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Jun 2020

Diversity is key to successful business

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Apr 2020

Traditionally, a majority of the world’s societies have been patriarchal. However, with the passage of time, the perception of what a man or woman’s role in society should be has evolved. Nevertheless, it has not evolved sufficiently, despite a mountain of evidence that suggests there are only benefits to closing the gender gap. Although it is in the best interests of enterprises, economies and societies, gender parity remains elusive.
 
To tackle gender and diversity issues, corporate commitment goes a long way. Guy Carpenter, a business of Marsh & McLennan Companies, has been at the forefront of this change, instituting policies that encourage, nurture, and ensure diversity in the workplace. 
 
“Our goal is to have a workforce that is representative of the society that we live in. We look at ways to unlock the full potential of our workforce by creating an inclusive culture where all can thrive and grow. Recruiting, retaining and developing diverse talent and nurturing our diverse leadership talent pipeline forms an important part of our diversity and inclusion strategy,” said Guy Carpenter international CEO James Nash.
 
The organisation is dedicated to addressing diversity problems from multiple angles. First, there is a concerted effort to create an inclusive workplace where women can thrive. Second, it is crucial to establish a good pipeline of diverse talent running through the organisation. Guy Carpenter’s hiring strategy is to promote and support diversity in candidates. 
 
More importantly, the company is looking at the broader talent pool across the industry and identifying opportunities to hire women into more senior positions that will provide additional value to the business. It also holds all managers accountable for promoting diversity within the organisation – thereby creating a culture of inclusion and one that is measurable and accountable.
 
Corporate initiatives
It is imperative for companies to shoulder the responsibility of closing the gender gap. Company leaders are in a position to effect direct and immediate change by designing and implementing initiatives and programmes that redress the gender imbalance. 
 
In 2018, Guy Carpenter established the GC Embrace programme, an umbrella organisation founded to promote diversity and inclusion. The initiative has since been adopted globally. GC Embrace seeks to drive awareness and strengthen workplace diversity, with the goal of creating a more inclusive workplace culture. 
 
Mr Nash said, “Guy Carpenter has committed to having a workplace which allows colleagues to bring their ‘whole-self’ to work every day, with a workforce which represents the society we live in and offers equal opportunity to all to grow and develop in the firm. A recent example of Guy Carpenter’s commitment to diversity is our decision to sign on to the Women in Finance Charter.”
 
Similarly, Guy Carpenter’s Women LEAD (Leadership, Excellence, Action, Development) programme is another noteworthy initiative driving efforts to reduce gender disparities. The LEAD programme encourages employee resource groups to engage with clients and member associations with the goal of offering women in the insurance underwriting industry the opportunity to network and deliberate on gender disparity. It also seeks to empower women and ensure their workplace success. 
 
The LEAD programme is firm in its commitment to ensuring greater gender equality in the reinsurance industry, and we maintain this is best achieved through active collaboration between stakeholders across the industry. 
 
It is for initiatives like these that our parent company (Marsh & McLennan Companies) is now listed on the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index, which tracks the financial performance of companies committed to advancing women in the workplace – one of only 230 companies worldwide to make it on the list.
 
In Japan, Guy Carpenter is an active supporter of the Brilliant Ladies Underwriters Association (BLUA), which brings together women working in reinsurance, including underwriters, brokers and actuaries. 
 
BLUA came about in in the mid-1980s as Japan began to implement the Equal Employment Act, which mandated that companies provide equal opportunities to men and women. At the time, it served as a platform for women in a predominantly male industry to come together to share their experiences and connect personally, and it continues to play an important function today.
 
What organisations can do
Organisations must prioritise the implementation of programmes geared towards enabling women to succeed. Company leaders have an important role in this as they can institute the appropriate work culture and ethos in an organisation. 
 
Quick fixes do not work, and the implementation of gender parity should not be a box-checking exercise. Organisational culture takes time to create, and is built on the foundation of a clearly articulated corporate philosophy that views women as an integral part of the enterprise. 
 
It is also necessary for individuals in senior positions to set a strong precedent, because merely enacting policies and objectives will not deliver the desired results. Just as national laws have not necessarily resulted in greater parity, merely implementing organisational guidelines and putting targets in place will not yield the desired results at organisations. Specificity and action are both essential, and in this regard, the buck stops with business leaders – both male and female. The onus is not on men alone.
 
Closer to home, the problem is particularly profound in parts of Asia, where a host of cultural and societal norms further complicate matters. In fact, addressing the gender gap in the Asia Pacific region could add an additional $4.5tn to the region’s gross domestic product by 2025, 12% higher than it would be otherwise. 
 
While more men than women are in a position to effect change, the number of women in senior corporate roles in Asia is growing. They are torchbearers and must make the path they have taken easier for those who follow. 
 
Framing disparities as a business Issue
Framing disparities in the workplace as a business issue as opposed to a gender issue can help greatly address the gender imbalance. While parity, equality and balance can be viewed as intangibles, corporate profit is not. 
 
The sustainability and profitability of a company drives business executives, and it has been repeatedly demonstrated that there is a direct correlation between company diversity and long-term economic performance. 
 
Put more simply, greater diversity in an organisation results in greater diversity in thinking, which in turn may result in greater profitability. Mr Nash said, “My own personal experience is that management teams that are diverse, and have a good balance of ethnicity and gender, have the potential to drive more successful, innovative and productive outcomes.”
 
The rationale for greater gender parity and diversity in the workforce is clear, and the sooner we can institutionalise diversity, the better it will be for our businesses, our societies and our planet. 
 
“I don’t want to lean to only gender. It’s about having diversity. It’s about having teams that reflect the demographic of our clients. It’s about having the affinity to challenge constructively and perhaps have diversity of inputs,” Mr Nash said. A 
 
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