Embedding diversity, equity and inclusion as a leader

woman in a black dress chairing a meeting

While diversity has always been a topic close to my heart, I have often found it difficult to write about from a position of huge insight, or without feeling that the views I hold are somewhat compromised given who I am and the background I have. I have not had all of the natural advantages some have had but I have had a lot more than most. I have not experienced any discrimination or prejudice and I can’t begin to imagine what that must feel like. I do know, however, that good intentions are important but that they are insufficient on their own. There are also responsibilities that go with being in a leadership role that stretches beyond the basic prerequisites of meaning well, doing and standing up for what is right, and creating a safe and inclusive workplace for colleagues.

It is both straightforward and complicated, as well as being multi-faceted in nature. But some trends are clear, or perhaps clearer, in the wake of the unprecedented societal changes driven by Covid and the Black Lives Matter movement, both of which have raised inequities in the workplace as major issues that need to be addressed. With talk of the ‘great resignation’ and competition for scarce talent, firms and professions, particularly small ones like our actuarial community, need to be attractive in the values they set for new members but also to retain a credible ‘voice’ on the big issues of the day.

Good employers now have clear benchmarks to demonstrate:

Inclusive leadership: Employees and consumers will continue to look for business and brand allyship in matters of social justice. More than ever before, brands and membership organisations need to continue to make a measurable social impact, rather than verbal commitments and performative shows of solidarity.

Equitable workplace practices: Accessibility and remote working will continue to be a priority. It is important that we create a sense of belonging to compensate for the loss of the ‘office’ norms and practices that would otherwise do this.

Employee well-being: It remains essential to focus on what matters most: the people.

For membership and professional bodies like the IFoA the case is strong. Actuaries will only be successful in the future if they are comfortable working with diverse teams with diverse data and are able to communicate their insights to diverse audiences. With substantial evidence already showing that diverse firms outperform the least diverse firms, inclusive and diverse cultures have a competitive edge over others and a clear link between diversity and innovation. It is not just membership bodies that move with enthusiasm. Regulators and policymakers are increasingly taking a keen interest, too, and are already convinced that greater diversity will lead to better regulation, better outcomes for consumers and better outcomes for the firms as well.

In working with members in developing our new strategy, I have been struck by the risk of ‘lost potential’ to the profession unless we make it more accessible to wider audiences and seek to support parity of progression for all after that. Very occasionally, I come across a view that this can sometimes feel that it is a threat to those who have already qualified as actuaries – and that encouraging wider access and equality of progress, opportunity and treatment comes at their expense. I take the opposite view, which is that the whole profession will benefit. It is not a win/lose – but without more encouragement and action as set out in our new strategy, I fear we might become marginalised as a profession and will ‘lose’ in the long term.

 


You can read more about we are supporting our members, at all levels, to embed a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion through leadership in our DEI Strategy.