There is unlikely to be a surge of women in leadership roles in the insurance industry anytime soon, according to an Australian spokeswoman for Ernst and Young.
The comments came after a recent global poll by services firm EY
, which revealed that just 6% of insurers believed that there would be a significant increase in female leaders in the industry in the next five years.
The survey across 23 countries found that 72% of senior leaders in the insurance industry expected a ‘slight’ increase in female leadership and there was also widespread acknowledgement of the benefits of gender diversity in senior roles, however just 38% of insurance firms surveyed formally measure progress towards gender parity.
The ‘Placing Gender on the Financial Services Agenda’ report discovered there were four ‘disconnects’ holding back gender parity including the reality disconnect, where business leaders assume the problem is already solved; the data disconnect, where companies do not effectively measure their progress to gender parity; the pipeline disconnect, where organisations are not creating pipelines for future leaders; and the perception and perspective disconnect, where men and women view the problem differently.
Antoinette Elias, Oceania sector leader – wealth & asset management at Ernst & Young said the findings of the global study were certainly relevant to the local market, with all four disconnects identified in the report applicable to Australia.
“Based on what we know, I think all of those things are equally relevant to the insurance sector here. There are a lot of studies now and a lot of knowledge about the issues, and I think we often suffer from trying to solve one of the issues when we actually need to solve all four,” she said.
“It’s hard to predict where things will end up in five years’ time so I think the real question is: is the industry going to start implementing strategies that are going to have a positive impact on that dial, because at the end of the day, the results will only happen once certain strategies are in place.”
Elias said increasing diversity was a business imperative given that there was overwhelming evidence linking gender parity to innovation and better financial performance, especially during times of transformation and disruption.
Teams with more women had been shown to be better at logistical analysis, coordination, planning and problem solving, she said.
A report from the Peterson Institute found that 30% of female representation on boards could increase company net profits by 6%.
“It’s not just the insurance industry. There are countless industries which have historically had a very high male population because historically it may have been work more suited to males. But when it comes to leadership, there’s no reason why a man or women would be better or worse suited to it,” she said.
“Leadership is all about strategic thinking; it all depends on the individual so it’s quite interesting really. Some industries look at the general populace of their workforce but those statistics are almost irrelevant when it comes to leadership. It should be about who has the right skills.”
“When you have different people sitting around the decision making table, you are bound to get better solutions because you’ve got better perspectives,” she said.