Making inclusion work: putting words into practice
I have spent my entire career – more than 25 years and counting – in insurance, and I’m proud to see how the industry has changed over that time to become more open and diverse. But we cannot rest on our laurels; there is still a long way to go.
I began my working life as an underwriter and have worked at major brokers as well as in management roles at insurance companies.
Over the course of my career, I have been pleased to see the industry begin to shake the ‘pale, male and stale’ image.
We are now seeing many more women in senior roles in the insurance industry. These women are blazing a trail and setting a great example for their younger colleagues and for women considering a career in insurance.
Something I have noticed, however, is a lack of women in middle-management-level roles. I suspect that part of the reason for this might be the difficulties some women can face in returning to work after starting a family.
As any working parent will attest, juggling family life and working life can be a tricky balance to achieve. I am lucky enough to have an employer that recognises the importance of that balance, however, and I strive to set an example to other women – and men – across our organisation and the wider insurance industry.
I believe it is more than possible to be a productive employee and inspirational leader and still make it to school sports day.
It is important, though, that this is backed up by good practice – deeds not just words.
Transferable workplace policies, such as shared parental leave, whereby parents can split, share and stagger leave when their children are small, can help parents to manage this big change in their lives and to remain in the workforce.
And it isn’t just about ensuring that parents feel supported. I believe it is incredibly important that women are given the tools to flourish in what is still a very male corporate environment at all stages of their careers. Mentoring is a hugely powerful way to help do this. I have mentees here at AXA XL as well as several others with whom I have retained relationships from other areas of the insurance industry.
Talking to those women is, I hope, good for their career development and also stimulating and enlightening for me. It is important to keep listening and learning.
Diversity isn’t just about gender, of course. Initiatives like Dive In are playing a really significant role in highlighting the need for our industry to become even more inclusive of talent regardless of gender, age, cultural background, sexuality, social mobility, faith, caring responsibilities, mental health and physical impairments.
At AXA XL, our recently relaunched Pride@AXAXL network is aimed at encouraging colleagues to know they can bring their whole selves to work.
The network and our many other colleague resource groups have been busy increasing visibility across our company, organising events and promoting intersectional diversity.
We also are making efforts to encourage employee wellness and support colleagues with their mental health.
Coming together at events like Dive In to discuss, share knowledge and learn from each other is, undoubtedly, having a positive impact.
But it is what we take away from it and put into practice in our daily lives – at work and at home – that will make the biggest difference.