The Dublin Diversity Drive
They say variety is the spice of life. Personally, I think a career in insurance can be hugely varied, but this variety has not been reflected in the workforce with the industry facing a real diversity issue. To address this, open discussions across the industry are happening from the underwriting floors right up to the boardroom. One initiative driving this conversation has been Lloyd’s ‘Dive In’ Festival, and it was a great pleasure to see the festival vastly expand this year, holding 60 events globally in 15 different locations across the world. In Dublin, we were lucky to hold two events dedicated to improving awareness of diversity issues in the industry.
The first was a session on the ‘Unconscious Bias’ led by Angela Peacock – Chair and founding partner of The People Development Team. Unconscious biases are something we all have and understanding and acknowledging them can help us become more open and accepting. Angela discussed how in every one of our waking experiences, our senses are blasted with thousands of pieces of information – every smell, every sound, every image, every touch – yet our conscious brain is only able to process around 40 of those. The rest we file away in our subconscious and some of that goes to create bias’ we’re not even aware we have. To illustrate the point, Angela asked how many of us scrutinized people boarding a plane coming down the aisle toward the empty seat beside you. Unsurprisingly, there was a huge show of hands! We’ve very little information but we make decisions about others without even knowing it. Sometimes that comes into play in interviews where we ‘privilege’ certain candidates even before we meet them just from small details on their CV – they have a few of the same hobbies we have, they went to a similar school/college, perhaps we even had an endorsement from someone we respect.
To get over that is to question ourselves as to what we should or could know about the person, being aware of a bias and trying to counter it. The second event was ‘Gender Equality in Ireland – Visions for the Future’, attended by around 90 people. Recently, our Chief Experience Officer Paul Jardine announced XL Catlin’s commitment to improving Gender Diversity, so it was great to see such a healthy turn out for this session and real enthusiasm for the topic. The panel discussion was comprised of several women from the insurance industry, including our own Deputy Head of Internal Audit, Eveline Deegan, as well as Niamh Briggs, Captain of the Ireland Women’s Rugby team. Amongst the issues discussed were work/life balance, the gender pay gap, the glass ceiling, workplace flexibility and confidence. It was great to see notable representation from senior leaders in the industry at both events.
The overall feedback was that these types of awareness discussions do help to initiate change and many acknowledged the fact that the (re) insurance industry is having this dialogue across the globe, is unique. As our CEO Mike McGavick has said: “The benefits of a more diverse workforce in our industry should matter to all of us as it is directly related to our long-term relevance as a sector. And once we acknowledge the fact our industry has not historically placed as high a priority on diversity as it should, we can start doing better. It is a long effort.”