Powering AXA XL's inclusion and diversity journey

Diversity-and-inclusion

By AXA XL Global Head of Inclusion & Diversity Anna Beninger

The insurance industry is not known for its diversity. It’s been considered too male and too white for far too long. According to McKinsey, while women make up 57% of entry-level positions in the insurance industry, this decreases to 28% at the VP level and just 18% at the SVP level. And for nonwhite women, it’s even more grim. They hold only 12% of entry-level roles in insurance and a mere 3% of C-suite roles.

Fortunately, there’s been some progress in changing things. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, pulling U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, the percentage of nonwhite employees in the insurance workforce stood at 21.4% in 2019, an increase from 19.8% the prior year. In 2010, the percentage of nonwhite insurance workers was just 15.3%.

Many in the industry want to see more progress. In fact, they believe the industry needs to pick up the pace on improving diversity and inclusion to meet its talent requirements and be in the best position possible to address clients’ quickly changing risk management needs. To drive more progress, industry members are collaborating through initiatives like the annual Dive In Festival and enlisting more resources and inclusion and diversity experts to help like Anna Beninger, AXA XL’s Global Head of Inclusion & Diversity. Here Anna shares why accelerating inclusion and diversity efforts is high on AXA XL’s priority list and what she and her team are doing to drive change:

Why is Inclusion & Diversity a strategic business priority for AXA XL?
In a fast-changing, ever-shifting global marketplace, I&D are essential elements of our business strategy. Our capacity to innovate and build the most profitable business will depend on our ability to attract talent with diverse backgrounds and include everyone equally. Insurance is a relationship business and if we can’t build relationships because we can’t relate, connect, or engage with our clients and broker partners, then we’re at a disadvantage.

What is your role as the Global Head of I&D at AXA XL?
As the Global Head of I&D, I am responsible for designing, positioning, and delivering the enterprise I&D mission and strategy in support of the AXA XL global business and in alignment with the AXA Group Culture, Inclusion & Diversity strategy. AXA XL reaches across almost 30 countries around the world, so to achieve these goals, I partner with local HR and business leaders to bring the global strategy to life at the regional and local levels in ways that are culturally relevant.

What is AXA XL doing to create a culture where colleagues can bring their full selves to work?
At AXA XL, we value diversity in all its forms, and it is critical that every colleague feels comfortable bringing their full selves to work every day so they can thrive and perform at their best. Our Global Dignity at Work Policy ensures that we maintain a workplace where individual differences are encouraged and valued, and everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Starting at the top, our CEO and senior leadership team walk the talk and serve as role models for fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. They serve as Executive Sponsors of our five colleague-led global Business Resource Groups (BRGs) focused on gender, LGBTQ+, historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, disability, and inclusion. Through our BRGs, we address the challenging topics, have courageous conversations, and learn from people who are different from ourselves. These forums provide an opportunity for people from all backgrounds to be their true selves at AXA XL.

What does the future of insurance look like from your perspective?
As an industry, we’re at a crossroad today. Insurance isn’t seen as a very inspirational or interesting field, despite being pretty cool in reality. So, for decades, the majority of people drawn into insurance have had a friend or family member in the industry. As a result, the industry is primarily made up of people with similar backgrounds. But the type of risks we underwrite have expanded significantly and become increasingly complex, creating new demands for talent with diverse backgrounds. Now, we are competing across all industries for talent with technical, data and analytic capabilities, and interpersonal skills that facilitate inclusion and drive innovation. The future of insurance depends on our ability to value transferrable skills and tap into the full talent pool so we can attract people with diverse backgrounds who wouldn’t previously have considered coming into this industry.

Why does I&D matter to you?
I’ve been passionate about I&D for most of my life. I fiercely believe that everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed, and that everything that makes us unique and different from one another makes us stronger together. As a woman and a person with a disability, I personally have faced barriers in my life and career and have been overlooked and undervalued in the past. I’m not alone in my experiences, and people from historically underrepresented groups continue to face challenges in the insurance industry as reflected by the lack of role models from diverse backgrounds in senior leadership. Having spent more than a decade as a researcher and consultant in I&D, I am deeply committed to challenging the status quo and ensuring that AXA XL is a company where people from all backgrounds succeed and thrive.

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About AXA XL

AXA XL is the P&C and specialty risk division of AXA which provides property, casualty, professional and speciality products to industrial, commercial and professional firms, insurance companies and other enterprises, here in the UK and throughout the world. With underwriting teams based in the US, UK, EMEA and Asia Pacific regions, we can make decisions close to the markets you serve and work with you to tailor cover to your business needs.

We help businesses adapt and thrive amidst change. Rather than just paying covered claims when things go wrong, we go beyond protection into prevention so your business can go beyond the unexpected.

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