Canadian Underwriter

Surprising finds about women in insurance

July 18, 2018   by Margaret Parent

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For those of us who work in insurance, it may not come as a surprise that the face of the industry in Canada is a 42-year-old woman. Women continued to represent the majority of the industry’s workforce in 2017 at 62.4%, up from 60.8% in 2007.

In the Insurance Institute’s upcoming report, “Demographics of the P&C Insurance Industry in Canada,” Michael Burt, executive director, economics, with the Conference Board of Canada, writes, “Not only does the P&C insurance industry employ an above-average share of women, the share of women in the industry’s workforce has been rising more quickly than average.”

People outside of insurance might be amazed to learn that the industry’s workforce is two-thirds female. They often picture a man in his 60s as being the face of the industry. At the Insurance Institute’s Career Connections program, we enjoy busting misperceptions like this whenever and wherever we can.

What is surprising is how the insurance industry compares to other industries. Only two other industries have a higher share of women in their workforces: health care and social assistance (83%) and educational services (67%). And the two industries we’re most often compared to have a lower percentage of women in their workforces: professional services (43%) and the broader finance, insurance and real estate sector (54%).

What’s not so surprising is that the most female-oriented insurance-specific occupations are underwriting (73% female) and sales and services (69%).

But “even in the occupations where women are underrepresented, the industry still considerably outperforms the broader Canadian workforce,” Burt writes in the report.

This is true of women in management roles as well. Women account for 52% of management positions in insurance, up from 47% in 2007, and more than financial services, professional services and the workforce as a whole.

A breakdown of front-line, middle and senior management roles shows that the number of women in senior management positions in the P&C insurance industry has improved the most in the last decade (see Figure 1, below).

Figure 1. The share of women in senior and middle management positions has increased significantly (female share of employment in P&C insurance management occupations, expressed in percent)

It may also be surprising to see how the share of women in management in our industry compares to other sectors (see Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. Women account for a rising share of management occupations (female share of employment in management occupations, expressed in percent)

“As an association, we are extremely encouraged by the data presented in the Insurance Institute’s latest demographic survey,” says Vinita Jajware, president of the Toronto Insurance Women’s Association (TIWA). “The sustained increase of women entering the insurance industry and the overall advancement of women into middle management and eventual senior/executive-level roles is particularly promising. “While this data is a useful indicator, it also serves as a reminder of the need for continued encouragement for women in the industry to advance from middle-management roles to executive-ready positions,” Jajware continues. “As an industry, now more than ever, we are cognizant of the role that gender diversity plays in and out of the boardroom in advancing organizational goals and profitability. The hope is that this will lead to the enhancement of the employment experience for not only women, but the workforce as a whole.”

The demographic research study is projecting significant retirements in the next five years, and significant concerns for management and leadership roles in the industry.

Determining the leaders of tomorrow starts with strategically identifying talent from under-represented groups, such as women and front-line managers, to succeed
the retiring middle and senior managers. It’s necessary to develop leadership competencies today both in preparation for the upcoming gaps in leadership, and the continually evolving styles of leadership that will be needed by organizations in the years to come.

It is a great news story that the industry’s workforce is as gender-diverse and inclusive as it is. These findings on women in the industry’s workforce represent just some of many findings to come from the Insurance Institute of Canada’s decade of demographic research study on the industry’s workforce. The latest reports are due to be published in September 2018. More information is available at:

Women in the P&C industry are more likely to:

  • work in underwriting or in an underwriting support role (84% are female), or as a personal lines underwriter (80%).
  • work as a customer service representative in commercial lines (80%), specialty lines (75%) or personal lines (72%).
  • work in claims support (75%).
  • work in front-line management (58%).
  • work for an independent broker (72%), direct response insurer (65%) or a reinsurer (64%).
  • work in permanent full-time (62%) or permanent part-time roles (82%).
  • have worked in the industry for more than 20 years (36%) or less than 5 years (29%).
  • retire at 60 years of age (28% of the women working in the industry today can retire by 2027).
  • be more interested in flexible work arrangements, adequate paid time off and opportunities for part-time work than their male colleagues.

By Margaret Parent, Director, Professionals’ Division, The Insurance Institute of Canada

Copyright © 2018 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in the June/July edition of Canadian Insurance Top Broker magazine

This story was originally published by Canadian Insurance Top Broker.