The insurance sector has made strides in ensuring gender parity in key leadership positions, a new study has revealed.
Researchers found that 30% of insurance companies in the FTSE 350 Index, which lists the 350 largest firms on the London Stock Exchange, have women on their executive committees. The figure is up 10% from last year. More than half (55%) also have executive committees that are at least 25% female.
The study, conducted by gender diversity company The Pipeline, outlined that the industry ranked fifth among all industries when it comes to women representation in leadership roles.
It is also fifth best in terms of board diversity, with a quarter of main board seats held by female leaders, an increase of 5% from last year.
The insurance sector also boasts the highest raw number of women executive committee members in profit and loss (P&L) roles at 17, which is third best when translated into percentages (24%). Executive roles containing a P&L responsibility are considered to be key for future CEOs, according to the report.
At present, the industry has two female group CEOs – Direct Line’s Penny James and Aviva’s Amanda Blanc.
However, board chairmanship remains inaccessible to women with 100% of the positions held by men. The sector also has the fourth worst profit margin at 4%.
Firms with more female bosses ‘perform better’
Overall, the Women Count 2020 report revealed a positive correlation between having more women in leadership roles and profit margins.
Stock exchange companies with women making up at least a third of executive roles have a profit margin of 15.2%. The number is more than 10 times greater than the 1.5% profit margin for firms with no women on their executive committees.
The report added that the lack of female leadership in some companies has resulted in the UK economy missing out on £47 billion in additional pre-tax profits, which is enough to keep the National Health Service (NHS) going for five months.
Lorna Fitzsimons, co-founder of The Pipeline, said the study showed the “stark difference in net profit margins of companies that have diverse gender leaderships compared to those who do not.”
“During the most unprecedented economic challenge of our lifetime, the economy can’t afford for businesses to continually miss the opportunity to be more productive,” she said. “Businesses and governments need to actively address this as an economic imperative if we want to come out of the inevitable recession any time soon.”
Former Prime Minister Theresa May, who contributed to the report, lamented the massive underrepresentation of women at the top of UK businesses.
“Every single male CEO who looks around his boardroom table to see nine out of 10 male faces staring back at him needs to ask himself what he is doing to make his business one which his daughter or granddaughter can get on in,” she said. “Act now to change your businesses, to make the most of every talent, and to play your part in making our economy one which works for everyone.”