Diversity: two female employees from ACIA
From left: Paola Karlsson and Emma Phelan, Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics. Image: Luke Maxwell

At the Aon Centre, diversity isn’t just a buzzword

8 Mar 2017

On International Women’s Day, companies around the world celebrate the women on their teams. At the Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics, those women are celebrated every day.

It is no secret that the number of women in tech roles, globally, is woefully low. Look at the top tech companies, such as Apple, Facebook and Google, and you’ll see representation percentages in the low 20s – if you’re lucky.

Most of these companies talk a big game. Many, very publicly, have diversity policies designed, ostensibly, to attract and recruit a diverse talent base. And yet the numbers speak for themselves.

Thankfully, not all companies are created equal. At the Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics (ACIA), diversity isn’t just for International Women’s Day – it’s for life.

While, of course, gender is only a small part of the wider diversity problem, the ACIA nevertheless sports impressive figures. With a 42:58 split, women to men, the company has achieved gender representation far above industry standards.

Those women work across all functions of the business, from consultants and analysts all the way up to chief operating officer.

This is largely because of the ACIA’s awareness that diversity of thought, diversity of ideas and diversity of background build a more innovative company.

“[Diversity and inclusion] is inherent in our culture … We are alert to the fact that, in a centre for innovation and analytics, creativity stems from all aspects of our skills, experiences and backgrounds, and ensure that our talent agenda is considerate of the opportunities [diversity and inclusion] enables,” said Oisín O’Gogain, head of HR at ACIA.

Walking the talk – or playing it

But at the ACIA, and at Aon, diversity isn’t just an internal aim. It’s something the company walks and talks outside the walls of its Dublin office.

Aon has been the main sponsor of the Irish Women’s Rugby team since 2014. For the company, it’s an important way to support the empowerment of women in all aspects of their lives.

Of course, though, the company’s focus is on building a diverse team within Aon and within the ACIA.

“It’s important that we attract and retain the best talent, and a diverse workforce leads to a diversity of thinking,” said Katherine Conway, Aon’s head of diversity and inclusion, and community affairs.

“To ensure we are attracting a diverse range of talent, we have a number of sourcing strategies, working with community groups and focusing on different talent pools to ensure we are seen as an employer of choice.”

According to Conway, diversity and inclusion are hard-coded into Aon’s DNA, and the company has a number of groups in place to drive an inclusive culture.

One of those groups is the Women’s International Network (WIN), an internal networking group establish to promote the development of Aon’s diverse talent pool. It provides mentorship, and paths for professional and personal growth, advocating workplace flexibility and visibility.

Internal projects, including one designed to increase the visibility of senior female leaders, further drive the point home, making it easier for women to envision a long career path at Aon and the ACIA.

There are many other programmes in train at the company, all of which add up to one important thing: a workplace where women are happy and feel supported.

It’s time for more companies to follow their lead.

Updated, 12.32pm, 8 March 2017: This article originally misstated the gender split at ACIA. It has been updated to reflect the correct figures.

Kirsty Tobin
By Kirsty Tobin

Kirsty Tobin served as careers editor of Silicon Republic from 2015 up to August 2017. When she was younger, she had a dream where she started and won a fight with a T-Rex, so she’s pretty sure she kicked butt at this, too. Passions include eating all the cake, watching more TV than is healthy and sassy comebacks.

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