The co-founder of the Insurance Cultural Awareness Network said there were ‘real core issues’

Words are currently speaking louder than actions where diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace is concerned, according to the co-founder of the Insurance Cultural Awareness Network (Ican).

Ajay Mistry said there were “real, core issues” with the industry’s approach to D&I – unequal pay for women among them – during Insurtech Insights Europe conference earlier this month (March 2023).

The comments followed figures from the PricewaterhouseCoopers Women in work index report identifying a significant widening of the UK’s gender pay gap in 2021.

This report was based on a survey of 22,000 women across 33 countries involved in the intergovernmental Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Published on 7 March 2023, the report revealed the gap widened by 2.4 percentage points to 14.44% in 2021 – four times the average increase recorded across the OECD as a whole.

Mistry said: “We don’t have equal pay for women at the moment – that is a real core issue.”

As a co-founder of Ican, Mistry’s work includes supporting multicultural inclusion across the insurance sector.

He said that “big power topics” needed to be addressed with more than just words. 

“With these big power topics that are talked about but never dealt with – that’s a concern,” Mistry said.

“It’s something we need to address – a lot of it needs to be intentional rather than just words.”

‘Important to listen’

One example of an insurtech figure looking to push boundaries in D&I is Selina Bilton, co-founder of startup Lukango.

The London-based business was founded in September 2021 – it serves small businesses and sole professionals and raised £275,000 in a pre-seed funding round in October 2022.

Bilton said: “[Only] 26% of technologists are women and that number has stayed static for the last couple of years.

“One of the reasons that I co-founded Lukango, which is a black female startup, is to change those numbers.”

Bilton explained how she felt walking into an organisation of 4,000 people as the most senior black woman in the firm.

She said: “I had these people looking at me to be their saviour – I had women come to me and say ‘we need help, we are not being heard.’

“I had to listen to those stories and figure out what I can do to help these groups.

“Everybody has got stories to tell, hardships they want to share [and] I think that’s a positive thing – the most important thing is listening.”

Meanwhile, Frank Starling, founder and chief executive of D&I consultancy Variety Pack, said the nature of hybrid working had made inclusivity challenging in the workplace.

He encouraged delegates to think about what “allyship” really is and how to get underrepresented groups to join the industry in greater numbers.

“Let’s move away from any kind of performative actions,” Starling added.

“Let’s focus on true solidarity within underrepresented communities to see respect and true amplification, because companies want to do the right thing.”