When Jason Groves (pictured), head of communications at Marsh UK, started in the insurance sector 20 years ago he kept a mental tally of who he had come out to.
Being part of the LGBTIQ community in the insurance sector was incredibly different back then, with people much more hostile towards anyone from the community.
Groves, who is also chair of the Dive In Festival steering committee, was very careful about who he let know he was gay.
“I was incredibly cautious about who I came out to,” he said. “I would have to try and keep a mental tally of who I had come out to, who I hadn’t, who I have I hinted at, and always try to assess.”
Asked if he thought things were getting better for LGBTIQ people in the insurance sector, Groves’ answer was resounding: “Absolutely,” he said.
Groves has seen how things have changed over the last two decades, and been a large part of that change through initiatives like the Dive In Festival and Marsh’s Pride Group, which he set up.
“People within the Pride Group have won all sorts of awards for the work that we’ve done,” he said. “We started as a very small group, we didn’t think there were that many of us and we decided to have an ally drive and we signed up 450 people in 24 hours. And we went from being the fledgling group to the biggest in 24 hours.”
Sitting in a small meeting room at Lloyd’s of London, Groves recalls one incident in 2015 which he believes shows how far the industry has come in only a few years when it comes to diversity.
“Just outside this room in the first ever Dive In Festival I was handing out stickers asking people who were walking past into the coffee room: ‘would you wear a sticker to show that you’re an ally to your LGBT colleagues?’” he said.
“And some people took it and were very happy to wear it, others pretended we weren’t there and scuttled past on mobile phones, and some people were outright hostile. I had one person say ‘ugh yuck no thank you’. And I think the strides we’ve made make people realise they can’t say that kind of thing anymore - if that’s your view you leave it on the train when you walk into work.”
But when it comes to diversity, there’s more than just one issue that’s important to Groves, which is why he is involved with the Dive In Festival. The aim is to look at all the things that fall under the banner of diversity and inclusion and shine a spotlight on them.
“The whole idea of an inclusive workplace includes so many different things,” he explained. “Of course there’s a huge intersection as well because you can’t talk about LGBT without talking about mental health, or you can’t talk about disability and not talk about being a parent or a carer.
“The buzzword is intersectionality. People have complex lives outside of work, you’ve got lots of things going on in your life that might make performing in your work that much more difficult. Or something that you’re leaving behind that if you brought to the table might really make a positive difference.”
Ultimately, what the festival is about is creating workplaces where people feel good, so they can do their best work.
“What we’re really about is about creating an inclusive workplace,” Groves explained. “Somewhere where people can bring their whole selves to work and where difference is celebrated and valued.”