Marsh leader on D&I: “[We’ve seen] progress that we would never have seen in the past"

Stalwart talks about what she sees as the next focus areas for tackling inequities in the industry

Marsh leader on D&I: “[We’ve seen] progress that we would never have seen in the past"

Diversity & Inclusion

By Terry Gangcuangco

Marsh New Zealand commercial head Megan Warner (pictured) recognises that diversity and inclusion was not a common subject of conversation when she joined the insurance industry two decades ago. Reflecting on how the industry and workplace awareness have changed over the years, Warner has come to realise how highly she personally values gender parity and inclusivity.

“When I started out in insurance, I don’t think I looked around to see what diversity looked like, to see if there were any senior females working around me,” she told Insurance Business. “Whereas now, it’s something that’s really important to me. And when I’m mentoring people in the industry, I think it is really important that people look out for those values within an organisation.

“It has improved and it has changed. We certainly see a lot more female faces, both leading businesses and also in senior roles within businesses. At Marsh New Zealand, our two biggest segments are led by females, and that’s progress that we would never have seen in the past.”

A speaker at the upcoming Women in Insurance (WII) Summit in Auckland, Warner sat down with Insurance Business to talk about what she believes is next on the industry’s horizon in terms of working towards a truly diverse and inclusive Kiwi workplace.

Improvements for all

Warner, whose time in the industry began at an AMI Insurance call centre in Christchurch when she was 19, said a lot has improved but that there is an opportunity for the diversity enjoyed by the rest of the nation to be mirrored within the workplace, and particularly at the top of organisations.

For the insurance broker, a leadership roster should be a reflection of the country’s own diversity.

“I would like to see the diverse reputation that reflects the makeup of New Zealand,” said Warner ahead of this month’s WII Summit. “We’re a multicultural and diverse society, and I’d like to see that reflected around senior leadership teams.”

She also acknowledged that there is still work to be done to tackle imbalances such as indigenous representation in the workplace.

“For some of us, maybe they haven’t [improved],” Warner told Insurance Business. “If you’re looking at a woman in insurance [in New Zealand], where’s the Pacifica representation? Where’s the Māori representation? We are doing better, but we’ve got a ways to go yet.”

In terms of pay, meanwhile, the Marsh leader highlighted that equal compensation for Māori women and Pacifica women is another area that needs awareness-raising.

“Companies are doing a lot more to focus on D&I than ever before, but there’s still a lot of work to be done on it,” she said. “And some of the biases that we’re challenged with are unconscious, and we just need to keep challenging those if we want more meaningful change.”

Where the challenge lies

Warner, however, conceded that there are several factors that can make it a tough undertaking for organisations to wholly fulfil every aspect of their D&I aspirations at once.

“It’s really hard,” she lamented, “but we’ve got to try, because little incremental changes will create big changes in the future. And somebody said that once about gender equality, right? Somebody said it’s too hard.

“I think the challenge is, businesses don’t always collect the data. It isn’t compulsory for us to reveal our sexual orientation, religious beliefs, nor ethnicity. It is more common to tell them our gender, for example, so that’s what they can measure. So, it’s a hard ask to ask a business to then measure on other metrics.”

Warner added: “You also don’t want to put your colleagues under pressure to provide that information either. And, if they are part of a minority group, they don’t necessarily want this to define them, nor have the spotlight on them as an example, either. They just want to be treated fairly.”

Warner is among the speakers at the NZ leg of the Women in Insurance Summit. Backed by event sponsor Deloitte, gold sponsors Marsh and Delta Insurance Group, and coffee sponsor Look Good Feel Better, the WII Summit is taking place on February 28, 2023, at Hilton Auckland. Register now.

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