Best Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace in Canada

Best Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace in Canada

Forward-thinking trailblazers

Insurance Business Canada recognizes 11 trailblazing organizations with the distinguished 5-Star Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) award of 2024. It’s an accomplishment underscored by positive employee evaluations of their overall approach to DE&I programs, which foster an inclusive culture where employees can thrive regardless of their identities.

All 5-Star awardees embrace and celebrate their employees’ differences while actively promoting equity, equality, and a sense of belonging.

Noted experts in the field stress how building an industry-leading DE&I program is a major undertaking.

“The No. 1 challenge is that it is a whole company change initiative,” says Zakeana Reid, interim CEO at CCDI Consulting. “If you don’t come at it with that perspective, you’re going to have a tough, uphill battle.”

Reid emphasizes that insurance leaders are striving to:


affect the behaviour of every person in the organization



redefine the norms



develop a compelling rationale to back the change because saying that it needs to be done isn’t enough


 

Ingrid Wilson, a board member of the Canadian Association of Black Insurance Professionals, echoes this sentiment, highlighting the continuing challenges in achieving authentic and sustainable diversity within the industry.

“There has been some progress in terms of gender, with more women in senior-level roles. However, the data still shows that this is a very slow process, and there is still an imbalance in gender parity and pay equity,” she says. “DE&I is an ongoing process, and we still have a long way to go to embed it into organizations and society to move toward equality.” 

Key elements of industry-leading DE&I programs, according to the experts, are:


understanding of who the employees are, how they feel, why they feel that way, and a plan to address any observed differences



incorporating the voices of employees, the community, and the industry



implementing intentional, actionable, and sustainable action



maintaining a non-judgmental approach



instilling employee trust and confidence that leaders are accountable



ensuring adaptability and regular review, including measuring success


 

Insurance leaders drive the success of DE&I programs

Despite the increasing DE&I pushback noted by industry experts, two of this year’s progressive organizations are setting new standards with a heightened commitment to bring about lasting change over the long haul.

 

NFP Canada – a beacon of

inclusion and equality


Overall DE&I rating: 96.3%

Top attribute: Employees know to whom and where they should go if they need to report inappropriate diversity-related behaviour.

The 5-Star employer is committed to continuously improving its DE&I initiatives and programs through open communication that encourages employee feedback via engagement surveys, indices, and assessments.

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Based on recent feedback from its workforce, NFP Canada introduced more inclusive benefit offerings, updated policies, and launched company-wide training this year to enhance its diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) efforts.

“Additionally, we have the honour of being recognized through an award like this and achieving a 93% rating for our endeavours. This validates our efforts and highlights the impact of our DEI&B initiatives,” says Jaimie Mulder, DEI&B committee chair.

These employee comments evidence the organization’s success:


“I think NFP does a great job at welcoming people of all backgrounds and cultures. It’s the most inclusive environment I have worked in.”



“We have multiple business resource groups dedicated to elevating employees personally and professionally. Our DEI&B team is my favourite part about working here, which is why I’ve referred many folks to the company.”



“As an Indigenous woman, I am so very pleased and proud at how my company acknowledges my heritage.”


 

 

 

“Our goal is to create a more equitable and inclusive environment where individuals of all backgrounds and abilities feel a strong sense of belonging and have the opportunity to succeed”

Jaimie MulderNFP Canada

 

The top insurance employer has embedded DEI&B in its culture and operational strategies. Its leaders champion and drive numerous initiatives throughout the organization, resulting in tangible outcomes for employees and the broader community, including:


increasing the number of leaders from underrepresented groups at senior levels through internal promotion and building internal mechanisms of DEI&B throughout the entire talent lifecycle, from onboarding and people experience to exiting



launching 12 regional DEI&B committees in 2023 to ensure more voices are heard, enabling the organization to embed its DEI&B strategy locally through focused efforts that serve the needs and priorities of each community


 

Another illustration of its industry-leading status is that its DEI&B committee benefits from strong leadership and financial support, including the participation of president John Haas. Other senior leaders demonstrate their executive sponsorship at company town halls, where DEI&B discussions are on the agenda.

“This leadership buy-in fosters a culture where DEI&B values are prioritized, encouraging employee engagement and setting a precedent for the organization,” Mulder says. “On a personal level, the support extends to managerial practices, allowing individuals like me to fully embrace our DEI&B roles without being overburdened, showcasing NFP’s commitment to these principles.”

 

Aviva Canada – making DE&I a priority


Overall DE&I rating: 96.3%

Top attribute: Employees would recommend the company to a friend or colleague from an underrepresented group.

DE&I programs have become central to what the 5-Star employer stands for. Its leaders play a crucial role in fostering an authentic environment where employees are encouraged to be their true selves and speak up without fear of retaliation.

Succession planning and development opportunities also ensure a diverse talent pipeline to build future leadership. Notably, in 2021, Aviva was the first Canadian financial institution to hit 50% of females in roles from VP and upward.

