Katie Wadey, Chief Customer Officer of LV=
Last week, Buckingham Palace appointed its first female head guard. When the news was announced, defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon said that he wanted roles in the armed forces to be determined by ability not gender. Now while he was obviously taking about the armed forces, for me I think the same principles apply to every industry we work in.
For some people, when they talk about diversity they mean gender split but for me it's always been much broader than that. It's about diversity of thinking and cultural backgrounds as well. Obviously, the male and female gender split is important and needs to be addressed but it's just one part of a much bigger picture.
Within insurance, all areas of diversity are crucial. Why? Firstly, we have a very diverse customer base. At LV=, we have five million customers and no one customer will be the same as another, so why should the people who work in our company be any different? Secondly, if everyone thought the same way we'd never make any progress as a business, so we need people who have different opinions and speak up without fear of challenging. Finally, we owe it to future generations to do our bit. The world they are growing up and will work in will be different from what we experience today, so we need to embrace change sooner rather than later to make things better for them.
The easy part is admitting that things need to change. The difficulty is in actually achieving this. Within LV=, we have a number of diversity and inclusion networks, ranging from LGBT, multi-cultural groups and disability networks. What's more though is that our Chairman and Chief Executive, Alan Cook and Richard Rowney, are both strongly committed to making change happen.
As a member of the executive, I'm also a huge advocate for change. Having a career and being a mum of two, diversity and inclusion is extremely important to me. Both my husband and I really enjoy our jobs, so childcare is always a constant balancing act in our lives. . What I have learnt is not to ask for permission but manage my working week in the best way I can. I do most of the family and school activities but I also often work into the evening and catch up in my own time. For many years, women have been told that they need to pick between being a mum and having a job but I just don't buy into that. You should be able to have both and not need to make a choice. The key to achieving this is picking the right company to work for. And that's one of the reasons I wanted to work for LV=.
Yes, we're not perfect. The industry itself is quite heavily male dominated and that's something that does need to change – no offence to all the men in insurance! But it shouldn't change just so we can tick the gender box. This isn't about getting more women into jobs. Personally, I'd be devastated if I was only given a job because I'm a woman. We all want to know that we've been given our jobs because we've earned them and are the right person to do it - exactly like the Buckingham Palace Guard. That means changing our approach to recruitment. While it's easy to hire someone not too dissimilar to yourself, the problem with this is that you'll just end up having people who think the same and a company and sector that employees these groups of people is never going to remain attractive to its customers and exist in years to come.
And that's precisely why as an industry we need less talk and more action when it comes to diversity and inclusion. We all know what we need to do, so let's start doing it.