As we high-five our way into the “Culture” issue of Insider Quarterly, readers could be forgiven for having a degree of cynicism at the back of their minds when it comes to the notion of a fairer, more cohesive and more open-minded working environment.
In the world of work at large, there continues to be a lack of diversity, an inequality of opportunity, and the stubborn stain of workplace bullying, sexual harassment and entrenched hierarchies that hold back some of the brightest and best from achieving their utmost.
I think it’s fair to say that the picture only gets worse as you drill down into the business world, into financial services and ultimately the insurance sector – although, as recent events have shown, charities and NGOs have their own cultural issues to address too.
In Lucy Jones’ feature on the revelations of a culture of bullying and harassment at Lloyd’s, a grim picture is painted of the ways in which women in particular continue to face a monolithic, oppressive and seemingly unchanging male-led orthodoxy which fails to recognise their abilities in the workplace and habitually subjects them to humiliation.
The continuing struggle for equal pay, maternity/paternity benefits and flexible working belies any naïve notion that sexism and other forms of prejudice have somehow been banished from the workplace.
However, Helen Yates’ feature on diversity and inclusion (D&I) programmes and activities in the insurance sector gives some hope, at least, that such initiatives are more than just lip service paid by companies looking to whitewash their image, or box-ticking exercises by HR teams eager to burnish their “equal ops” strategy.
Change is slow, and we’re a long way from reaching the point of a global insurance sector which is truly diverse, inclusive, prejudice-free and meritocratic, but the indications are that the industry has nonetheless come a long way since the first Dive In D&I festival was launched in 2015.
What’s been interesting from the perspective of putting together this publication, is the degree to which companies and industry bodies have rallied around the notion of a “culture” issue.
They have been eager to either express their thoughts to our journalists on how their organisations and the industry as a whole can and are improving D&I in the workplace, or have been keen to set down their own thoughts in the form of a contributed article.
D&I is both a concept and an activity which has gathered pace in recent years, and that momentum appears to be ever-increasing.
Even the august statesman of independent insurance broking, David Howden, is at pains to stress his company’s emphasis on hiring talent for talent’s sake and nurturing ability wherever it may be found.
Of course, the proof will be in the pudding as to whether all of the employment schemes, education and training programmes and hiring policies touted by industry commentators amount to anything.
When the Dive In festival reaches its 10-year anniversary perhaps we will be able to discern a palpably more diverse and inclusive insurance industry. Let us hope so.
To read the Summer 2019 issue of Insider Quarterly, please click here.