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“We talk about DE&I in the everyday work that we do; it’s not just a one-time thing or an event or activity,” says Natasha Mascarenhas, vice president of talent and learning. “We’re starting to see that in our talent attraction, where candidates say they want to work for an organization that supports diversity of thought, skills, and backgrounds.”

Aviva’s employees attested to its positive and inclusive work environment, noting the following:


“Our DE&I program is at the forefront of most conversations. The executive team speaks to it confidently and often; it is a truly important subject.”



“We have really moved the dial; we need to continue to engage, listen, and promote conversations.”



“My company is a strong leader in this initiative; other companies could learn from our example.”


 

 

 

“We’ve seen results because we tripled our female successors on our succession plans and quadrupled visible minorities, and we need to continue to build on that”

Natasha MascarenhasAviva Canada

 

Driven to share the positive results of its overall DE&I strategy, Aviva’s team has prioritized sharing success stories on their social media channels so the public can experience what their culture looks and feels like.

Concentrated outreach to diverse communities has also demonstrated the organization’s commitment to diversity. It has created summer student programs for members of the Black and Indigenous communities and programs for people returning to work after a leave.

Aviva Canada takes a comprehensive approach to DE&I, as evidenced by:


the recruitment team leveraging tech tools and platforms to ensure diverse hiring, such as using Textio to ensure inclusive language in job descriptions. It also started posting roles in places other than standard job boards, including on the Canadian Association of Black Insurance Professionals’ website



establishing five employee-led and executive-sponsored resource groups focusing on 2SLGBTQIA+, race and ethnicity, gender, disabilities, and age diversity



an inclusive culture has improved the performance of its people, customers, and business. For example, customer metrics are up double digits, and operating profit and growth are up 200% and 11%, respectively, without adding headcount 


 

“We want to make sure we’re not just bringing people in and hoping that they succeed, but we’re bringing people in and creating an environment where they can succeed,” says Mascarenhas.” 

 

Top insurance employers for DE&I strive

to make a difference

 

NFP Canada’s Mulder acknowledges that DEI&B initiatives require a shift in mindset, structures, and processes. However, with strong leadership support, the organization has been able to drive the importance of its initiatives from the top down.

“DEI&B is embedded in our business strategy, and through training and education, we can help each person contribute to the growth of the business,” Mulder says. “We also know it is ever evolving, which is why we regularly assess ourselves to understand the challenges better and work toward better solutions.”

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It’s an approach highlighted as essential by CCDI Consulting’s Reid, who says, “This will be a lifelong journey for all of us. Each of us will be changing and challenging our views and ideas. The door is open to a wide range of how people view themselves within this world, and I think it will be with us for a while.”

Measuring the effectiveness of DE&I strategies is a challenge for any organization. Aviva has tackled this head-on with a data-driven approach that helps them prioritize their efforts.

Mascarenhas says, “We can see where the opportunities are, and that helps us make better-informed decisions about what we will focus on and what the big things are that will make a difference for our organization and drive us forward.”

To ensure the success of its DEI&B initiatives, NFP Canada focuses on several indicators that reflect its commitment to fostering an inclusive and equitable workplace – and it’s not about numbers; it’s about real progress, says Mulder.

“One tangible measure is the growth and increased engagement within our business resource groups,” she says. “These groups are vital in offering support, fostering a sense of belonging, and driving initiatives that matter to our diverse employee base.”

Both 5-Star employers have nurtured their business and employee resource groups, credited as instrumental in their respective organizations’ transformational change.

Aviva’s Mascarenhas refers to the executive-sponsored groups as communities and says the employee leads have helped create transparent conversations and shared resources in the spirit of advocating for meaningful change.

She says, “That could mean policy changes internally, but also from an industry perspective because we work closely with our brokers and can help them realize how we’re doing things differently.” 

 

2,500–9,999 employees




Insurance Corporation of British Columbia
Westland Insurance Group

 

500–2,499 employees


 

100–499 employees


BMO Insurance
Liberty Mutual Canada
Specialty Program Group Canada

 

1–99 employees


Beazley
Excel & Y Insurance Services/Lundgren & Young Insurance
The Mutual Fire Insurance Company of British Columbia

 


 

Insights

As part of our editorial process, Key Media’s researchers interviewed the subject matter experts below for their independent analysis of this report and its findings.

 

To determine the insurance companies with the most effective DE&I programs, Insurance Business Canada’s research team first invited firms to share the DE&I initiatives they have focused on over the past 12 months. During a 15-week process, the team conducted one-on-one interviews with professionals to gain a keen understanding of the industry standards for DE&I and find out which companies have met or exceeded these expectations. After receiving nominations for DE&I initiatives, the team reached out to the companies’ employees to gauge the effectiveness of these programs. The companies that scored 4 or higher on a scale of 1 to 5 were recognized for having 5-Star DE&I programs.