20 \\\\\ BOARD LEVEL
Diversity at the top
Diversity has been a hot topic for many years, but is there a business case for
ensuring a greater variety of individuals hold senior positions in an organisation,
and what is the best way of achieving this? Intelligent Insurer reports.
ompanies in the top quartile for gender diversity on
executive teams were 21 percent more likely to outperform
on profitability and 27 percent more likely to demonstrate
superior value creation, according to the 2017 Women in
the Workplace study, a collaborative initiative between LeanIn.Org and
McKinsey, which examined the gender-parity gap in financial services
and looked at what can be done to close it.
A March 2019 research study conducted by Harvard Business
School’s Letian Zhang, of 1,703 firms, across 35 countries and 24
industries, revealed that for those countries and industries that view
gender diversity as important or culturally acceptable, there is evidence
that such diversity was a driver to the companies’ success, leading to
greater market value, higher revenue and more innovative thinking.
The 2018 Global Leadership Forecast study conducted by
consulting firm DDI revealed that companies with women holding at
least 30 percent of leadership roles are 1.4 times more likely to have
sustained, profitable growth, and are 1.7 times more likely to have
greater leadership strength.
However, women occupy fewer than one in five roles in the C-suite,
according to McKinsey’s 2017 Women in the Workplace Study.
“Humanity is formed of an equal balance of people, so why would a
business not operate better with the same equilibrium?” says Catherine
Bell, chairman of inet3, a Suffolk, UK-based managing general agent,
and chair of the Membership, Benefits, Events and Training Committee
of the Managing General Agents’ Association (MGAA).
“Our customers are both men and women, so it makes sense that
our companies reflect that at senior level.”
Elaine Caprio, former insurance company executive, president of
Caprio Consulting and Coaching and leader of a non-profit called
Executive Sisterhood, agrees.
“According to a Harvard Business Review, Boston Consulting Group
study, 93 percent of women say they have a significant influence on
what financial services their family purchases,” she says.
“These women prefer to do business with companies whose
executive teams and boards are gender-diverse, because such
companies offer products and services women will want to purchase.”
Bell continues: “A mixed board allows for different perspectives to
tackle problems in unique ways before converging and finding a solution.”
Caprio again agrees. “Diverse leaders are more likely to create
a distinct workplace culture where creative ideas are developed
and considered, and where employees feel safe enough to speak up
and present opposing views, challenge gender stereotypes or bring
innovative ideas to their companies.
“Diverse teams are likely to be more collaborative, better at reading
non-verbal cues, and more likely to permit everyone on the team to
contribute to the conversation, which helps make the most of the
team’s combined knowledge and skills,” she says.
Bell suggests that a legislative approach towards gender parity may
highlight the importance of achieving equality.
“The Lord Davies Report (see below) suggested that boards should
require a quota of men and women,” she says.
“While some may not agree, taking a legislative approach
may make people focus on the importance of creating equal
opportunities. It may fuel a societal expectation of what a board
should look like.”
There is also evidence to support that younger generations are
more likely to head towards gender-balanced companies over those
where senior management is heavily weighted with men or women.
Women are still struggling to create a clear path to senior level positions.
“McKinsey’s 2018 Women in the Workplace study found that
even though insurance companies in the US employed more than 60
percent of women in the general workforce, only 12 percent were top
corporate officers,” says Caprio.
“In a Saint Joseph’s University study conducted in 2017, 13 of 88
insurance companies surveyed did not have even one woman on their
boards of directors.”
Key findings from the Women in the Workplace studies have
uncovered that as women advance through their careers, they lose
ground to their male peers at every stage. The largest drop occurs
early in their tenure, when women are 24 percent less likely to attain
their first promotion than their male peers, even though they request
promotions at similar rates.
Factors such as many women not aspiring to reach top positions,
lack of sponsorship and mentoring along the way and few female role
models, all play a part in the lack of women in leadership positions.
According to the reports, women in entry-level roles in financial
services seldom envision themselves in a top executive position; only 26
percent have this goal, as compared with 40 percent of their male peers.
In addition, women receive less encouragement and support from
managers and senior leaders in advancing their careers than their
Senior-level women view sponsorship and networking as very
“Women greatly benefit by cultivating male and female mentors,
Diversity and Inclusion Report 2019 www.intelligentinsurer.com
SHUTTERSTOCK / ANDREY EMELYANENKO