News AirPlus 09 Mar 2018

Diversity needs to be 'inclusive' to make a real difference

| 09 Mar 2018

In light of International Women's Day, Mr Chris Wei, Executive Chairman for Asia & FPI, and Global Chairman, Aviva Digital, shares the company's vision on diversity and inclusion and the path to progress.

There’s a lot being said about diversity these days. We see it bandied about in the news, national parliaments, and annual reports – and for good reason. 

How we think is affected by who surrounds us. This is of particular importance for a 322-year old organization like Aviva, as we continue to focus on being a disruptor in the insurance industry. However, disruption doesn’t happen overnight. Whilst we take pride in our rich history, being used to “the usual way of doing things” can also be a barrier in our pursuit of innovation.

This is why diversity plays an essential role in our transformation. Our thinking is not going to change if we only have actuaries and underwriters in our midst. To make a real shift, we need a breadth of perspectives. It naturally follows that if a business is serious about evolving, it must rethink the types of talent it needs in order to bring the company forward.

Today, diversity in the workplace is no longer an option. It is a prerequisite. A diverse workforce serves as a mirror of our customers – we draw on it to understand our customers’ increasingly varied needs, and come up with the innovative ideas and propositions required to address them. 

However, an organization’s quest for diversity doesn’t end with bringing in a mix of people – that’s just step one.  Truly embracing diversity is about recognizing the breadth of expertise, backgrounds and views that every individual brings to the table. It is about celebrating differences and empowering people to express their uniqueness, instead of integrating everyone into a common culture. We term this ‘inclusive diversity’ at Aviva, and it lies at the heart of our business.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day – a day dedicated to recognizing, appreciating and celebrating women worldwide, and a cause that Aviva strongly advocates. From launching our ‘Women in Leadership’ programme to supporting events such as the inaugural Women of the Future (Southeast Asia) in Singapore this March, Aviva has been committed to creating an equal playing-field and breaking the glass ceiling for women for years.

Diversity remains a lesson in progress for most, if not all, and much more remains to be done. However, it is positive to note that we are starting to have more conversations on its importance both in the workplace and in society. It is also encouraging to see more light being shed on other aspects such as ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and disability, amongst others, for true diversity extends beyond gender.

Ultimately, nothing happens without the right culture – and therein lies the real challenge. To prevent what I affectionately term “organizational tissue rejection”, organizations need to create a truly open environment where all employees can be confident about being themselves, are able to share their honest views without fear of discrimination, and are able do their best work. Similarly, leaders need to drive change by walking the talk, and actively championing the need to redefine workplace diversity. Only then, will the organization become truly inclusive, and primed to make a meaningful difference.

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