Women make up 45% of entry-level roles in insurance, but only 18% of those in the C-suite, writes Paula Coulthard Griffiths, director of insurance at Marshmallow.
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The insurance industry continues to be plagued by stigma: from outdated underwriting processes to a lack of data analysis, from legacy methods of risk assessment to old-fashioned customer service systems, this age-old industry has a reputation for being slow and reluctant to change habits. It’s a reputation that I would say is fully deserved.
This also applies to the diversity of the sector. According to Deloitte, the proportion of women in leadership positions in financial services companies has increased only modestly since 2019, from 22% to 24%. In the insurance industry, the figures are even more striking and point to a trend that suggests women are limited to only certain roles, with women accounting for 45% of entry-level positions but only 18% of C-Suite. It is therefore not surprising that female representation – both at junior and senior level – within the insurance industry is far from where it should be, particularly in terms of female leaders and role models. .
It is in all of our interests to continue working towards this goal, with a 2020 study finding that stock exchange companies where women hold at least a third of management positions have a profit margin of 15.2%, or more than ten times more than just 1.5. profit margin percentage of companies with no women on their executive committee.
So while it is true that the insurance industry has made progress towards a level playing field, many recognize that there is still a long way to go.
But all is far from lost. Having spent nearly 20 years in the insurance industry, I have seen firsthand how technology is slowly breaking down some of these tired tropes and ways of working. Insurtechs are creating new types of insurance business and, in turn, technology has become the fundamental driver of progress in the field of insurance for both customers and employees.
Looking back on my time in the industry, I’m happy to say that the number of amazing women I work with on a daily basis has grown tremendously and the space is slowly starting to move towards a more balanced workforce and diversified.
Of course, there is still a long way to go, but progress is being made thanks to advances in technology and a more open mindset at all levels.
“Assurance” and “innovation”, for many, are not words that would usually be associated. Insurance is also not an obvious place to innovate, as industry practices have remained largely unchanged from those it used hundreds of years ago. However, when it comes to products, the data that we as insurtechs can collect and the models that can be built to let us know what our customers want is seemingly endless. Essentially, we’ve never been better equipped to leverage data-driven innovation and serve typically more complex market segments.
In the same way, technology has played a vital role in breaking down silos in space, ushering in a broader and more diverse workforce. This has never been more true than during the pandemic, with new working systems that are more flexible and more adapted to the personal needs of the individual. And both men and women benefit from the fact that the stigma around flexible working has been put aside and more widely accepted over the past 2 years.
In addition to technology, however, there are more systematic considerations that need to be made to further reduce gender inequalities within the sector. Strong education for everyone across the financial services industry to better understand the importance of representation and diversity of thought is essential.
Likewise, recognizing that recruiting to achieve greater diversity should not be a passive, boilerplate exercise or simple D&I obligation. Government parental leave policies are also key to supporting parents – not just mothers – as we return to a very different work environment than we had almost exactly two years ago. These key changes would undoubtedly help the insurance industry integrate a more diverse and balanced workforce.
That said, the insurtech space is currently – and most certainly will remain – the place to be. Technology is changing insurance for good, making the industry fairer for everyone, and establishing disruptive but ultimately better ways of doing things. And as customers continue to change their buying behavior, the wider industry must keep pace. Technology is the vehicle through which we can all facilitate change, and soon traditional insurers will have no choice but to embrace it.
The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of AltFi.