Diversity and inclusion are non-negotiable

Diversity and inclusion
Sharron-Moana Botica, Chief Customer Officer

If you want a business that attracts and retains top talent then a diversity strategy has to be your number one priority.

Over the last ten years, Sovereign has become a multi-cultural business that reflects the country we serve. If you take a walk through our offices you will see representatives from more than 50 ethnic backgrounds.

Diversity of thought benefits our customers, makes us more innovative as a business and helps us to develop new products.

The way things have been done previously are not the way they need to be in the future.

We understand that this journey will never end – there is always more we can do. Recently, we started the process of integrating the “MX” salutation and “X” gender reference into both our customer and people systems. These designations refer to individuals who either don’t identify as being of a particular gender, or for people who don’t want to be identified by gender.

As Sovereign’s LGBTI executive sponsor, and an ally of the Rainbow community, understanding what it means to be intersex was important to me. I didn’t fully realise what it meant until viewing this video, which was passed to me by a member of the Rainbow community at Sovereign. Watching this video really struck a chord.  It was obvious how challenging and difficult life could be through a lack of inclusion.

So we set about making these changes happen. Introducing the “MX” salutation was easy enough but including the “X” designation in our customer system was a little harder – the main reason being that insurance premiums are calculated in part by gender.

We worked with key stakeholders to help them understand why these changes mattered and the positive impact it would make to our business. We also connected with influencers across the company who could help us explain why these changes were relevant for different departments.

Finally, once the changes were made, we used the communication channels available to us to let people know these options were now available to them.

For anyone attempting a similar change I would recommend the following actions:

  • Bring all the people (or departments) that are impacted together.
  • Start the conversation with a view as to why it is important to do this.
  • Don’t get dragged down to why it can’t happen.
  • Understand responses and work out a plan on how to resolve them.
  • Focus on the end result.

The value of these changes is that we are making a difference to people who were previously excluded. This has made many people proud to be part of Sovereign.

Even ten years ago, there would not have been the sliver of an opportunity for an insurance company to consider gender X. It is a sign of how much we have evolved, and the value of ongoing diversity and inclusion activity, that we have been able to challenge history.

We are in the process of updating our systems and collateral that has gender sections, changes that will take time but importantly the changes are underway.

It is also a sign of Sovereign’s transformation – the way things have been done previously are not the way they need to be in the future.

I’m happy to answer any questions about Sovereign’s diversity strategy – so feel free to fire away in the comments below.

 

Author: Sharron-Moana Botica

As the Chief Customer Officer at Sovereign, New Zealand’s largest life insurer, I am proud to lead a dedicated team of people who are motivated to ‘be the difference in life’s moments of truth’. I am a champion of diversity and inclusion across New Zealand and work with the United Nations, Rainbow Tick and The Human Rights Commission to make a difference, not only for our customers and staff but all New Zealanders. I am extremely proud to have introduced the option for all of our customers to identify as gender neutral and for launching Sovereign’s partnership with The Hunger Project, which provides an immersive leadership training programme for emerging talent.

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