Female leadership in the industry could break the cycle of regurgitating the same old ideas associated with male-dominated boardrooms, says Bridget McIntyre

With a handful of high profile exceptions, women still do not feature widely at the most senior level within the UK insurance industry.

To the outside world, the dark-suited, old school tie image of the insurance industry is simply not as appealing for women as other disciplines, which can appear to offer much more of a customer focus.

While the insurance industry is often perceived to be stagnant, resistant to change - and by its very nature risk averse - the retail sector, for example, with its relative balance between the sexes, is seen as much more welcoming and open to new ideas and diversity.

The question is, does it matter? How would more women in leadership positions change the focus of the industry and what, if anything, should we be doing about the current lack of representation within our boardrooms?

Certainly, diversity of staff experience and perspective within any organisation can often be the bedrock of change for the better.

Take a car accident. What's the most important, a mended shiny, clean car or a mended person without ongoing symptoms from whiplash injuries? I'm afraid to say, the former has been given priority.

If we look at young drivers, insurance costs are continuing to grow. Most people know there are responsible teenaged drivers, but also I'm sure many will have been recklessly overtaken by a young driver. So, rather than penalise everyone, a concept like Norwich Union's Pay-as-You-Drive and looking at where, when and how you drive could help.

As a service industry, we need to understand the disparate needs of customers. The current lack of diversity makes us treat insurance as a very technical exercise, rather than one of customer experience.

An injection of female talent into the leadership pool could bring something new to the party to help challenge the status quo and stop the reiteration of the same old ideas.

By freeing ourselves up from the controlling mentality traditionally associated with a more patriarchal leadership style, we can allow creativity to flourish.

Good leaders are also ready to celebrate difference, rather than shy away from it - accepting that there is not just one way of doing something can yield powerful results.

By inspiring others, they accept the fundamental need to deliver through people, whoever is at the top of the management chain.

Bridget McIntyre is sales and marketing director at Norwich Union Insurance