“That has been very significant to making us more attractive to potential employees or current employees, as they are looking for more flexibility.”
As a result of this, the business saw an almost immediate 25 per cent increase in applications from women, three months after the policy was instigated.
She also initiated a lot of work around the language in job adverts; there is software that can analyse the language of job adverts, as some language appeals to some parts of the population more than others.
“If you’re dealing with inclusion promotion activity and retention, the same issues exist for a number of diverse groups.”
One of the ways the company tackles this is how it deals with recruiters, by simply stating clearly that they want more diverse longlists and shortlists.
“We’re very clear with our recruiters and in-house recruitment in making sure these shortlists are balanced.
“What we’re saying to our recruitment firms is we want to mirror the society that we’re in and therefore don’t send us just CVs from one part of the population.”
Another step is to move to CVs that have little identifying information, something that some companies have already instigated, finding they get a broader range of applications.
“We want to move to blind CVs as well – all you’re basing your initial take on is qualifications and experience.”
But does the insurance industry, and Zurich, have a cultural problem? Is it seen as being the domain of white middle-class males, at least in its senior ranks? Ms Timms says: “We don’t think we have a cultural issue at Zurich.
“We have inclusive leadership, and data, so that all our senior leaders get given a data pack of what the make-up is of their workforce.”
There are also programmes in place to make people from a more diverse background feel welcome and encourage them to stay. She says: “You can do all the diversity programmes in the world, but if people came into the industry and feel excluded and don’t feel welcome, they don’t stay.
“It’s a local fix rather than a long-term cultural change, and we’ve been very clear to look at that.”
But a large part of the change is being forced upon the insurance giant by external forces. While in the past their new recruits might typically have been underwriters, who may have come from a particular background, now the company is having to take on people with different skills.
“Rather than traditional underwriting and claims, we need less of those skills and we need people who work in data and tech, and who have digital backgrounds.”