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A reflection on diversity

So many of us think we are open minded and liberal. No prejudice in any way. I reckon even Donald Trump thinks that…

So in the past week I have got to thinking about diversity again, as it was a topic of major discussion in the insurance industry at the various Dive-in sessions. We are blessed here at Proclaim, as we have a multi-cultural workplace of almost 70% females, so we are spoilt for a ‘diverse’ choice as and when we promote our people. Our senior management team is equally split between males and females, while our overall management team is weighted towards women.

Our company believes strongly in advancing on merit, but we also understand the importance of gender diversity at all levels of the organisation. This is important not only for the balance of skills and views it represents, but also for attracting and retaining the best talent. So I can look at our diverse team and think, I get this, it works.

Having said that, a little while ago a few of my (male) friends and I had a little bit of an awakening. We were having one of our annual music nights, where we each submit a list of our favourite songs in a genre or time period. In this case we decided that female artists had been under represented in our lists to date…and so it would be a nice twist just to rate our favourite ‘frock rock’ tunes.

So we had a great evening playing a combined top 20 of our favourite songs from female artists, such as Blondie, Janis Joplin, PJ Harvey, Dusty Springfield, Amy Winehouse and Patti Smith, to name just a few.

Most of us during the evening came to the realisation that women have more than their fair share of the great songs of our time. So, why then, have most of us largely disregarded them in numerous prior lists we have done – like Best of America, Aussie, British, etc. Were we just not thinking openly enough about those women in those lists when we compiled them?

It was suggested during the evening that it is more than a possibility that 15 middle aged blokes were unconsciously biased against women. That got me thinking. I looked at my past lists – male dominated. Then I looked at the art in the office – a little better, but still a majority of men. Is it possible that you could be biased without even thinking about it? We might have railed in the past against quotas and affirmative action, but maybe all these initiatives were designed to do was to balance the unconscious propensity we have to favour one over another. And maybe it is necessary to ensure subsequent generations don’t make the same mistakes.

So it was a great night, with the top 20 frock rock tunes below. But it wasn’t just me who got to thinking after the evening…one of our comrades sent me this email…. “I enjoy nothing better than a night of music geeks.  But all I can think about today is my unconscious bias against women.’

So our aim at Proclaim is to ensure we have diversity and balance here and while we currently do a good job I can see pretty clearly that we need to ensure there is no complacency or self-congratulation, as there remain areas of the business – like the music we play, the art we display – where the balance isn’t probably right, and we need to be alive to it.

Written by Jon Broome

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