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LONDON — Organizations in the insurance sector have made progress in improving diversity in their workforces, but they should adjust their strategies to make more advances, a panel of experts said.
Moving from mentorship programs to sponsorship programs can help women and diverse candidate win promotions in their organizations, they said.
Once promotions are won, pay parity will likely follow, they said during a panel discussion at the Business Insurance Women to Watch EMEA Awards and Leadership Conference in London on Friday.
In addition, changing hiring processes to include practical projects can enhance the chances of diverse candidates, they said.
Companies should move from mentorship programs to sponsorship programs, said Anthony Baldwin, CEO of AIG UK, a London-based unit of American International Group Inc.
“When you agree to sponsor someone and you believe in the person, then it’s your responsibility to help that person progress through the organization,” he said.
But sponsors should be someone other than a person’s boss, said Kelly Lyles, chief executive of client and country management at Axa XL, a unit of Axa SA, in London.
“The way you think about a sponsor is someone that will bang the table in your name,” so women should try to recruit sponsors who are in a position to influence their advancement in an organization, she said.
“You need a commitment, and you need authentic engagement. You want the sponsor to really be invested in the person that they are sponsoring, because otherwise it’s not really going to work,” said Carolina Klint, CEO of the Northwest region for the Continental Europe unit of Marsh LLC.
Ensuring the advancement of women will also close the gender pay gap, the panelists said.
Since 2018, U.K. companies have been required to publish the difference between the average pay of female and male staff.
The biggest lever that executives have to reduce the gender pay gap is to improve the rate of promotion of women from middle management to more senior positions, which are still dominated by men, Mr. Baldwin said.
“You’ve got to have intent with that, you’ve got to have a plan, and you have to recognize it as an issue,” he said.
On a peer-to-peer basis, pay parity is much closer than it was in the past, Ms. Lyles said. “The critical thing for pay parity is to get gender parity all the way through the workforce,” she said.
To help develop more opportunities for women and minorities, Axa XL insists that a diverse candidate be included on a slate of interviewees, and the hiring manager has to interview the diverse candidate. “If there’s tie in skill set, the advantage will go to the diversity candidate,” she said.
Marsh insists that diverse candidates be considered for positions and this year introduced “case study hires” where finalists work through a case study and present their findings, Ms. Klint said.
Some of the Marsh executives come out of the case study presentations commenting that the diverse candidates have a different approach to a problem, she said.
“It provides a path for you to reflect on the benefits of having a diverse candidate and the perspectives that will bring to the team,” Ms. Klint said.
Commercial insurers and brokers in the United Kingdom have pledged to reduce the pay gap between male and female employees after government-mandated reporting revealed big differences in average pay and bonuses for men and women working in the insurance sector.