Progress on inclusion must continue, says Beale as she recalls sexism of the past
At the launch of a new industry-wide pledge designed to change behaviours and create a more inclusive work environment across the sector, Lloyd’s of London CEO Inga Beale has acknowledged that a lot has been achieved – but that more must be done and work needs to go on.
Beale recalled the 1980s when she was sometimes invited to one of the male dominated members clubs, but she was not treated equally. “I certainly wasn’t allowed to order or pay for a drink,” she said during a July 4 panel discussion in the Lloyd’s building.
“Sexism was present and sometimes was tolerated,” she added, while at the same time praising the progress made since.
“Over the last five years we have seen an enormous change in the market over the topic of diversity and inclusion,” Beale said.
“I am delighted that we can show some progress. But there are still some unsavoury aspects of City work,” she noted.
Beale pointed to stories of inappropriate behaviour still taking place today. “People have left the insurance sector because of it. It’s not yet perfect,” she noted.
She also mentioned her experience at various insurance events also outside of London where the audience did not at all reflect the ethnic mix of the population and where she was told that it is difficult to attract people that are not white to join the sector.
“That is a big issue for the sustainability of our sector,” she said.
To make the sector more diverse and inclusive, industry bodies and brokers, together with other organisations across the insurance sector, have joined forces and launched the Inclusive Behaviours Pledge.
Spearheaded by Lloyd’s and Zurich, the pledge has attracted support of 50 firms signing up to demonstrate the insurance profession’s commitment to transforming its culture.
The pledge addresses all forms of potential discrimination in the workplace, including on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy/maternity, race, religion/belief, gender or sexual orientation.
It sets out a clear framework of desired behaviours for leaders and their employees in the workplace, as well as in their interactions with suppliers and customers.
Founding pledge signatories Lloyd’s and Zurich have been joined by firms such as RSA, AXA, Willis Towers Watson and Marsh.
Beale commented: “The Inclusive Behaviours Pledge is a public commitment reinforcing our promise as individual organisations, and as a collective, to challenge inappropriate behaviour and create increasingly welcoming and inclusive workplaces for the diverse talent powering our sector.”
Tulsi Naidu, CEO, Zurich UK, said during the panel discussion: “We as a set of leaders across the industry have to come together to set the tone from the top.
“We will not tolerate discrimination and objectification,” Naidu described the message of the pledge. “We will not tolerate people being harassed or bullied or victimised. We will deal with situations that arise in an honest and transparent way even where that is uncomfortable in the context of business priorities.”
Dominic Christian, executive chairman of Aon Benfield International, said that the insurance industry in the past excluded individuals on all sorts of grounds. While acknowledging the improvements, he noted: “What happened in the last 30 years is that it has become a white male meritocracy. A whole lot has changed, but not enough. And it is not, despite the presence of two leading lights (Beale and Naidu) to prove perhaps differently, sufficiently meritocratic.”
Paul Jardine, executive vice president of XL Group, said that it is necessary that CEOs support a change in behaviour and the efforts to create a different culture.
“Our job is to make life fairer for everybody so that everybody can fulfil their ambitions and aspirations,” Jardine said.
Beale underscored the need for more CEOs to support the initiatives to make the industry more diverse and inclusive.
“We can certainly stop having the same faces on these sessions in such panels,” she said. “I would like to see the entire UK insurance sector sign up to this pledge.”
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