”Are we making progress?” was the provocative session title and the question on the lips of the BBC’s Jane Hill for the CEO panel at Beazley at the start of day 2 of London’s Dive In events. The panel comprised Andrew Horton, Beazley CEO, Willis Towers Watson CEO, Nicolas Aubert and CNA Hardy CEO, Patrick Gage.

Jane Hill in conversation with Patrick Gage, CEO CNA Hardy, while fellow panellists Andrew Horton, CEO Beazley and Nicolas Aubert, CEO Willis Towers Watson, look on.

Jane Hill in conversation with Patrick Gage, CEO CNA Hardy, while fellow panellists Andrew Horton, CEO Beazley and Nicolas Aubert, CEO Willis Towers Watson, look on.

 

Host Andrew Horton welcomed the packed room which included other senior leaders from around the market, before handing over to Jane Hill. She reflected on her role at the very first Dive in Festival in 2015, where she moderated the launch event; a CEO leadership panel on gender diversity. Jane anticipated the discussion would be broader in year 3 of the festival, reflecting the amount of time that has passed and the growing awareness of D&I beyond the gender (and pay gap) issue.

“You can’t be what you can’t see”, was her personal observation of the need for role models at work, simultaneously throwing down the challenge to the panel members that their web sites didn’t always reflect the reality of workforce diversity by only showing pictures of the global board or Executive committee.

‘What has or hasn’t changed in the last two years? was the main line of enquiry to kick off the conversation which she put to each of the CEOs in turn. The message that came back was resoundingly positive in terms of progress with Aubert pointing to the number of organisations affiliated with the Dive In festival this year as a ‘tsunami wave’ of support. He went on to describe new employee grassroots networks at Willis, each with no fewer than 250 members as evidence of the wider, deeper D&I support activity in his own organisation.

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Andrew Horton was emphatic about the need to evidence change, not just talk about it to convince people about the culture and demonstrate that things are indeed shifting in London. Patrick Gage reminded the audience how far things have come in just one working generation, citing his own career and the fact that when he started out 40 years previously, women had only just been allowed entry into the underwriting room. He was keen to land the point that people in the hard-to-change, ‘permafrost’ in the middle of organisations often confuse political correctness with D&I which makes it harder to land the message about the business case.

Questions from the audience covered issues such as the reputation of the insurance industry as an old boys’ club. More broadly, the need and opportunity to build positive associations with the societal benefits of insurance (in a world rocked by climate disasters) was suggested as a way of elevating the industry’s appeal to millennials.

The subject of more flexible working for people with family caring responsibilities drew a lot of comments with the audience challenging the panel to know what really happens on the recruitment and management front lines. A lot of time was also spent debating the tensions between a duty of care around employee safety versus career development opportunities for talented LGBT staff who might be asked to relocate to work in countries where there are still issues.

This robustly explored but good-humoured event could easily have run on, but Jane Hill called time leaving the audience to continue their conversations and swap notes on progress before heading to the office, or perhaps more progressively for some remote working!