Diversity in Insurance: Industry Leaders Advocate for Change

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Expert analysis on specialty insurance and an inside look at Argo.

Argo Employees Advocate for Racial Equity in Insurance

William Wharton, named one of Intelligent Insurer’s top 25 D&I champions, is amplifying the voices of other employee advocates.

Young Black businesswoman speaking to a group

Unconscious biases have always existed, and recently employees across all professional industries, including insurance, are recognizing and talking about them more than ever before.

William Wharton, Head of Argo Insurance Bermuda, sees particularly how young Black men can be excluded from entry-level re/insurance positions when employers require qualifications and job experience that are often unnecessary for the positions they’re seeking to fill.

In its 2021 Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Report, Intelligent Insurer named Wharton one of re/insurance’s top 25 D&I champions alongside others “chosen for their leadership, achievements and efforts in supporting and promoting D&I in their organizations and in the wider re/insurance market.”

Argo Group and its employees are taking steps to address the need for diversity in the insurance industry.

Sponsor and support candidates

One way to make an immediate impact, Wharton says, is for executives to sponsor diverse candidates for senior positions when they’re available.

“Executive management jobs tend not to be widely advertised,” Wharton told Intelligent Insurer. “And when promising employees reach that level, it is because they have been sponsored or supported by existing executives who believe they are up to the task.

“This means it is very much about who you know – and who knows you. More executives need to sponsor diverse candidates for senior roles.”

Another way is to offer opportunities for students from underrepresented communities, as Argo does in partnership with the Spencer Foundation. This approach might take a longer time to influence overall hiring practices, especially in leadership positions, but it helps lay the groundwork for long-term change.

Lift employee voices

Established in 2020 as part of Argo’s D&I strategy, employee resource groups (ERGs) are issues-focused communities through which employees can network, share ideas and influence change within the company with leaders’ support.

Wharton says that his recognition as a D&I champion is a direct result of his echoing and amplifying his colleagues’ voices.

“Through the creation of the D&I initiatives and employee resource groups, you’re hearing the voices not only of senior people but everyone,” Wharton says. “They’re the real energy behind this, and they really deserve the credit. I just try to bring their work to a wider audience when asked to do so.”

As a result, the ERGs are already influencing policy companywide. Argo recently implemented a new, flexible holiday called “Diversity Day,” which employees can use to recognize important religious and cultural celebrations. And the Faith/Ethnicity/Race/Multicultural (FERM) ERG was instrumental in making it happen.

Focus on the issue

The goal of Argo’s FERM ERG is to inform colleagues about faith, ethnicity, race and cultural differences by:

  1. Establishing an awareness-based hub to encourage self-exploration of attitudes/reservations and inform on faith, ethnicity and race in the workplace.
  2. Establishing a skills-based hub to transition from awareness to proficiency in handling diversity in workplace relationships.
  3. Establishing a perspective-taking hub to embed long-term understanding of faith, ethnic and racial inclusivity.

“The FERM ERG believes we should recognize and encourage diversity within the hiring process,” says Omar Khan, Deputy Head of Pricing, International, and international chair for the FERM group. “There is a particular issue amongst the mid-level to executive-level roles, and we’re looking into several initiatives with regards to hiring practices – from the tone and placement of job adverts to diversity targets.

“ERGs place a spotlight on meaningful issues and break down the taboo of discussing FERM-related topics within the workplace,” he says. “The issues that come to the forefront are often driven by members’ own experiences.”

Enjoy the process

Wharton told Intelligent Insurer that he believes diversity in the insurance industry is poised to make rapid progress in the next decade.

“Sometimes people are looking for the end goal,” Wharton says. “I take great joy in the journey.

“We’re always focused on the future and where we want to be, but it’s important to celebrate every win along the way.”

Learn more about Argo Group’s D&I initiatives in our 2021 ESG Report.

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