The fight for gender equality in the workplace has been long and exhausting. Women have battled for decades against harassment, for equal pay and to be taken seriously by their male colleagues.
And while the struggle continues, there are signs that things are beginning to change, especially in the insurance industry. I am well aware of the reputation of our sector – that it is the embodiment of pale, stale and male – but never before has gender equality been taken so seriously.
In the past two years, the Dive In festival, the She for Shield initiative and Insuring Women’s Futures have underlined the importance of women, both as employees in the insurance industry, and as important customers.
More recently, the Chartered Insurance Institute’s Inspirational Women in Riskpublication, which showcases some of the leading women in the sector, underlined that insurance is slowly becoming a world where people are judged on their merits and not on their gender.
It’s funny that, even in the face of early progress there are those that will single the insurance industry out for criticism. Earlier this week, Jayne-Anne Gadhia, chief executive of Virgin Money, told the Transport Select Committee that the insurance sector was less committed to gender equality than the banking sector.
This is despite the insurance industry arguably having more high profile women in its ranks than any of its rivals. Evelyn Bourke is the CEO of health insurance giant Bupa, Sian Fisher is the CEO of the Chartered Insurance Institute, the professionalism body for the sector and Inga Beale serves as the CEO of Lloyd’s, the 329-year-old beating heart of the City and the centre of the insurance world.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Besides myself and my role at AXA as CEO of the UK and Ireland, Tulsi Naidu, CEO of UK insurance giant Zurich and Annette Court, chairperson of the board at FTSE 100 insurer Admiral, there are a host of young female leaders forging their own path. Phoebe Hugh, co founder and CEO of Brolly, Becky Downing, CEO of Buzzmove and Sam White, CEO and founder of Pukka Insurance have all brought their own companies to the sector in the past few years.
Yes, our reputation precedes us – the PWC Millennials study revealed that only 13% of recent female graduates globally wanted to work in insurance – and we have work to do to change that. But there is a strong and growing female presence, as well as a number of male leaders who are actively promoting and mentoring women, that are bringing us into the here and now, and will not stand for women being treated like second class citizens.
The fight is not over, and there is still a long way to go, but for the first time ever there are signs that things are slowly starting to improve.
There is nothing wrong in taking pride in our early progress, the insurance industry is fully committed to gender equality and our efforts should be taken seriously, both by our fellow financial services sectors and the wider business world.
Amanda BLANC, Group CEO at AXA UK
Source : In