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AILO says 'visible leaders' must be at the heart of Pride month

The Association for International Life Offices (AILO) is putting the spotlight on visibility to mark the beginning of Pride month.

It wants the cross-border life sector to be at the “forefront of positive change by encouraging the industry to set an example for other sectors to follow”.

This means creating truly diverse and inclusive working environments across the profession in terms of gender, sexuality, gender identity and representation from Bame groups.

Mark McLane, head of diversity, inclusion and wellbeing at M&G and a member of Ailo’s diversity and inclusion committee, said: “Visible leaders create a path for others to follow. During Pride month, it’s important to reflect on the power of visibility.

“Within a generation, due in part to increased visibility, attitudes towards those who identify as LGBT+ have transformed. But acceptance isn’t yet universal. While many organisations have made considerable strides in supporting LGBT+ employees, more work needs to be done to improve equality and inclusion within the workplace and society.”

Ailo also said that change has to come “from the top down”, where leaders need to take the initiative and be accountable to drive “change from within”.

‘An opportunity to show support’
While that is easier said than done, McLane explains it is paramount to have positive role models at the top.

He added: “Some years ago, as an LGBT+ leader, I was asked to put myself forward for the OUTstanding in Business List. I’ll admit I hesitated at first, but by stepping forward I realised that I would encourage others to do the same; and we need leaders across the spectrum of the LGBT+ community to make a conscious decision to be visibly out.”

As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers, which is why the role of allies is so important to drive change, McLane said. “From both within the LGBT+ community and outside it, we all have a role to play. I was fortunate to have many heterosexual white women and men as allies as I faced challenges in my life and career, and I feel a responsibility to be an ally for my transgender and LGB+ colleagues of colour. Pride month is an opportunity to show that support actively.”

But visibility, allyship and equality are not just about internal culture, Ailo added. Firms will not only benefit in terms of workforce, their efforts will trickle down to their business lines as well.

This is because companies with diverse and inclusive teams are “21% more likely to experience above-average profits when they reflect the diversity of their customers and clients,” Ailo said.

This shows that visibility works both ways, as it creates a working environment which welcomes diversity and, at the same time, reflects the society the sector serves.

‘Strong position’
Vicki Hotchkiss, head of talent and organisation development at Ailo member Canada Life, said: “As an organisation that has member companies based in several leading financial centres — including the EU, UK Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of Bermuda and the Cayman Islands — Ailo is in a strong position to lead on diversity, inclusion and equality.

Hotchkiss, who is also on Ailo’s diversity and inclusion committee, added: “In addition to the support of members and associate members. We’ve also had a fantastic response from IFAs who share our vision to create truly diverse, inclusive working environments across the industry.”

This article was published in International Adviser on 8 June 2021.

16th June 2021

AILO's Diversity & Inclusion Committee supports PRIDE