How Canada’s brokers can move the needle on DEI

Multiethnic people representing workplace diversity

Don’t have the resources to embark on large-scale diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs? You can still get started by simply committing your brokerage to change.

“If you’re a small brokerage, maybe you don’t have the resources, I think the Number 1 thing is to make changing the situation a priority,” said Janice Gladue, chief operating officer at TIPI Group of Companies, during a panel discussion about research on the progress of DEI programs in Canadian brokerages.

“You are already hiring, you’re already training. Your company already has a culture. You [just] need to have a desire and an interest in making that committed investment, even if it’s just energy and focus.”

With the support of Sovereign Insurance, Canadian Underwriter conducted an online survey in January and February 2023, tallying 322 broker responses. This is the second consecutive year the research has been conducted.

 

Sizing things up

The size of a Canadian P&C brokerage and the makeup of its senior leadership are major drivers of whether employees have access to formal DEI programs, the survey data show. Responses for 2023 found 31% described their organizations as ‘leading’ in making DEI a core principle supported by best practices. That’s 6% lower than the 2022 survey.

Another 25% described their firms as “aspiring to create a more diverse workforce,” down 3% from 2022. A further 28% said they’re beginning to make changes (3% ahead of 2022), but the percentage of respondents who said their firms haven’t yet started on DEI grew to 15% in 2023 (4% higher than 2022).

 

How would you describe your organization’s corporate culture when it comes to DEI?
2023
2022

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Total respondents
322
207

Not started – No mention, effort, training or communication
15%
11%

Beginning – Some attempts to create a diverse workforce, offer training or discuss DEI
28%
25%

Aspiring – Formal plans in place to create a more diverse workforce
25%
28%

Leading – Organization has made DEI a core principle and follows best practices
31%
37%

 

Those percentage shifts don’t necessarily mean Canada’s brokerages have become less enlightened over the past year.

In the time since the initial survey was fielded in early 2022, high rates of inflation and recession fears have gripped the industry, so respondents may simply be adjusting internal priorities to face more immediate threats. Further, the large increase in total respondents, 322 this year compared with 208 in 2022, creates a wider sample which can enhance disparities in polling results.

The good news, the panellists observed, is that once a commitment is made to DEI, brokerages can actively identify gaps and find ways to improve.

One place to start is HR policies.

Brokerage owners and managers can examine when those policies were written, and whether they’re up to date. Plus, they can determine if policy language can be reworked to fit current environments in which people of different ethnicities, religious backgrounds, gender, family orientations, and levels of physical or mental ability are welcomed into the organization.

 

Which of the following do you think would be most likely to increase diversity? 

Total respondents
302

Promoting diverse talent to senior levels
38%

Hiring diverse talent at senior levels
36%

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Specific recruitment strategies for diverse groups
36%

Company publicly promotes its DEI values, priorities and commitments
31%

Senior-level mentoring of diverse talent specifically
28%

Mandatory diversity and anti-racism training
27%

Specific retention strategies for diverse hires
22%

Diversity goals are directly tied to executive compensation and advancement
14%

Making a public pledge to increase diversity at senior levels
10%

 

“We don’t have diverse religious backgrounds within our organization, but our policies are prepared for that,” Gladue said. “In terms of how we message [parental] leave, we’re already projecting that we’re going to have different types of families within our organization, and we’re prepared for [that].”

Firms should also communicate their anti-discrimination policies through a statement of the organization and have it written down.

“Have you established a mechanism that allows people at risk to bring [their concerns] to the attention of executives?” asked Craig Pinnock, chief financial officer of Northbridge Financial Corporation.

 

This story is excerpted from one that appeared in the August-September print edition of Canadian UnderwriterFeature image by iStock.com/Giuseppe Lombardo