Leaders share their experiences of the evolution of diversity in insurance

"The potential benefits to the future of business are huge"

Leaders share their experiences of the evolution of diversity in insurance

Diversity & Inclusion

By Mia Wallace

Earlier this week, Insurance Business UK unveiled its fifth ‘Elite Women’ survey – a celebration of 61 incredible women making waves across the insurance profession. Following on closely from International Women’s Day 2023 and its theme #EmbraceEquity, the report identified the shared valued and unique experiences that set apart those women overcoming any obstacles standing in the way of their becoming an insurance industry leader.

Those obstacles have come under increased scrutiny in recent years as conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) continue to evolve and take their rightful place on the agenda of financial services businesses. And, while some of the figures and stories shared under the spotlight of IWD 2023 were cause for celebration, others were cause for concern.

Three professionals serving very different areas of the insurance ecosystem added their voices to this conversation, revealing where they see the most progress has been made and where there’s still a lot of road left to be travelled.

Stronger engagement with DE&I – the good news  

Those looking for examples of where progress has been made in championing DE&I conversations can find some heartening statistics. Claire Fox (pictured centre), partner in large & complex injury at the insurance law firm HF cited the annual Diversity of the Judiciary report published in July 2021 which showed that men make up 62% of solicitors with 20 or more years experience while women make up 64% of solicitors at newly qualified level.

This represents the 0.99% growth in male solicitors compared to the 9.9% growth in female solicitors in the previous five years, she said, and if this trajectory continues there could be a real shift in leadership as the older members of the profession retire. Within HF, this change is already being seen with women currently making up 57% of its workforce. Meanwhile, in its last round of promotions, 65% of the successful candidates were female while its last trainee intake was 100%.

As a business, she said, it’s about nurturing that pipeline no matter what the starting point and supporting them through their careers and life events, such as maternity. With Women at HF, that’s exactly what the firm is looking to do.

“The Financial Lines team at MGP is a reflection of the progress we are making,” noted Shannan Fort (pictured left), partner in financial lines at McGill and Partners. “We’re working to embody DE&I with women in leadership roles and at each level within our team. With more diverse teams, we naturally skew to more diverse recruiting, allowing for diverse thought and experience to better reflect our clients and broaden our own perspectives.”

DE&I is a continuous evolution, according to Sarah Murrow (pictured right), CEO of Allianz Trade UK & Ireland. She highlighted that Allianz Trade currently has three levels of CEOs which are all women; global CEO, Aylin Somersan Coqui, head of its Northern Europe region Marine Bochot, and her as CEO of UK & Ireland.

“We were all together in person for the first time last week and it was quite impactful,” she said. “Throughout the years, we have tailored leadership programs, development actions and created NEO (Network for Equal Opportunities) focusing on gender equality and diversity and inclusion. These all help us have gender-balanced succession planning. Today in Allianz Trade we have EDGE certification and women make up more than 40% of our managerial positions. Progress indeed!”

Still a way to go – DE&I as an ongoing conversation

Yet, despite the increasing importance being attached to DE&I as a top-of-the-agenda activity, it’s clear there is still a way to go before equity is truly embraced across the insurance and legal professions.

Murrow revealed what she has seen as co-founder of ‘WICI’ - Women In Credit Insurance UK - which aims to increase the representation of women in senior roles across the UK trade credit insurance industry.

“I hosted WICI’s inaugural meeting at our Canary Wharf office for 26 senior female industry leaders last month,” she said, “there was great consensus amongst the attendees on the need for such an initiative and we had a lot to discuss.”

In December 2022 it was the 100th anniversary of the first woman solicitor, Fox said, and while there appears to be a shift with more women now qualifying as solicitors, that percentage reduces significantly when it comes to the number of women in partner positions and even less as equity partners. So, despite the efforts being made, there is still a lot to do.

From a personal perspective, she said, as an insurance lawyer, she attended a leadership conference last year, and looking around the room there were very few women. She was one of only eight in a room of around 50.

“It really brought it home to me that we need to understand why and make changes to support more diversity,” she said. “The potential benefits to the future of business are huge.”

Fort shared a similar experience: “Recently,” she said, “there was a social media post on a conference geared towards InsureTechs, boasting numerous panels of experts. There wasn’t a single woman… in 2023…”

What are your thoughts on this story? Please feel free to share your comments below.

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