Here on the Insurtech Channel we recently wrote about whether insurtech could offer a pathway to solving the persistent gender inequality problem in the wider insurance industry. While women make up 60 percent of the insurance workforce, the number of women in leadership hovers disproportionately low at around 10 percent.

If you are working in insurtech, you may be surprised to learn the general insurance industry’s racial and ethnic representation is also fairly enviable when compared to tech - but once again, it’s at the executive leadership level where this falls apart.

While diversity in boardrooms is severely lacking, there is a loud acknowledgement from these leaders of the industry that it’s a problem that needs to change. McKinsey research showed a correlation between companies with more racial and ethnic diversity in the senior-executive team and strong financial performance.

Modern workforces are collaborative, team-based, and largely operate in open-plan environments. Bringing together people representing different cultures, religions, genders, generations, life experiences, disabilities, and intersections of these - enables a business to generate a bigger range of ideas. This ultimately better reflects the wider society we operate in.

But while many recognize the need for change, like many other problems in the insurance industry, change comes at a terribly slow rate. So while there are initiatives and think-pieces from the big names of insurance a-plenty, we are yet to see a significant shift reflected in workforce versus leadership statistics.

How can your insurtech lead the way to inclusivity?

In many ways the cultural antithesis of insurance incumbents, young and nimble insurtechs can introduce change quickly - and without any hangups on ‘the way it’s always been done.’ Growth stage insurtechs can more easily communicate clear strategic goals to all levels of their business, and enable an effective company-wide initiative to both hire and retain diverse employees more quickly.

It’s important that your existing insurtech team understands how becoming more diverse benefits all aspects of the company, and that there may be work involved to adjust current operations and hiring criteria to be more inclusive. It’s entirely possible that if your insurtech’s recruitment-focused marketing efforts and job ads sound desirable to your team of similar people - they may be unappealing to candidates with exactly the perspectives you’re missing.

Who is identifying with your insurtech’s image?

Take a look at the criteria you have outlined for a job vacancy, and consider which requirements are truly essential. Could a candidate with a lesser tech qualification but advanced interpersonal skills be just as valuable to the company? Are skills that could be taught on the job to a competent learner listed as ‘essential’? If you’re finding that similar candidates keep checking all your boxes over and over, you may need to make some changes to the checklist itself.

If your recruitment efforts are largely in-house, there are a variety of online tools available which can automatically identify gender-biased language in your job ads and role descriptions, and will offer alternative word choices. Other tools like Skillist can also help, by providing an application process which gives you the ability to focus on critical skills of the job you are recruiting for, and remove identity biases for your panel when determining who to interview.

Ensure any marketing content featuring your existing team showcases a range of genders, ages and ethnicities wherever possible. The sooner you can start diversifying your team the better, as once you are on the path of growing a larger homogenous workforce it becomes increasingly difficult to appeal to diverse candidates.

With diversity a key initiative across the board, certain professionals may be in high demand, and consulting with professional recruiters to source these people might be the most effective approach. There may be a great opportunity in working to attract insurance professionals who feel shut out of the top jobs at their firms, to become the leaders of your company and help grow your business.

Who does your hiring process serve?

Building a diverse workforce should not be about tokenism, fulfilling quotas or hiring unworthy candidates - but it is about identifying and adjusting the biases in your process that are hindering the assembly of a diverse team in the first place.

Research from Harvard Business Review found that when a final shortlist of job candidates had one minority, they had almost zero chance of being hired. Yet with a “two in the pool effect”, having at least two minority candidates on a shortlist helped significantly in overcoming unconscious biases and an improved chance of a minority being the preferred candidate to get a job offer.

Retain the diversity with inclusivity

Once you have started to attract and hire more diverse team members, it’s vital to ensure you keep them onboard, and keep them happy! There may be necessary changes to some of your processes, that may even be unsettling for longer-serving members of the team.

Bring your new team members onboard with your ongoing efforts to build a representative team, and don’t be afraid to openly acknowledge their role in helping to achieve this. Employee referrals can be an enormous help in gaining more applications from groups you might not otherwise reach nor appeal to. Referral incentives may help to get your entire team proactively searching for potential colleagues.

An article by Codementor founder Weiting Liu encourages the proactive closure of pay gaps, by ensuring all your team members receive regular salary reviews and are paid according to the value they provide to your insurtech rather than how long ago they were hired. As your team grows further, encourage the formation of affinity groups where appropriate, and offer resources and time allowances to support this.

Be sure to avoid falling into the patterns of the wider insurance industry, by both ensuring you are giving equal opportunity to diverse candidates at all levels - and by outlining clear paths for career advancement within your insurtech. Junior staff should feel encouraged and supported to work towards promotion within the business, and in a growing insurtech should also feel they are playing a part in growing a healthy, inclusive culture for the future of the company.

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