“Our clients aren’t just expecting that we engage with diversity & inclusion issues. Our clients are now demanding that we build truly diverse teams,” said Tricia Hobson, Partner and Chair of Norton Rose Fulbright, speaking at Dive In 2017 – the festival for Diversity & Inclusion in Insurance.

At Dive In’s Innovation Through Diversity session, Tricia spoke alongside:

  • Robin Johnson, Country Head Australia, XL Catlin;
  • Troy Roderick, Strategic Advisor, Male Champions of Change, Executive Ambassador, Catalyst Australia. Former Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Telstra;
  • Giselle Walther, Group Managing Director, Aon; and
  • Matthew Finnis, CEO, St Kilda Football Club.

 

Client focus on D&I

Diversity and inclusion is good for business – for the attraction and retention of key talent, and for a company’s bottom line. It also creates a stronger offering for clients.

Tricia explained how many of Norton Rose Fulbright’s clients and service providers are openly embracing diversity as a key business driver. For example, in April this year, MetLife in the US announced that it would remove law firms from its approved counsel list if they failed to provide an acceptable written plan to develop and advance diverse talent within their own organisations.

In addition, panel tenders are becoming increasingly specific in their D&I requirements. Data is now being requested which includes information regarding gender, cultural profiling and sexual orientation of Norton Rose Fulbright senior leaders and our engagement teams.

Clients are not stopping there. Companies are increasingly demanding that law firms not only engage in their own D&I practices but also that they use suppliers and contractors who adopt D&I initiatives.

Why?

Because diverse teams lead to diversity of thought, which can lead to greater innovation and better problem-solving capability

As Professor Scott Page of the University of Michigan has explained:

“People from different backgrounds have varying ways of looking at problems, what I call ‘tools’… The problems we face in the world are very complicated. Any one of us can get stuck.  If we’re in an organization where everyone thinks in the same way, everyone will get stuck in the same place.  But if we have people with diverse tools, they’ll get stuck in different places.  One person can do their best, and then someone else can come in and improve on it.  There’s a lot of empirical data to show that diverse cities are more productive, diverse boards of directors make better decisions, the most innovative companies are diverse.”

Messages for insurers and brokers

As Tricia observed, clients of law firms are also the clients of insurers and brokers. The D&I conditions being imposed on professional services firms will eventually be imposed on insurers and brokers – if they aren’t already.  In this way, D&I is a business imperative.

There’s no question that corporate Australia still has a long way to go before we see truly diverse and inclusive workplaces. D&I is an ongoing and evolving journey, but it’s not a straightforward one.

As Troy Roderick commented: “The real work that makes change happen is much harder than organising events [like Dive In].  Settle in for a long and bumpy ride.”

Norton Rose Fulbright proudly sponsored the 2017 Dive In festival