'Walking the walk' on diversity, equity and inclusion

Four insurance industry leaders discuss the steps needed to advance DEI policies

'Walking the walk' on diversity, equity and inclusion

Insurance News


Amid instances of gender-based and racial injustice in various places, more companies have started conversations about the need to ensure fair treatment in their workplaces and communities. Such conversations are happening at the highest levels of the insurance industry in Australia, and are central to Insurance Business Australia’s 5-Star Diversity, Equity and Inclusion award.

Carlyon said the industry had done much to build awareness and foster an inclusive, diverse environment, but still has a lot of work to do – especially at leadership level – in terms of “walking the walk” and delivering on its objectives. For example, although her company’s overall employee base in Australia is currently 51% female, “that balance decreases [at the more senior positions] and that’s something that we’re committed to address as an organisation,” she said.

“So, we’ve got a global goal at AXA to reach gender parity among our global leadership network, which is the top 250 leaders by 2023. We’ve got similar targets at AXA XL as well, and various internal policies and initiatives to make sure that we continue to drive that.”

Willsford agreed that the industry had progressed over the last five years, as demonstrated by the large number of entries for industry awards focusing on DEI each year. Although there’s a long way to go, “the fact that there are organisations who are setting targets, meeting targets and actually having a range of frameworks and a range of initiatives is incredibly positive”. Another important issue concerning DEI is the importance of looking at the community and supporting the participation of Indigenous Australians by means of reconciliation action plans and engaging Indigenous-run business and broking companies, Willsford added.

According to Fitzsimons, Lockton’s DEI strategy involved setting up colleague focus groups to ensure “that we have representatives who can really put the voice of employees into our policies and practices and make sure that as an organisation we are really considering all aspects”. The company also conducted a pay parity review. The key challenge now is addressing people’s fatigue and anxiety about economic problems and related issues that have a global impact, she said.

From the distribution side of the business, Nguyen noted how clients were facing “COVID-19 inflationary pressures, supply chain [disruptions], solvency [issues]”. He said these interconnected risks were also related to inclusion and diversity, which deserved attention during a crisis because it brings together different ways of thinking, thus allowing organisations to pursue strategies that lead to opportunities. Nguyen also agreed with Willsford about the need to support Indigenous Australians through concrete measures, such as the efforts by the Rise resource group at AXA XL.

Other related issues that the panel members considered important were flexibility through work-from-home arrangements, caring for employees’ mental health, providing mentoring programs, and improving complaint and whistleblowing policies to fight abusive practices in the workplace. And if they had unlimited power to improve specific areas, they said they would act on creating a psychologically safe environment where people can innovate and have fun, recommend higher wages to raise productivity, urge people to challenge and change unacceptable behaviour, and develop respectful environments that will serve as a strong foundation for diversity and inclusion.

Keep up with the latest news and events

Join our mailing list, it’s free!