Iain Ferguson, Lloyd's Asia Pacific

The importance of inclusion

Iain Ferguson, Lloyd's Asia Pacific

September 9 2019

This September, Dive In, the international festival of diversity and inclusion in the insurance industry, celebrates its fifth year of supporting the development of inclusive workplace cultures. This worthy cause continues to grow stronger every year, and has expanded to over 60 cities all over the world.

This year is expected to be a landmark year for diversity and inclusion in insurance as the focus of Dive In shifts significantly from creating awareness of the business case for diversity and inclusion, towards creating positive and meaningful action. This year’s festival builds upon last year’s campaign of developing “awareness into action”, and now invites the industry to consider ways to make an impact under the theme of #InclusionImpact.

The topic of diversity is especially absorbing in Japan, from where I oversee Lloyd’s Asia Pacific operations. Japan is widely considered to be one of the most culturally homogenous countries in the world, but it has been undergoing somewhat of a workplace revolution in recent years.

From the progression of a “womenomics” agenda, heralded by Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe as a solution to support Japan’s shrinking workforce by including more women in the workplace, to the passing of legislation to protect individuals against bullying based on gender and sexual orientation, Japan is beginning to make great strides in the diversity landscape.

There are a growing number of networks and events promoting diversity and inclusion best practice in Japan, including Dive In itself which was launched in the country just last year. Companies are learning from these networks and are recognising the needs of different demographics within their corporate cultures.

However, while progress has been made, there is still more to be done to ensure that meaningful change is happening. Japan has the third largest gender wage gap of all OECD countries (1) and just over half (51%) of all women above the age of 15 are participating in the labour force (2).

Balanced decisions
Many companies are now realising that diversity is not just a feel-good initiative, but that it’s tangibly good for business. Study after study has shown that diversity leads to more creativity, productivity and an overall better bottom-line.

Our own research among 10,000 registered Dive In attendees last year revealed that 93% of insurance professionals believe their managers have got the message that it’s good for business, and are taking positive steps forward. More than four-in-five (82%) feel their views on the importance of diversity and inclusion have changed positively since the festival started in 2015.

In insurance, diversity and inclusion are essential for the ability of teams to make balanced decisions, mitigate uncertainty and work with stakeholders effectively. When we work with others unlike ourselves, we move out of comfort zones and are exposed to different perspectives, helping us to innovate and make more well-rounded decisions.

Any insurance sales manager will also be able to tell you that the most successful teams are those that are able to truly connect with current customers and potential prospects, and one simple way to achieve this is to have a broader range of diversity and background.

Making discernible progress in diversity and inclusion remains important to Lloyd’s. Diversity and inclusion are necessary for our industry to accelerate innovation, stay relevant to clients and build a better world; it is integral to our future success.

It is a time of change for the insurance industry, which is going through a technological revolution and rapid modernisation. Business stakeholders will urge companies to refocus business initiatives solely on cost and performance and not be “distracted” by the wider agenda, but the business case for diversity and inclusion remains strong and investing in this area will continue to pay dividends.

This article was written by Iain Ferguson, regional director, Lloyd’s Asia Pacific and president, Lloyd’s Japan. Ferguson is based in Tokyo.

(1) Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, gender wage gap statistics

(2) Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, female labor workforce participation statistics

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