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Diversity and inclusion at Markel: Building a collaborative work environment where everyone is heard

As Markel grows, our leadership team continues to increase its focus on D&I by turning dialogue into action.


It was impossible to ignore the national and international news coverage of rising social unrest throughout 2020. These events impact everyone and lead to conversations about how we interact with those different from us and how we can create change in our society. Companies are also reevaluating their diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts and asking their employees, “What can we do better?”

“Diversity and inclusion have always been part of our values at Markel,” said Sue Davies, Markel’s Chief Human Resources Officer and Co-Executive Sponsor of the company’s Global D&I Steering Committee. “We’re committed to diversity and creating an open and collaborative culture where our employees can thrive and our business succeed. Part of that commitment is providing an environment where teamwork is encouraged and where people from different backgrounds with different experiences can learn from each other, embrace diversity of perspective, and support Markel’s performance.”

It starts at the top

As Markel grows, our leadership team continues to increase its focus on D&I by turning dialogue into action.

One of the first actions was creating Markel’s Global D&I Steering Committee. Established in mid-2019, the committee features 20 Markel leaders from around the world who meet regularly to discuss D&I issues, share best practices, and develop and execute Markel’s D&I strategy. “These leaders are passionate and active champions across Markel’s D&I efforts. They work with their local teams and Markel’s executive leadership team to engage employees, communicate progress and support increasing the diversity of our teams and the ongoing development of our inclusive culture,” said Davies.

To help shape the company’s D&I strategy and deliver on the associated D&I plans, Markel welcomed Trevor Gandy as Managing Director, Talent, Diversity and Inclusion in January 2021. Gandy works closely with Markel’s executive leadership, human resources team and the Global D&I Steering Committee on developing employee awareness programs, training and education opportunities, recruitment outreach, and strategic partnerships.

“At Markel, we describe our diversity and inclusion vision as #winningtogether. We believe that by creating an inclusive workplace where each individual’s diverse skills, cultural perspectives, and backgrounds are valued, we are promoting personal and business success,” said Gandy.

“We often hear the words ‘diverse’ and ‘inclusive’ being used interchangeably. But while each is essential to a high-performing workplace, these descriptors are complementary rather than synonymous. Diversity refers to the many ways in which we differ from one another. Inclusion refers to our ability to harness those differences—the richness of ideas, experience, capabilities, and perspectives that constitute diversity—and leverage them in ways that create business value. Unlike diversity, inclusion is more than a state of being. It’s a call to action, for all of us.”

As part of this call to action, Markel’s Global D&I Steering Committee has identified the following strategic priorities:

  • Understand the global D&I landscape: Understand the diversity and inclusion landscape in the areas that Markel operates and use that context to define success measures.
  • Build awareness: Create and implement a compelling campaign that establishes greater D&I awareness and action across Markel.
  • Engage employees: Mature and build the global employee networks. Build awareness and engage all employees in the role they play in creating an inclusive work environment.
  • Involve leaders: Provide the training and support for leaders at all levels to articulate the business imperative and facilitate a strong understanding of and commitment to D&I.
  • Embed D&I in business and talent practices: Integrate D&I principles and targets in talent acquisition and talent management processes.

Markel’s D&I strategic priorities in action

New initiatives related to the strategic priorities are underway at Markel. Unconscious bias workshops are now available to all employees, and Markel is incorporating D&I into its leadership development programs.

Markel has also expanded its recruiting to include candidates from inside and outside the insurance industry, creating and extending partnerships with historically black colleges and universities, partnering with a social mobility organization, and introducing a D&I scholarship program. Additionally, Markel created a new training program for hiring managers to help remove bias from the selection process and create inclusive interview experiences. These recruiting efforts have led to a more diverse slate of candidates, more new hires who identify as an ethnic minority, and a workforce that better reflects the markets in which we live and work.

Engaging current employees is also ongoing. In the wake of national news events during 2020, the Global D&I Steering Committee sponsored two town halls, including one hosted by Markel’s CoCEOs, Richie Whitt and Tom Gayner. The town halls offered a safe environment for employees to share their experiences with race and unconscious bias. The emotional discussions reaffirmed our commitment to listen, engage in candid dialogue, and advocate for all employees. Future town halls and forums are in the works to continue these powerful conversations

Markel’s employee resource groups

Along with engaging leadership, our employees discuss D&I matters through Markel’s employee resource groups (ERG). Markel Women’s Network, The Jitneys (our young professionals group), Black Engagement at Markel (BEAM), Markel Asian Professionals (MAP), PRISM (LGBTQ+), Veterans and the Inclusion Network in our international offices offer a platform for employees to raise awareness on diversity and inclusion and embrace perspectives different from their own. These groups host networking events, promote participation in community outreach and talent acquisition activities, and provide education and mentorship opportunities.

One of Markel’s newest employee resource groups, PRISM, supports and advocates for the LGBTQ+ community and their allies. The group brings awareness to LGBTQ+ policy issues, promotes Markel as a place where everyone is welcome, strengthens communities through volunteerism and their philanthropic support for LGBTQ+ non-profit organizations, and serves as a mentoring resource.

Mary Allen Waller, Markel’s Global Director, Community Engagement, who helped launch the PRISM ERG at Markel, shared, “We are grateful for the support and encouragement we continue to receive from Markel leadership and our colleagues for PRISM. Our LGBTQ+ employees and employees who are families, friends, siblings, coworkers or other allies of LGBTQ+ people, now have a supportive community that encourages us to bring our whole selves to work.”

Another notable group, BEAM, celebrated its second anniversary in December 2020. Focused on engaging Black employees at Markel, BEAM hosts events that support community engagement, D&I education, and mentorship programs for career development. BEAM has also worked with HBCUs to aid Markel’s diversity recruitment efforts and relationships with schools and students.

BEAM Co-Chair and Markel’s Senior Digital Marketing Specialist, Leonda Jiggetts, is excited about the group’s role in promoting D&I at Markel. “BEAM’s goal continues to be to ‘improve equity, education, and engagement among Black associates along with the greater Markel Community,” Jiggetts noted.

“Through our speaker events, community initiatives, and educational resources, we hope to support the overall Markel D&I initiative by providing content that promotes awareness, understanding, and empathy across the organization.”

The Inclusion Network, with members from several international offices, is building meaningful partnerships with external networks such as iCAN, the Insurance Cultural Awareness Network. “The Inclusion Network is a forum for employees from around the world to have a voice and express what makes them, and their local markets, unique,” described Nick Line, Markel’s international D&I sponsor.

Striving for a better way

While we’ve made progress in achieving a diverse and inclusive culture at Markel, we’re far from done. We regularly evaluate our D&I initiatives to keep pace with an ever-changing working landscape. Our leaders continue to search for opportunities to embed D&I into everything we do. This proactive approach empowers our employees to embrace diversity and work together to create a stronger, inclusive culture at Markel.

To quote Gandy, “Our vision for diversity at Markel is a work environment that brings out the best in all of our people and enables them to contribute their diverse backgrounds and skills to build greater understanding of the markets and customers we serve around the world, while at all times exhibiting the Markel Style.”

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