BusinessDay

There is deeper integration of diversity and inclusion in insurance industry says Mary Alade

Dive-In is the global insurance industry festival for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). The Festival holds in 35 countries annually and promotes inclusive workplace cultures. Mary Alade who is the Chief Strategy Officer, of Aon Reinsurance Solutions, the promoters of Dive-In Festival speaks on the Festival. Mary who has a degree in Law from Queen Mary, University of London and is involved in a variety of topics including parametric Insurance solutions, climate change, diversity and inclusion says the focus at Dive-In is to build a workspace that allows workers to feel psychologically safe. Daniel Obi brings the excerpts:

Since its inception, Dive In Festival has collaborated with laudable domestic and international global organisations to deliver events which have influenced thousands of people in the insurance sector. Kindly shed more light on this?
The festival has continued to garner support with the highest number of insurance sector sponsors since its inception in 2015. Global Festival Partners confirmed for 2022 include: AIG, Allied World Assurance, Aon, Arch Capital Group, Aviva, AXA XL, AXIS Capital, BMS, Chubb, CNA Hardy, DLA Piper, Everest Re, Gallagher, Howden and DUAL Group, Kennedys, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Lloyd’s, Markel, MS Amlin, RenaissanceRe, Tokio Marine Kiln, Travelers, WTW.
Within Nigeria, Aon has been the lead sponsor for Dive In events over the last four years. We know these events are vital to bringing new D&I topics to the table and we have seen success and action year after year as a result.

This is the 4th year of Dive In Festival Nigeria; how would you gauge the impact thus far?
Bit by bit, Dive In has helped to roll away the stumbling blocks that have stood in the way of D&I progress for the insurance sector. The festival has proven itself to be a catalyst for change by giving the insurance industry the tools, inspiration, and advice for best practice in inclusive workplace cultures. And you don’t have to look far to find evidence of its impact. The past few years have seen a burst of brilliant diversity initiatives that have been introduced across the market.

At Aon we have developed various workshops to upskill ethnic minority students. Insight Week for example is a week-long workshop for Afro-Caribbean students to learn about the insurance industry. The success of Insight Week resulted in the creation of BAME Future Leaders, a fast-track programme for BAME individuals to join Aon’s graduate programme which has led to a 40 per cent increase of BAME students in the scheme. Aon is also now partnering with Lloyd’s of London to provide similar opportunities for young people from low social economic backgrounds. We’ve seen similar initiatives across the market, aimed at making workplace environments more inclusive and adaptable for their employee’s diverse needs.

Championing a festival of this magnitude is no easy feat, are there significant lessons along the way that you would want to share?
The main lesson we’ve learnt through hosting the Dive In Nigeria events across the years is that for a festival like this to succeed you need the industry to be open to criticism, discussion and change. That is why this year’s global theme was “Building Braver Cultures”. Focusing on both on and offline culture – we wanted to open up the conversation on how to build a workspace that truly allows people to feel psychologically safe, valued, respected and free to express themselves authentically.

We can say with confidence that the insurance industry, particularly within Nigeria, has embraced this festival for diversity and inclusion wholeheartedly. The insurance sector was one of the first industries to introduce a sector-wide diversity and inclusion movement. Competing companies across the sector have come together to create a positive impact on workplace culture in a way that eight years ago was unprecedented.

Dive In Festival Nigeria 2022 had the theme “Breaking the Taboo: Mental Health and Wellbeing in the workplace”. Can you share what informed this choice?
Mental health has always been high on our agenda for a Dive In event topic. It’s well documented by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that 25 to 30 per cent of Nigerians suffer from mental illnesses and this has only increased post-pandemic. Coupled with global economic uncertainty which will only serve to increase mental health issues further, we believed the time was now right at Aon to host an event around mental health.

According to WHO only three per cent of the Nigerian government’s budget is spent on mental health. The event was therefore focused on showing the role employers can play in maintaining their employees’ mental well-being as traditionally it’s been deemed to be the employee’s responsibility and issue to deal with privately.

Dive In Festival’s vision is to be the catalyst that supports the development of inclusive workplace cultures in the insurance sector and enables people to achieve their potential by raising awareness of the business case and promoting positive action for diversity in all its forms.

