’The proportion of women in senior roles in insurance remains markedly low,’ says partner at GQ Littler

Women make up less than 7% of chief executives within the insurance industry, new figures have revealed.

Published by specialist employment law firm GQ Littler today (18 December 2023), the data showed that just 29 out of 431 top bosses across the sector were women.

And it also uncovered low representation in other senior roles across the industry.

For example, women account for only 16% of chief financial officers in the insurance sector (63 out of 390) – and less than 11% of chairpersons are women (43 out of 407).

Caroline Barker, partner at GQ Littler, warned that low rates of diversity at executive level could ”open a company up to employment law disputes”.

“A lack of gender diversity amongst senior executives at a business can make it easier to bring a successful sex discrimination claim against that employer,” she said.

“Conversely, it can be helpful in defending a sex discrimination claim where the business has consistently taken significant steps to improve gender diversity and actively promotes measures which help women to step into more senior roles.”

Room for improvement

However, Barker also noted that the insurance sector was making positive steps when it came to gender diversity.

For example, an analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) data by Kingsley Napley LLP earlier this year (15 August 2023) showed that women made up 42.7% of staff in the sector in Q2 2023, a 0.4% uplift from Q1 2023.

Barker said her firm’s figures also showed progress for the insurance sector – though felt that much room for improvement remained.

”The insurance sector is making positive steps when it comes to gender diversity at the top level,” she said.

”Insurance has long been seen as a male-dominated but there is still much to do.

”It’s important to stress that – while improvements are being made – the proportion of women in senior roles in insurance remains markedly low.”

Barker said it was also important that firms created an environment that would make women want to stay too.

Last week (13 December 2023), Aviva chief executive Amanda Blanc revealed that her firm has acted to sack male employees for inappropriate behaviour as she gave evidence to a parliamentary inquiry about sexism in London.

She also shared “appalling” accounts of harassment across the city, including unwanted sexual advances, being told their pregnancies were “inconvenient” or being followed into hotel rooms.

Barker said it was important firms were providing support, training and mentoring both for women and for male managers to empower them to maintain an inclusive environment.

“Having a flexible mindset is really important,” she added.

”Making material changes to how senior staff work, like offering hybrid working, are important to helping businesses to not only retain women but nurture their careers too.

“The hope is that as more women take on senior roles, more and more women have roles models to look up to.”