The research takes a comprehensive look at barriers women face in getting top jobs in the industry

A new report has outlined the scale of the challenge facing women trying to reach top jobs, both in and outside of the insurance industry.

Commissioned by the ABI and carried out by consultancy firm Public First, the report took a comprhensive look at the barriers women have to face in their pursuit of the top jobs.


Work patterns, possibly due to motherhood, was the biggest reason for the seniority gap. Mothers taking time out to have children, ultimately putting their career on hold while fathers are still working and working their way up the ladder.

Another barrier is the availability of part-time senior jobs as well as the advancement for those in part-time roles. This ties in with the motherhood element, also. This needs to be improved dramatically if the industry wants to close the seniority gap.

Something else that needs to be improved is sexism. An obvious choice but one that is still a major issue. The report says sexism is best tackled by organisational redesign, not training. Ways of doing this include better use of interviews to make them more structured and ability-based, not free-form.

Also, the report says research on the impact of training to remove bias is unconvincing, saying there is “a lack of evidence” to support the practice.

Finally, the report says there is no correlation between the interventions that companies are using and what can demonstrably be shown to be working.

’Tackle the motherhood penalty’

New ABI chair, Amanda Blanc (right) said: “This report shows that mothers still face a huge challenge to make progress in their career when they return to work. We want to speed that up and the evidence shows that tackling the ‘motherhood penalty’ may be the best way to do this.

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ABI chair, Amanda Blanc

“While I have no doubt that many of the people at the top of the industry are fully committed to change, it is simply not good enough that in 2018 there are 60% fewer women at board level than entry level.

“To change this we need to focus on what interventions work, not what makes us feel like we are trying. Only then will we start to see the seniority gap close.”

Director general of the ABI Huw Evans (below) said: “The ABI commissioned this report following a roundtable with our member company CEOs. They were interested in the answers to two questions; what practical steps will help get more women into senior roles and what interventions make the biggest difference?

“There is a lot in this research to engage with and I am grateful to Public First for their thorough analysis. We have plenty to consider here and will be working through the recommendations with members before deciding on the next steps.

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ABI director general, Huw Evans

”Our future as a successful and thriving industry depends in no small measure on getting this right. “

Public First founding partner Rachel Wolf said: “We know that big companies like insurance firms want to make sure that women rise as high as ability can take them.

”Our research found that the biggest barrier for women was becoming a parent. So it makes sense that this is what big firms should target first. If companies can take real steps to make it easier for parents to combine having children with pushing on in their career, then that could be a way of generating really positive results for women in a sustainable way.”