Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Management

Defining ‘diversity’

To reap the benefits of diversity an organization must also focus on inclusion, which can mean many different things. (Photo: iStock)
To reap the benefits of diversity an organization must also focus on inclusion, which can mean many different things. (Photo: iStock)

There's a lot of talk about the need for diversity in the insurance industry these days. But what do we really mean by “diversity”? Is diversity, on its own, enough? Does it really matter?

An important first step to tackling the diversity issue is recognizing that diversity is much more than the elements you can see — such as gender and skin color — and even more than the elements that you may be able to ascertain through brief conversation — such as culture of origin. True diversity really should encompass the whole spectrum of human experience.

But is it enough to just have a “diverse” workforce? To reap the benefits of diversity an organization must also focus on inclusion, which can mean many different things. One dictionary defines “inclusion” as a relation between two classes that exists when all members of the first are also members of the second. I read this to mean it's not “us” and “them” but “we.”

For instance, female diversity initiatives that only involve women run the risk of becoming just de facto support groups, which certainly serve a purpose but may struggle to effect real change. True inclusion means we stop thinking as “us” and “them” and tackle issues as “we.” We aren't all the same and the issues that hold our organizations back are real, but we stand a much better chance of bringing about change if we address them together.

Let's assume for a moment that my viewpoint resonates with you. What are some concrete actions you can take to diversify your workforce and foster a culture of inclusion?

Consider your recruiting practices. Do you always look in the same places to find new candidates? Although this may be a natural approach (“We were successful there before, so we should be again”), it can be a narrow one. If you hire recent graduates, rather than focusing only on certain colleges and universities based on geography or reputation, consider broadening your search. Gamma Iota Sigma offers an excellent way to reach thousands of students from more than 60 schools who are interested in insurance industry careers.

Think about expanding your horizons. If you spend time in the same places, doing the same things with the same types of people, you’ll get the same as you’ve always gotten. Try new things and you’ll come into contact with new people, some of whom may be great candidates for your company and others who may be potential customers.

Get people talking. Chances are your workforce has more diversity — in the broad sense of the word — than you realize. I am personally inspired by the approach of the Dive In Festival (diveinfestival.com), an initiative of Inclusion@Lloyd's. This London-based event addresses a wide range of diversity issues from the expected topics of women in insurance and cultural DNA to issues such as sexual orientation, gender identity, and disabilities both “seen” and “unseen.” Starting and encouraging open conversation about the ways in which we may be different (that is, diverse) helps us to find the common ground that leads to inclusion. And when people feel included, they usually are more productive—and that is why all of this does indeed matter.

Meg Allwein is senior vice president and chief quality officer at Assurex Global, a commercial insurance, risk management and employee benefits brokerage group. 

Related: Seeing diversity in action

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