March 8, 2021 by David Gambrill
Women are making inroads into the senior executive leadership of the property and casualty insurance industry, but there is still a lot of work to do.
Recent industry demographic research conducted by the Insurance Institute of Canada shows that although women made up 62.4% of the Canadian P&C workforce in 2017, they only had a 35% share in the industry’s senior management positions.
Mind you, that’s a large step up from the 28% share of senior executive roles that women held back in 2007. And it’s also better relative to other industries, as the Insurance Institute points out in its 2018 Demographics of the P&C Insurance Industry in Canada.
“Given the high representation of women in the entire P&C insurance workforce, there is still room for improvement, but it is well above the average for the entire workforce (28%) and the professional services industry (22%),” the report states. “It is even higher than for the broader financial services sector (30%).”
Why is having more gender diversity in the executive ranks important?
A number of research studies over the years have shown that more women executives correlate with a better company performance.
To cite just one example, a 2004 study by the non-profit organization Catalyst, sponsored by BMO Financial Group, surveyed 353 Financial 500 companies. It found that the companies with the highest representation of women on their top management teams reported a 35% better return on equity (ROE) — and a 34% better total return to shareholders — than companies with the lowest women’s representation. Other research findings through the years have found a similar pattern.
The benefits of encouraging women to aspire to leadership roles are many, as Natalie Higgins, senior VP of Atlantic Canada at Intact Insurance, put it recently in an interview with Canadian Underwriter.
“When we look across the organization, as we reach gender equality, we see such tremendous benefits with respect to employee engagement, our operations, our performance, as well as the customer experience,” Higgins said. “Customers want to deal with diverse, inclusive environments that reflect their realities.”
It’s worth noting that women are increasingly represented in the P&C industry’s management positions as a whole. When you add the industry’s front-line managers and middle managers into the mix, women make up 52% of all the industry’s management positions, an improvement over the 47% share they held they held in 2007.
But there is still work to be done, as the Insurance Institute’s demographics study notes, particularly in getting more women into the industry’s senior executive roles. And so, in celebration of International Women’s Day, Canadian Underwriter sought out 20+ women in key leadership roles to ask what the P&C industry can do to make it easier for women to become senior executives.
Specifically, we asked:
Over the course of the next week, you will be reading what the women we interviewed had to say about these and other questions.
It is our hope that in reading these pieces, the industry will be inspired to take action that would make the path to senior executive leadership much easier for women who would choose to take that road.
Feature image courtesy of iStock.ca/FotografiaBasica