially aren’t equipped to answer all the questions.”

Reverse-mentoring can work quite well, he said.

“This is where executives partner with more junior staff with different diversity characteristics and as Elisha said, to learn from those individuals and understand their lived experience and to have a level of empathy.

“Then they can bring that to the boardrooms and the various discussions they’re having to try and change and move things forward.”

“There is one thing that people in power who are not part of a marginalised group can do to better understand D&I,” said Shaw.

“Step out of your own privilege and try to understand what it would be like to walk into the spaces you go into, live your life and have the interactions you have if you were somebody else.

“That’s the only thing that pretty much every marginalised group has in common: somebody who is not in that group should stop and think about what it is like to be in that group.

“That’s how we start to shift this understanding. So for the white, straight, cis, able-bodied men who tend to be in power, the one thing they can do across all of these marginalised groups is think: ‘what would it be like if I were a black woman walking into this room? What would it be like if I were disabled?

“Because privilege isn’t about what you’ve been through, it’s about what you haven’t been through.”

She said that every person in power can think about their list of privileges, for example, access to a good education, being male, or being able-bodied.

“You can look at your list of privileges and say ‘I wonder what life would be like if I didn’t have these privileges’, and think ‘it’s my responsibility to try and understand what that looks like and how somebody who doesn’t have my privilege moves though the world’.”

She added that thinking in this way can change mindsets and open people’s minds. Commenting from his own perspective as a white man, Jenkins added: “You don’t fully appreciate the concept of privilege unless you’re on the outside. For somebody who has benefited from privilege, I had no concept of what that was.

“I thought that was just normal until I was part of a workshop looking at one particular characteristic.

“Yet, from the minute many of my colleagues wake up in the morning, they’re already looking at privilege from the outside.”

To watch the full debate “Talent and diversity in the London Market” click here and visit Intelligent Insurer’s Re/insurance Lounge.

Image: Shutterstock / Robert Kneschke

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