How has COVID-19 impacted DE&I?

How has COVID-19 impacted DE&I? | Insurance Business Canada

How has COVID-19 impacted DE&I?

Dive In, the global festival for diversity and inclusion (D&I) in insurance, is returning later this month (September 21-23) with the theme of Active Allyship – aiming to educate and empower insurance professionals around the world on how to be active allies and champions for all.

While the festival, now in its seventh year, is known for touching on a vast array of topics – covering everything from women in insurance, to LGBTQ+, race and ethnicity, mental health, generational differences, and neurodiversity (a new topic for 2021) – there’s one topic that will undoubtedly hit the top of the docket, or at least find its way into most sessions at Dive In 2021: the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 has had a big impact on D&I worldwide. It has brought many pre-existing issues to the surface, particularly around gender, caregiving responsibilities, family obligations, racial inequalities, and mental health.

“The pandemic has enabled people to have conversations that they never had before,” said Jason Groves (pictured above), chair of the Dive In Steering Committee and global director of media relations at Marsh. “People have to talk about their family situation and what they’ve got going on at home, particularly if they’ve got children who are home-schooling because of the pandemic, or if they have other caregiving responsibilities that they’ve got to fit their work around.

“We’ve also seen record numbers of people being open and honest about their mental health. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve heard about so many companies across the market encouraging their employees to talk about their mental health issues – and that’s so important.”

Read next: Dive In 2021 registration is now open

COVID-19 is also having a big impact on how insurance employers navigate the great return to work. There’s a feeling among most that people don’t want to return to how things were; they’re excited for a ‘new normal’ which is underpinned by a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“The impact of COVID-19 is everywhere; it’s constant. Every time people see that timeline or deadline for returning to the office, it gives them little chills,” said Mariana Fagnilli (pictured immediately above), vice president & director, global office of diversity, equity and inclusion at Liberty Mutual. “That’s why, at Liberty Mutual, we are actively listening to our employees, carrying out surveys and working with employee resource groups (ERGs) to find out what they want from their return to work and make them feel welcome upon their return. We want all of our employees to buy into that.”

One group that both Groves and Fagnilli highlighted as being particularly affected by the pandemic was caregivers. That could be a parent now having to juggle home-schooling with work responsibilities and client meetings, or people with elderly or disabled dependents that require close care.

“These conversations relate to D&I because we have to acknowledge people’s needs and preferences – knowing that those needs and preferences have changed during the pandemic,” Fagnilli told Insurance Business. “We have spent a lot of time and we continue to focus on building more human connections in the workplace. What the pandemic has made us realize, in some cases, was that we were losing that connection at home – and now we don’t want to let it go. Being there for your kids when they need you – that’s something we weren’t always able to do because we were at work, or in the office, or in a meeting – but now we don’t want to let that go because we realize that it’s important; more important than work.”

Read more: The business case for D&I in insurance

The insurance industry “stepped up to the plate” during the pandemic, according to Groves. He pointed to the wide swathe of “unprecedented issues” triggered by the pandemic and highlighted how the insurance industry has to be innovative in a way that responds to real risk and need.

“You need to have employees with different life experiences and different backgrounds, and teams that look more like the world they’re serving in order to really understand the need and get to grips with that,” he said. “And I think the insurance industry has responded incredibly well to the pandemic, and I like to think a lot of that is people bringing their whole selves to work and just feeling much freer to express themselves.

“An interesting trend we saw last year was more and more people going: ‘Actually, I get this. DE&I is an obvious thing that we need to do. It’s a good and healthy thing for our industry that we attract talent from a broader pool, we bring people in with new and different ideas. Why wouldn’t you?’ More and more people have come to that realization.”

 Find out more and register for this year’s Dive In Festival now.