Read also: Insurance industry’s gross premium income grows 65.6% in 5years

How close would you say the festival has gotten to achieving this vision?
Over 400 volunteers from the full spectrum of the insurance sector give up their time each year, pumped with determination to make positive changes to our working environments. Dive In has helped the insurance industry tackle topics such as racial prejudice, trans rights, mental health and even domestic abuse.

Within this time frame, we’ve witnessed a gradual removal of the stumbling blocks that have stood in the way of diversity and inclusion progress within the sector. The festival
has proven itself to be a catalyst for change by giving the insurance industry the tools, inspiration, and advice for best practice in inclusive workplace cultures.

What advice would you give to companies in the insurance sector to help improve their approach to mental health at work?
The esteemed speakers from Aon’s Dive In Nigeria event Breaking the Taboo: Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace, provided excellent advice on the topic.
OmokunbiAdeoti, Chief People Experience Office, Leadway Group discussed a framework that would help employers and also employees recognize the different phases in an employee’s mental health struggles and help map out an organization’s path to action by employers looking to Recognize, Respond, Refer and Reconnect.

Gloria Agugua, Head, Human Resources, Heirs Insurance, discussed the need for organizations to create mental health awareness and modify workplace risk factors that can trigger stress. As well as institute an organizational environment or culture that promotes wellbeing and be understanding and flexible to the needs of the employee by listening and responding with empathy. These actions will help eradicate stigma and encourage open-minded conversations about mental health in the workplace.

Are there plans to extend the Dive In cause beyond the insurance sector?
The festival is free and open to everyone who works in the insurance industry and anyone outside of the industry who is interested in learning more about D&I within businesses.

Tell us more about the festival supporters, brands, and people behind this commendable initiative?
The award-winning Dive In Festival was conceived by Inclusion@Lloyd’s, a collaboration between the Corporation of Lloyd’s, IUA, LIIBA, and the Lloyd’s Market Association and has grown to be a global, sector-wide festival.

The festival continues to count on the support of its Global Festival Partners: AIG, Allied World Assurance, Aon, Arch Capital Group, Aviva, AXA XL, AXIS Capital, BMS, Chubb, CNA Hardy, DLA Piper, Everest Re, Gallagher, Howden and DUAL Group, Kennedys, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Lloyd’s, Markel, MS Amlin, RenaissanceRe, Tokio Marine Kiln, Travelers, WTW.

Dive In Nigeria was initiated and supported by Aon four years ago. In 2019 we looked at empowering women in leadership. In 2020 panellists discussed D&I through the lens of gender and generational working, asking women at different stages of their career what they expect to encounter in their future working life and what lessons they would give themselves if they were to look back.

Building on the success of the Dive In events we continued with Dive In Nigeria for 2021, bringing in a panel of senior female leaders to discuss generational gaps within the insurance sector and the best way to bridge this issue.

Yet to read about the festival numbers for this year, but in the previous year, the festival recorded 145 virtual events across 35 countries. What are some of the factors driving the festival’s growth/expansion?
This year we had over 200 people attend Dive In Nigeria’s Breaking the Taboo: Mental Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace event. Attendance increased by 50% compared to our 2021 event, demonstrating how prevalent mental health is as a topic within Nigeria.
The continued success of Dive In is due to event organisers across the world listening to the issues in their regions and countries and hosting the events that their colleagues and businesses need guidance on. Due to this, year on year the Dive In Festival has grown exponentially, gathering global momentum and spreading to countries where the issues around inclusion and equality can still be challenging.

Lastly, Dive-In Festival, Nigeria 2023, what should we expect as we anticipate the growth of the festival and the return of the festival in Nigeria?
We expect those who attended Dive In Nigeria 2022 to move the subject on from just discussion to implementation on a day-to-day basis. The speakers at this year’s event provided clear ways in which companies can address and improve mental health policies, with a vast amount of discussion focused on firstly creating a safe space for conversations around mental health and wellbeing to take place.

At Aon we will ensure that our Business Resource Groups (BRGs), which are a collection of Aon colleagues who voluntarily work together to help us advance our diversity and inclusion commitments, focus on mental health. These groups provide our colleagues with a free space to operate and drive change at the company.