DING goes the diversity bell at Burns & Wilcox’s Canadian headquarters in Toronto. For a short moment in time, all focus in the bustling managing general agent’s (MGA) office shifts away from insurance to one employee. She stands proudly in front of her colleagues to teach them about Greek Orthodox Easter and to share some sweet treats that have been homemade by her grandmother. In just five minutes, almost everybody in the room learns something new – and by listening in, they’re engaging with some of the most important concepts of the business world today: diversity and inclusion (D&I).
The diversity bell is one of multiple things Burns & Wilcox is doing to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Anyone in the office can ring the bell to celebrate something related to their culture, traditions, family, country of origin, or unique interests. The project is raising awareness among staff while also creating a workplace environment where people feel welcome to show their true authentic selves, explained Jodie Kaufman Davis (pictured), corporate senior vice president, H.W. Kaufman Group and managing director, Burns & Wilcox Canada.
“Burns & Wilcox is a family business, built around family values,” said Kaufman Davis. “When we welcome and embrace individuals from different backgrounds, we’re essentially welcoming them into our family and we’re making them feel comfortable. I really believe in bringing your true authentic self to work. As the leader of a business, I welcome individuals to bring their true selves to the table and to share their differences – that’s why we have the diversity bell ringer scheme.”
Burns & Wilcox was recently a gold sponsor at Insurance Business Canada’s Women in Insurance Toronto event – a premier conference built on the premise of advancing and empowering women in insurance through intensive speaker sessions, panel discussions, networking and personal experiences from the industry’s top thought leaders. This is another example of the MGA leading by example and supporting D&I in the workplace.
“As a female leader in the H.W. Kaufman Group, I’ve taken a really keen interest in making sure we have equity for women,” Kaufman Davis told Insurance Business. “We have two Group development programs – the Kaufman Emerging Leadership Program and The Kaufman Advanced Management Program – and the most recent classes in both programs were split equally between men and women from a participant perspective. I think that’s a huge achievement and it demonstrates the base we’re building in order to elevate people throughout our companies.”
Specifically at Burns & Wilcox Canada, Kaufman Davis has been involved with the formation of a Women & Allies Group, which she describes as “a safe space” where people can learn and consult on how to advance their careers, how to improve workplace skills, and so on. The firm also engages in employee-driven community and charity schemes, building cohesion and collaboration among staff by enabling them to channel their energies into philanthropic projects.
“The number one ingredient to a successful business, in my view, is the people,” she said. “If you don’t have a place where people want to be working at, then you don’t have a business. Factors like D&I really contribute to our ability to have a place where people want to work, and, beyond that, where people can excel. The more passion people put into their work and the more grip they have with the job they’re doing, the better off they will be as individuals and the better off we’ll be as an organization.”