Abic promoting diversity, equity and inclusion
A unit of the Association of Bermuda International Companies is focused on promoting a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
Philip Vandoninck, chairman of Abic’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee is also chief executive of Fidelis Insurance Bermuda Ltd.
He said: “When you see the corporate numbers on the representation of groups by gender and ethnicity, it’s clear there’s a massive divide.”
“You can’t hide from it. Then, the question is: what are you going to do about it?”
In 2019, Fidelis defined its DEI goals with an overarching target of achieving a proportionate representation at all seniority levels in the business, with ten-year and 15-year targets.
He concedes: “When you speak to people in the Black community on the island, they feel that there's been a lot of talk and willingness shown, but they want to see more action.
“To help encourage more business leaders to take action, it makes sense to share practices that have worked, so that others can adopt them.
“The DEI Committee hosted a round table with executives of some of the newer companies on the island. I explained what we’ve been through, the mistakes we’ve made and what we’re doing now. We will have more conversations like this to encourage positive change.”
Startups tend to lack diversity in their rush of initial recruitment. Having had personal experience of establishing two new companies on the island – Hiscox in 2005 and Fidelis in 2015 – Vandoninck explained what tends to happen.
“You have to do so much work that you're swept off your feet,” he said. “So, on the hiring front, you're likely to look for people you already know. That should be avoided, because it perpetuates the lack of diversity.”
Some of the hiring managers in Bermuda are expatriates, who may not understand the roots of Bermuda’s racial tensions and social inequity. Education is key to addressing the issue.
The company has partnered with the National Museum of Bermuda to provide a programme for all employees called “Exploring history through a corporate lens”, involving participatory workshops that explore the history of enslavement, emancipation and segregation in Bermuda.
Fidelis employees were introduced to critical thinking methods that unpack the historical topics, challenge biases and encourage discussion and reflection on how to apply what they learnt to their work and personal lives.
“Everyone who joins our company has to do these courses,” Mr Vandoninck said.
“I think it will help build an understanding of how historical dynamics have shaped Bermuda society. Being informed is a very important aspect to understand other people's perspective.”
Elena Strong, executive director of the National Museum of Bermuda, said: “Learning history is central to understanding contemporary issues.
“At NMB, our priorities are to deepen understanding of Bermuda's complex past for all and a commitment to promoting lifelong learning and facilitating community engagement. This programme does just that and we are thrilled to partner with Fidelis.”