Let me start by saying I’m embarrassed to be writing this blog in the year 2018.
I was moved to hit the keyboard and write this blog having just read the CII’s report on the UK Insurance Gender Pay Gap that was published last week “UK Insurance Gender Pay Gap 24% - CII calls for action”
I was stunned to read recently that The World Economic Forum’s ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2015’ identified that at the current pace of progress women will not enjoy pay parity globally for another 118 years. This is clearly bonkers.
As the father to three daughters, I just couldn’t sit idly by without throwing my tuppence-worth in to the debate.
How did we, and by ‘we’, I should really be using the word ‘men’ get to the year 2018, the centenary year of women finally getting the vote in the UK, and still be witness to a massive inequality (24% pay gap) in the wages that women are paid in the UK insurance industry. I just don’t get it.
Now I’m part of the demographic that is currently presiding over this issue, you know, I fit the usual stereotype, white, managing director, middle-aged (thankfully I still have hair) etc etc…
Sadly, left to our own (men’s) devices, the change that is needed is progressing at a pace that would give snail racing a run for its money.
So why is it so difficult?
As I see it, the key thing we are talking about here is ‘change’ and I don’t believe that we are likely to see the type of change we need to occur at the speed our female colleagues rightly deserve without a serious intervention that is underpinned by an onerous set of SMART objectives that companies, leaders and the industry is happy to be measured by.
As things stand, there is no industry wide ‘burning platform’ on the issue, no date by which things have to change and in absence of this, no matter how noble and righteous the cause, change will be impacted by mission/good intention creep and change, if it happens at all, will be slow and incremental at best.
Industry Gender equality charters, whilst they are welcome, wholesome and good (I support them) won’t of themselves cut it I’m afraid.
As I mentioned earlier on, the recent very excellent gender pay-gap research produced by the CII has just proven what we’ve known (secretly) for a long time now. So being armed with the hard data that shows there is a 24% pay-gap, behoves the insurance market to act, act fast and act now. Now that the issue is ‘out in the open’ not taking action is simply not an option.
Until it’s properly sorted, I just can’t imagine saying to one of my daughters, “definitely start a career in insurance, it’s great. Mind you they’ll pay you 24% less and the chances of promotion are more limited because you’re a woman, but that’s OK, isn’t it?”
If we want change we need to put some rocket-fuel into the change engine to make things happen.
Resistance and dislike of change, isn’t a gender issue as I see it. Nobody likes it, especially where those being charged with implementing the change see no ‘quick return’ ROI and tangible upside for either themselves or their businesses.
Go back in history
Go back in history and come up with an example(s) of where those in authority, able to make change (relatively cosy and comfortable with there lot) decided to embark on a root and branch overhaul of the status quo that occurred quickly. It’s difficult to do.
Even noble and just historical causes took an inordinate amount of time to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
The risks to UK insurance if it fails to act
- Attracting talent – It’s been widely reported for quite some time now that the industry has an issue attracting the brightest talent. Let’s face it, other sectors have just been better at it. As long as this issue exists it will continue to be something that will impact the insurance industry and stifle the much-needed innovation that is vital for the UK insurance market to retain its position. We need people with 21st Century skillsets. Whilst failure to address the pay gap is critical for women, I would also argue that socially conscious talented young men would also question joining a sector that is so behind modern thinking.
- First pick of the talent pool – Without action we will be a second/third choice sector (a bit like non-Russell Group universities).
- The sector will get average business returns and lose competitive advantage– I’ve always believed that happy people are productive people. I’m sure this starts with the basics like being rewarded fairly. Having a happy, highly motivated and energised workforce makes common sense and is superb for clients (who’ll enjoy better outcomes), business owners, investors and stakeholders alike.
- Teams consist of people with different skills – Now if you were a football manager you wouldn’t field a team of eleven centre forwards. You might score quite a few goals, but you’d also very likely let quite a few in. I only use this rather male metaphor (you guys are mostly in charge) to make the point that if the issue of the gender pay gap isn’t addressed, there is a real danger of talented women not being part of your team(s) and this lack diversity has been demonstrated by academic studies to directly impact business performance.
A once in a generation opportunity
Adapting to change is in the insurance markets DNA, just a take a look at what’s happening in InsurTech, blockchain and new technologies at the moment. The sector has an enviable reputation built over many years of finding solutions to new areas of risk and devising propositions that help society function better.
As I see it, before the sector is a wide-open goal to address the gender pay-gap inequity and if we manage to kick the ball into the back of the net sooner rather than later what a wonderful advert it will be for this great industry of ours that purports to being at the forefront of innovation, professionalism and integrity.