US firm Allstate quiet on hiring policies after NI video reveals talk of gender-based targets

A major multinational firm has refused to answer any questions about its hiring policies, after a video showed its staff discussing gender-based employment targets.

Monday, 21st September 2020, 9:11 am
Updated Monday, 21st September 2020, 2:52 pm
Slide taken from Allstate NI YouTube video promoting 'inclusive diversity (Note: figures are 'dummy' ones, not reflecting actual Allstate headcount)

The video was made to celebrate an award recognising Allstate NI, part of a US insurance giant, for its culture of “diversity and inclusion” and “inclusive diversity”.

Setting targets or quotas for employing people based on their gender or sexuality is unlawful, the Equality Commission says.

The press release marking the award said the accolade had been down in large part to Allstate’s “recruitment of more women into IT roles”, adding: “The company achieved a 33% hiring rate for female junior recruitment levels – more than twice the 16% UK average”.

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It also recognised “progress on LGBTQ+ inclusion” too.

In the video, Allstate staff talk about “targets” repeatedly.

For example, one manager said that “one of our targets was around our intake in getting in particularly in the area of female graduates into the company; so we really needed to have the recruitment team there from the start...

“Our three initial targets were around the areas of our intake into the company in terms of gender, and getting more women into the business”.

Later in the video, a data scientist with the firm talks about ways to increase the number of females applying for jobs, asking: “Could we target female applicants and improve on our female headcount?...

“To optimise the running of the company to become more inclusive and diverse this will involve continual monitoring across multiple areas; simple things such as looking at headcounts over time.”

They also talk about a hypothetical department “performing well” because it is promoting a higher rate of women.

A manager concludes by saying that programmes like those discussed in the video “make the working environment more safe”.


The News Letter put a series of questions to Allstate:

1) Is Allstate operating a kind of target or quota system for the hiring of women into the business, and the promotion of them into higher roles (and for LGBTQ+ people)? It was put the firm that the things quoted above could support that idea, and this would surely be de facto discrimination against male applicants.

2) If not, then what exactly are the “targets” which are being spoken about so often?

3) Fundamentally what difference does someone’s gender (or sexuality) make to them being able to perform the role they are hired for?

4) Allstate has spoken of wanting to “foster a workplace culture where employees are themselves”. How would this work in the case of Christian or Muslim employees who hold traditionalist views on marriage, sexuality, etc, or in the case of feminists who oppose transgender ideology, to pick two examples?

The News Letter received no responses over a number of days – either from Allstate directly, or PR consultants Brown O’Connor.


Questions were also put to the Equality Commission, which did respond.

It said the law lets firms take measures “to encourage under-represented groups to apply”, and that they are allowed to set targets for measuring their progress on this. It also said that firms are allowed to train up people “from under-represented groups so that they are in a position to apply for vacancies” (subject to certain conditions).

The commission added: “It is unlawful, however, to make recruitment or other employment decisions based on any of the equality grounds.

“For example, it would normally be unlawful to employ (or, to refuse to employ) a person because they are white or indigenous simply because they are white or indigenous; a woman simply because she is a woman; or a man because he is a man.

“It is not lawful to set or reserve job quotas for a proportion of women/men.

“The Commission provides guidance to employers to ensure that they understand the importance of operating within the parameters of anti-discrimination legislation and to act outside these parameters would leave them open to challenge.”

Ultimately though, it said: “It would be for Allstate to comment on the actual detail of their ongoing diversity and inclusion work.”


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