2019’s Leading Women Underwriters: A modern London Market needs to get serious about diversity
We celebrate 2019’s leading women underwriters but also set the challenge to address the gender imbalance (and diversity in general)...
Following the recent publication of Gracechurch’s London’s Leading Underwriters (LLU) 2019 we are, for the first-time, highlighting London’s Leading Women Underwriters.
In 2019 our congratulations go to:
- Harriet Sharp, Chaucer, War & Geopolitical Risks
- Inga Brand, Liberty Specialty Markets, Casualty/Non-Marine Liability, Energy, Reinsurance
- Patricia Mills, Validus, War & Geopolitical Risks, Financial Lines
- Fiona Pursey, Aviva, Property
- Juliette Barre, Société Générale, Reinsurance, War & Geopolitical Risks
- Tracy Cattermole, Chaucer, Reinsurance, War & Geopolitical Risks
- Amy Batchelor, Beazley, War & Geopolitical Risks
- Deborah Wyatt, Chaucer, War & Geopolitical Risks
- Lauren Webb, Barbican, War & Geopolitical Risks
- Sophie Baux, Munich Re, Reinsurance, Financial Lines
As well as the Top Ten, over 60 other women were nominated in 2019 and our congratulations go to all of these too.
It is certainly a pleasure to celebrate a group of such high-achieving, talented women. However, as a relative newcomer to insurance, my pleasure is also tinged with disappointment, especially when I look closer at the trends in the Report.
LLU, an empirical, representative survey of the whole London Market underwriter cohort, shows a stark gender imbalance in which only 10% of the 600+ underwriters nominated are women, a ratio that has not moved in the past three years.
This figure is 10 points lower than the estimated overall 20% female representation in the whole market; a “selection gap” showing that women underwriters are proportionally much less likely to be nominated than men.
So, why it is that brokers and underwriters, male and female, are less likely to vote for women?
We think the answer is multi-faceted, but one hypothesis is that unconscious bias is at play: in a male-dominated culture, women are generally not perceived as role models and therefore less considered. If even partially true, this raises serious questions as to how this is playing out in the workplace and might partly answer why we have seen so little progress in achieving gender balance in the London underwriting world.
This concerns me because I have seen great progress being made in other sectors where I have worked, most recently in the Big Four accounting firms, where diversity was high up the leadership strategic agenda for good commercial reasons.
There is now clear evidence across industries, globally, that greater diversity delivers more profit and shareholder value. McKinsey’s 2018 “Delivering through diversity” study shows that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.
Modernisation of the London Market is a hot topic, but my newcomer’s observation is that, compared to other sectors, conversation around diversity as a growth driver is muted and women role models are not visibly celebrated enough.
An industry is made by its people and increasingly the best young millennials will be attracted to sectors that see diversity as a natural state. If London doesn’t address the diversity issue then no matter what technology comes along, it will be dragged down by an inability to recruit the best.
So, what can the London Insurance Market learn from other sectors?
- Change starts at the top: the CEO and leadership teams must lead from the front with public commitments to actions, followed by visible change in behaviours enabling successful cascading throughout the organisation. Role modelling is key.
- Diversity and inclusion need to be linked to business performance. Create impactful D&I initiatives that help grow the business.
- Develop a simple, measurable KPI framework linked to growth. What gets measured gets done.
More than anything else though, there is a need to act now in order to avoid falling further behind. An agile, test-and-learn approach with measurable pilot initiatives can help build momentum and overcome internal resistance. As with all change, once new realities become tangible, fear recedes, enabling better teams to make faster progress on the job in hand, which is of course the modernisation of the London Market.
To finish on a positive, we know that recognition makes a difference, and going forward, will focus on challenging the market with the evidence that we have as well as celebrating brilliant female leading underwriters at every opportunity.
Annette Müller. Partner Gracechurch Consulting