Diversity in the Insurance and Reinsurance Sector – A Work in Progress
March 08, 2017
Say the words “gender diversity” to any senior female leader in the insurance or reinsurance sector, and most will take a deep breath. I believe the sector has come a long way in its endeavor to increase the number of women in senior leadership roles since I joined the industry 23 years ago. While I’m encouraged by the focus on diversity and inclusion, there is still much work to be done to establish an equal playing field. Today is International Women's Day (March 8), and it gives us another opportunity to reflect on progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate milestones achieved. Throughout my career, I have often been the only woman and/or the only African American when I walk into a room. Across the insurance and reinsurance market there now seems to be a recognition that diversity is important for us to be successful. Gender and diversity isn’t just a tick-box exercise; it is being recognized as more fundamental than that. It’s about profits; it’s about ensuring individuals fully understand why their teams perform better if they reflect their customers; and it’s about ensuring we are not limiting options or missing out on opportunities. The best minds are needed regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or creed. Most importantly, it’s about removing barriers to success for everyone. Companies with a stake in the global economy need a workforce and leadership that understand and are sensitive to the implications of differing racial, ethical, gender and religious viewpoints. International Women’s Day (and its hashtag #beboldforchange) can also be used as a vehicle for change, to make sure the impetus is not lost. Last year, organizations and individuals around the world supported the #PledgeForParity campaign, which saw a renewed call for gender-balanced leadership, as well as creating inclusive and flexible cultures and to value women and men's contributions equally.But statistics from the World Economic Forum predict the gender gap won't close entirely until 2186. This is much too long to wait. More needs to be done to drive greater change for women to move us closer to gender equivalence. International Women’s Day can be an important catalyst to make some noise about this important topic again.
Today is International Women's Day (March 8), and it gives us another opportunity to reflect on progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate milestones achieved.
It is no secret that the insurance and reinsurance industries could do a much better job around marketing and exposure, particularly to young people. However, it may be easier to attract women and people of all colors and backgrounds if there are respected role models. I was lucky – I was mentored by a wonderful woman called Urs Foley,who was the Reinsurance CIO when I joined XL Catlin, and one of the few women in a senior role in the IT world. She taught me how to conduct myself, how to be efficient, and how to value and share my perspective. She was excellent at her job, and just happened to be a woman.She taught me that I could not just quietly rely on hard work to drive my career, but that I also needed to take the simple steps of asking for what I wanted, and then to take the necessary actions to move my career forward.I’ve also had male bosses such as Doug Olson and John Welch who were both instrumental in my career progression. Both of them pushed to me to think in ways that were out of my comfort, to take risks and not be afraid of failure, all of which helped me to succeed. John in particular provided me with the example of the kind of leader I wanted to be. This need to increase women in leadership ranks is important, and retention and promotion are key efforts to achieving this. The insurance and reinsurance sectors are experienced at working across geographies and product lines, but they must also learn how to work across genders. That is why there is a need for a greater focus on leadership skills. It is heartening to see the number of programs and initiatives in the sector at the moment around diversity and inclusion, and I would encourage women to take those opportunities to meet like-minded people. Connect with colleagues and peers who can help provide guidance and also help navigate some of the work issues that you come across. We have come a long way since I began working in the industry. There are many more women in senior leadership roles, and we have made a great deal of progress. But there is still a lot more work needed to be done. Companies need to push for diversity of all stripes in order to stay competitive – and the ones that do will not only survive in the global economy but will thrive.
Introduction by Shiwei Jin, Global Programs & Captives Regional Director APAC, AXA XL, a division of AXA
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