Aviva’s Jan Gooding: Strategy of inclusion will drive outcome of diversity

Jan Gooding, Aviva

Bereft of inclusivity, any forward-thinking diversity drive is likely to fall flat. It’s not enough to hire people from diverse cultures if a business can’t embrace and galvanise those views. Like any brand looking to change people’s attitudes, Aviva turned to its top marketer to figure out how to move beyond tolerance to inclusion.

It’s a “huge marketing job”, says Jan Gooding, the global brand director turned chief inclusion officer at the FTSE 100 company. Just as she would for a carefully pruned marketing strategy, Gooding must now prove the business case for why the “strategy is the inclusion of everyone but the outcome is diversity”. Too many confuse the two, chasing headcount quotas without acknowledging inclusion as the behaviour that welcomes those diverse recruits.

Consequently, Gooding insisted her new title change from “diversity director”, as it was originally pitched, to feature “inclusion”. The word ‘diversity’ can spark a “completely reductive” thought process internally, one that dilutes the issue down to “men versus women”, she said at the Diversity in Marketing and Advertising Summit in London earlier this month. If Gooding is going to be advising Aviva’s executive team in Singapore -where it is illegal to be gay - then her role there is to help them push relevant messages without inadvertently outing anyone in those offices.

“There’s no point putting an exotic fish into the tank if the other fish don’t allow it to be included in the school,” Gooding continues. “What they do is literally eat it . That’s why the inclusion and the belonging side [of the discussion] are so important.”

But before the former marketer can amplify inclusion, she must have insights. There are “six dimensions” Gooding wants to measure to reveal a macro view of diversity, which in turn will help her understand when the company is being exclusive and when it is being divisive. Currently, Aviva measures age and gender. Gooding also wants to measure disability, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity. From the early reporting that’s been done so far, she has been surprised to learn that it isn’t just people’s sexual orientation or gender that’s shrouded in angst – many are reluctant to disclose disability, race, ethnicity, age, faith and “other things”.

“We’ve got to do the work so that our workforce is empowered to tell us who they are,” she continues. “I can measure those six dimensions in every single country in which we operate and I can compare it to the typical demographic of that market. Demographics will change. The only thing that’s consistent in every market is gender – and I suspect LGBT as well.”

Read the full interview with Gooding in the June issue of The Drum, available here.

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