In a guest blog for youTalk-insurance inspirational business coach Margaret Allen explores the issue of diversity within the insurance sector and shares some useful steps that firms can take to ensure the future prosperity of their businesses.
Change is upon us… In fact, the only certainty is change
By April 2018 all companies with more than 250 employees are required to report on their gender pay gap. To date very few City institutions have done this. I wonder why?
Even in multinational companies which actively promote diversity, many are finding that the issue is not equal pay for equal roles but the lack of females in leadership positions. To preserve their reputations and create a more diverse talent pool companies are going to have to change. We don’t like change, it’s scary, it requires us to see things differently and behave differently. At best we acknowledge it, at worst we avoid it or resist it. Yet the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.
There are some glimmers of change: Dame Inga Beale became first female CEO of Lloyds in 2014 and the Chartered Insurance Institute with its report on ‘Insuring Women’s Futures’. Makes clear the challenge of developing women’s role in society.
The change, however, is slow, almost glacial. So how come in the ‘City’ people are so resistant to change.... to be pertinent how come leaders in the City are so resistant to promoting diversity?
Yet, the facts speak for themselves: Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. (McKinsey January 2018). It’s now accepted that Companies with more female representation on their board of directors deliver a 36 per cent better return on equity than businesses with fewer women on their board. (Praseeda Nair 2017)
Nearly every other business sector has made or accommodated changes that are evident in society. Even those typically male dominated environments such as the Houses of Parliament and the FA are now supporting the diversity agenda in a very proactive way.
Not true I hear you cry - ‘all our employees have read and understood our diversity policy; we focus on the importance of Diversity in our Induction training. All our managers are trained in the importance of diversity in recruitment.’ The reality is, except in a few small pockets, it is the attitudes and behaviours of leaders every moment of every day that reinforce the ‘this is the way it’s always been done’ culture. For example, you might say it’s more hassle to recruit a female - they’ll need time off to have a family and then they’ll probably want to come back part time, which doesn’t work in our sector. And there are plenty of other arguments too.
So how on earth do we begin to change these often-unconscious entrenched mindsets. Assuming, of course, you want increased financial performance.
The first step is by raising levels of ‘consciousness’ - once we are conscious we can then make choices. Employing a female and handling life transitions well is likely to bring more loyalty & commitment.
Secondly, we can learn from other markets, embrace technology and be more flexible in our work patterns. In Singapore seemingly, there is almost a 50-50 male female split amongst brokers. And India is similar. Both markets where technology is a more integral part of the way business is done. Even in the US technology allows for more flexible working.
Thirdly recognise the complimentary skill set which female leaders typically bring for example, loyalty, collaboration and emotional insight.
And what can females do. In my view, behave like women and be courageous and resilient too. Be role models to nurture, grow and encourage the talent of the future. If the statistics on diversity are to be believed it is not the ‘woman in man’s clothing’ that will bring about superior performance, it is diverse leadership teams that embrace both traditional ‘male’ and ‘female’ skills and talents.
We can argue for quotas and positive discrimination, and these may have their place. The reality is that fundamental change will only happen in this arena if talented females are encouraged and mentored and male leaders confront their often-unconscious assumptions and make brave choices.
Where will your organisation be when the league tables on the gender pay gap are published in April?