March 8th was International Women’s Day and huge strides have been made in women’s rights across all industries with women working at every level in insurance.

But despite the concerted drive towards equality, there’s a feeling among some of the top female professionals that things aren’t happening fast enough.

Insurance lags behind other sectors in terms of the number women in the upper echelons of the industry. At entry level, the figures are fairly evenly split – 45% women and 55% men. Dig a little deeper though, and the percentages drop the more senior the positions go. Just 37% of management roles are occupied by women and at executive or board level this drops to 21%. Other research puts these figures even lower – 18% for executive roles, just 4% of C-suite or boardroom positions and only 1% of insurance firms led by a female CEO.

There is clearly still room for improvement and with International Women’s Day this Sunday, focussed on the campaign for gender equality, there has never been a better time to not just push the glass ceiling, but truly smash it to smithereens.

The importance of female diversity in insurance

The UK insurance industry is facing a number of challenges according to PwC, with talent diversity being one of them. Studies have shown greater gender diversity can help businesses perform better and be more innovative. According to one piece of research, companies within the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to see greater profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.

It’s not just profitability which is affected by diversity. In the wider context, having women in insurance impacts on all areas of business. Men and women have different viewpoints, insights and experiences. Increasing gender diversity can create greater and better-informed debate, generate different ideas and business practices and appeal to a more diverse customer base. Female employees can improve team collaboration and have been shown to be better at reading non-verbal clues.

It can also aid recruitment and retention, with 85% of female millennials saying it is important to them when looking for an employer. A male-dominated brokerage with a stereotypical masculine culture, or which is perceived to be as such, is unlikely to appeal to talented female professionals looking for their next career move.

The benefits to clients

Lack of gender diversity can carry through into the public domain and make a company less appealing to female customers too. With women driving the majority of purchasing decisions at home, it’s serious food for thought for companies who want to maximise their customer base.

According to PwC, “a profession which is not representative of society will be less equipped to relate to its customers and their needs”. And with global consumer spending by women accounting for 40 trillion US dollars, up from 29 trillion in 2013 there is huge potential to harness this buying power for insurance products.

The message is clear – those insurers who ignore the needs of their female clients will be missing out on a huge amount of potential business.

The future of women in insurance

Thankfully, the future is looking bright for women in insurance and there are a number of initiatives which have been launched to pave the way to parity. The Women in Insurance summit last year was attended by more than 200 insurance leaders and more than 330 firms have signed up to the Government’s Women in Finance Charter, pledging to progress more women to senior roles, to recognise the importance of gender diversity and to report publicly on the changes they are making and how successful they are.

Technology is the other major disruptive issue facing the insurance industry. Yet, it is also is another area which has suffered from poor diversity in the past with just 5% of leadership positions in tech held by women and just 3% of female students revealing a career in tech is their first choice.

But with the rapid rise of insurance technology, and fast-paced rate of change, it’s an area where the diversity balance also needs redressing. There is a sustained drive to get more women into insurtech – PwC launched the Women in Insurance Technology initiative in 2018 as an industry-wide programme to empower future women leaders in insurance and technology.

RSA

The signs are good that the industry is moving in the right direction and committing to a more diverse and balanced workforce. Here at RSA we signed the Women In Finance Charter back in 2017.  Our vision is to create an environment where everyone can bring their best selves to work and we aim to build diversity across all levels of our company by creating an inclusive culture which attracts, encourages and is strengthened by diverse perspectives.

We are committed to promoting gender diversity across our workforce, in particular, improving the representation of women in senior roles. When we signed the Women in Finance Charter, we set a target of achieving 33% of women in our Management Group by 2020 and are delighted that on 31st December 2019, women made up 34.6% of our Management Group. Exceeding our target reflects the concerted effort we have made to ensure women have the opportunities and support to progress to senior levels at RSA. Championing and improving gender diversity will continue to be a key area of focus for us at RSA as we move forward.