Research from McKinsey in 2017, highlighted that companies with stronger gender and ethnic diversity outperform their competitors by 21% and 33% respectively, and Deloitte in 2013 stated that when employees ‘think their organisation is committed to and supportive of diversity, and they feel included’, their ability to innovate increases by 83%. In a 2017 survey by PwC, it was found that 54% of women and 45% of men undertook research to see if a company had D&I policies in place when deciding to accept an employment position with the firm.
The evidence is clear, diversity and inclusion play an important role in delivering a business culture that has its people at its heart. Organisations that are visibly diverse and have clear, positive and credible statements of intent in relation to DI&E find it easier to attract diverse talent.
Research from the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI) has noted that many people have reported that the culture of the industry has become more professional and inclusive in recent years. Workplaces are said to reflect better the diversity of modern society than in the past. Efforts to include more women and more people from under-represented groups at industry events are frequently cited as examples of this change. Sector wide initiatives, such as Women in Finance, are seen as positive steps in the right direction. Many people from minority groups now report feeling included at work.
But there is always more to do.
In the research, a significant minority of people in the industry ‘neither agree nor disagree’ that matters of diversity and inclusion are taken seriously. A quarter (24%) of all survey respondents disagreed that the sector is genuinely committed to DI&E. This figure rises 44% among LGBTQ+ people and 50% among people from ethnic minority backgrounds. It is good to see that significantly fewer women (26%) disagree, which suggests that efforts to address gender diversity are paying off: many women do recognise the work taking place to promote gender diversity and this is having a positive impact on perceptions.
Simple steps can also be taken create a culture of inclusivity. For example, check that your language and imagery are always inclusive and be open to feedback. In formal meetings, ensure everyone has a chance to speak and be heard and tackle those who speak over, interrupt or make bad jokes etc. Do it visibly and in the moment, not discretely and behind closed doors. Be mindful of other cultures and traditions and consider these in everyday working and when planning activities. Be clear to prospective and current employees that your organisation is inclusive and won’t tolerate discrimination of any kind. AMI has been running webinars offering opportunities to speak to Diversity Champions so educate yourself about the topic – there are plenty of good books and articles.
To break down any barriers to diversity and inclusion as an industry, we need to start thinking about long-term changes rather than ‘quick wins’. Celebrate diversity, but never make women and people from underrepresented groups feel that they are there ‘because’ of their diversity. It is their skills and distinct contributions that always matter.
It is up to us all to set the tone for our industry and change perception of the mortgage and insurance industry. We know that the choices made today will lay the groundwork for a better tomorrow and empower and enable us to support our customers further in the future.
Inclusion will remain high on the agenda at every level and we must all assess our approach to make sure we are considering everything from age, gender, ethnicity, religion and belief to sexual orientation, disability, mental health awareness and social mobility.