A bulletin on the Lloyd’s of London web site (www.lloyds.com) notes that yesterday, March 8 was International Women’s Day, which has been “observed since the early 1900s. It is an opportunity to share and celebrate women’s achievements around the world.
“It also provides a useful milestone to see what progress has been made to bring more women into the insurance sector. It is a critical time for women in all industry sectors,” Lloyd’s continued. “Women will be hit harder by this recession than in previous downturns, according to the Trades Union Congress.
“This is partly because there are more women working today than in previous recessions, but also because the impact will be more widely felt across the economy—rather than being concentrated in male dominated sectors such as manufacturing.”
Lloyd’s also noted that “insurance has long been viewed as a male-dominated industry. There is still a great deal of tradition associated with the profession. Until recently, women did not feature among the sea of suits treading the pavements around Leadenhall and Lime Street. But the balance is beginning to shift.”
Sue Langley, Lloyd’s Director of Market Operations and North American, observed. “There are definitely more women in the industry now than when I first joined and I mean that at all levels. I think there’s still a dearth of women at a senior level but when I joined all the way through the different roles it was very male dominated.”
Lloyd’s also noted that, although “there may still be a dearth of women in the top jobs, the graduates coming into Lloyd’s are now a more equal mix of men and women.”
Langley thinks it is just a matter of time before there will be more women at board level in the industry. “If we were having this conversation in ten years’ time I would hope a lot of women that are entering the industry now would have moved up through the ranks.”
It’s also possible that women have skills that are “optimized for insurance.” The bulletin indicates that “women excel at team building and managing relationships—a broad generalization perhaps but skills that sit well in the insurance sector.”
To get the different skills of women into the boardroom is a good thing, explained Barbara Schönhofer, managing director of ejsSearch, an executive search firm that specializes in the insurance sector. “At the board level—and you’re looking at very few women, maybe just 50 operating at board level—there’s a strong recognition that women do things in a slightly different way.”
She added that the biggest challenge in encouraging women to stay in the industry is to provide more flexible working arrangements. “What we have to do is stop the talent drain in the sector and to do that, we have to address the work-life balance for women,” Schönhofer explained. “The elephant in the room is the biological difference—women have babies. You have to make it a working environment that is easier for them to be in without the output going down.”
That basic fact appears to be increasingly recognized. Lloyd’s said: “A recent survey by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of female accountants demonstrates the importance of a flexible approach in attracting and retaining talent.
“Of the top five reasons women accepted a position with their employer, progression came out top (with 25 percent), but was closely following by work-life balance (with 23 percent).
“Remuneration was fifth (with just 5 percent)—after location (12 percent) and workplace culture (6 percent). When asked what would prompt them to move to another employer, an overwhelming 27 percent cited work-life balance.
“There are some organizations that are taking very proactive steps in work-life balance to encourage women who want to start a family to stay in the sector,” Schönhofer pointed out. “But there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Source: Lloyd’s of London
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