In the era of #MeToo when the ills of sexual harassment are regularly in the news, a recent article published by Bloomberg Businessweek indicates that some men working in the London insurance market still haven’t gotten the message about appropriate male behavior.
With the devastating headline, “The Old Daytime-Drinking, Sexual-Harassing Ways Are Thriving at Lloyd’s,” the article describes the 330-year-old London insurance market as “the most archaic corner left in global finance.”
In the article, 18 women were interviewed, who detailed “an atmosphere of near-persistent harassment,” ranging from “inappropriate remarks to unwanted touching.”
Ironically, the article was published on the same day as an announcement about this year’s “Dive-In”, an international festival for diversity and inclusion in insurance, which was originally launched in the London market and has been embraced by the insurance industry across the globe.
Lloyd’s and the Lloyd’s Market Association commented on the article and condemned the continuing existence of sexual harassment.
“Lloyd’s has worked really hard to put the broadest inclusion agenda at the center of everything we do,” said Lloyd’s CEO John Neal, in a statement.
“No one should ever experience harassment of any kind at work and it is distressing to hear that this is still happening. We take it extremely seriously and will be talking to the Lloyd’s market to ensure that we stamp out these inappropriate behaviors,” Neal emphasized.
Despite the bad behavior described in the article, the Lloyd’s and London markets have made some progress with diversity and inclusion over the past decade. Women increasingly have entered leadership positions, including one of the most prominent examples, Inga Beale, who was Lloyd’s CEO between 2014 and 2018 and a self-described bisexual.
When her departure from Lloyd’s was announced in June 2018, Lloyd’s Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown, reflected on her tenure, saying, she had “set in motion a series of changes aimed at modernizing the market and making it more efficient and inclusive.”
However, the Bloomberg article had a different take on Beale’s experience as CEO, saying that she “pushed for modernization of technology, attitudes, and behaviors—and met resistance at every step.”
Therefore, the question remains about the work environment that still prevails in the Lloyd’s and London markets, even if lip service is being paid to efforts toward diversity and inclusion.
“Sexual harassment is simply indefensible in any workplace and all instances should be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. We, like all other industries facing this issue, must continue to deal with any reports of harassment, head on,” said Sheila Cameron, CEO of the Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA), which quickly issued a comment after the Bloomberg article was published. (The LMA represents the interests of the Lloyd’s community).
“Both victims and witnesses of any form of workplace harassment must be encouraged to come forward,” she continued.
“Victims and witnesses must have confidence in the robust and fair processes and procedures put in place by the leaders of their companies, and those leaders have a responsibility to ensure their workplaces are safe from any form of harassment,” Cameron said.
“In recent years the Lloyd’s and London insurance market has taken enormous strides to advance the diversity and inclusion agenda, particularly through the annual Dive In festival, which attracts thousands of market practitioners to participate each year, as well as other important initiatives such as the Inclusive Behaviours Pledge, which was signed by a large number of insurers, brokers and market associations.”
Indeed, on the same day as the Bloomberg article was published, London’s Dive In organizers sent out a press release announcing the dates of the fifth annual festival for diversity and inclusion in insurance (Sept. 24-26.)
The press release said the success of Dive In, shows “the overwhelming appetite for practical events that enable the insurance sector to translate awareness of the business case for diversity and inclusion into action.” The first festival was held in London in 2015. More than 30 countries are set to participate in this year’s event, with 9,000 attendees.
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