’Recruitment can play a significant role in addressing the underrepresentation of ethnic minority women in senior leadership,’ says senior managing director 

Markel is making diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) in its recruitment process a priority for 2024.

Morningstar DBRS’s Gender diversity: Women still under-represented at senior levels in the UK insurance sector report, published last month (5 March 2024), highlighted that female participation in management positions in the UK insurance sector has stagnated at around 35% since 2019.

However, speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Joanna Browning, Markel International’s senior managing director for people experience, explained that “recruitment can play a significant role in addressing the underrepresentation of ethnic minority women in senior leadership”.

She said: “In 2023, Markel has partnered with the Insurance Cultural Awareness Network (Ican), the first industry-wide, independent network that champions multicultural inclusion across the insurance sector.

“Through this collaboration, we offer mentoring opportunities and share our vacancies on their job board, broadening our pool of potential applicants.”

Ajay Mistry, co-founder of Ican, added: “Representation of ethnic minorities in senior roles has been a focal point for the industry.

“This year, we’ve seen a shift towards more inclusive workplace cultures and an enhanced focus on training programmes that tackle these biases.”

Meanwhile, Markel has also joined forces with McKinsey in their Connected Leaders Academy in a bid to provide support and resources to its “black and Asian leaders”.

“This initiative has not only benefited our colleagues, but has also enriched our internal talent pipelines,” said Browning.


However, while Mistry previously told Insurance Times that there was “positive momentum” for DEI in the insurance industry, he warned that the “reality is that [the industry was] in a state of continuous evolution”.

He continued: “It’s clear that continuous effort and commitment are required to fully realise the vision of a diverse and inclusive industry.

“The journey is ongoing and, while the progress is encouraging, the industry must remain vigilant and proactive in its efforts to navigate and embrace this cultural shift.”

Browning added: “When leaders engage in open discussions about race and ethnicity – approaching the topic with curiosity, respect and always within the appropriate context – it has the potential to significantly impact the sense of belonging, particularly for women.”