Female Representation at Senior Level in Insurance Sector Needs a VOiCE

1st February 2024

Posted In: The Topic

The first of its kind, a sectoral benchmarking report VOiCE for Insurance, Setting the Standard in Sectoral Benchmarking  was launched today by MEP Frances Fitzgerald. The research, undertaken by inclusio, demonstrates strong inclusivity and an overall level of wellbeing among those working within the Irish insurance sector.

However, it also revealed a significant lack of opportunities for people with disabilities and overall even though the sector has good gender balance, the representation of women drops significantly at senior leadership levels with senior leadership roles held by twice as many men as women.

Across all industry sectors, there is a widely shared understanding of the critical importance of creating a workplace and a culture that is both diverse and inclusive. An open and diverse culture leads to higher productivity, innovation and lower employee turnover. Understanding a company’s culture empowers leaders with the data and benchmarks needed to advance DEI and drive positive cultural change.

inclusio, the technology partner for VOiCE gathered voices from 2,700 employees, representing 15% of the insurance workforce in Ireland. The initiative included 125,000 questions, comprising of 67,000 responses on ‘Demographics and Inclusion in Action’, and 58,000 on ‘Culture experience’. Together, these voices offer a first-of-its-kind comprehensive understanding of the sector.

inclusio CEO and Founder, Sandra Healy, commenting on the data said:

“Culture is not just a matter of regulatory compliance for companies, it’s a clear and present opportunity for positive change.

VOiCE is a first of its kind sectoral analysis. It takes a scientific approach to developing Culture through D&I sectoral benchmarks by gathering information and insights from employees in a confidential manner. Employers need to understand their company culture to bring about change. This is what we have done with VOiCE, by gathering this data the insurance sector will now be able to benchmark progress, improve culture and this will impact in positive business results. We are delighted to partner with leaders in the insurance sector to work together to support them on this journey.”

The research uncovered some positive findings for the sector indicating that:

•Trust in the sector is high with a score of 83. Employees perceive the sector as fair, reliable, open and transparent. Fostering a positive culture where people champion good behaviour day-to-day, across levels.

•High levels of Psychological Safety were reported with a score of 81. Results indicate a healthy, open work culture that supports, respects, and welcomes diversity of opinion.

•Employees also feel the sector cares about their Wellbeing with a score of 74. The sector supports their choices to create a good balance between work and home life.

•The majority of people in the sector reported very high levels of Belonging, with a score of 83. Results indicate employees in the sector feel valued and respected for their individuality.

Anthony Kelly, Head of Communications and Culture at RSA Insurance Ireland and 123.ie and VOiCE Advisory Board Member, said: “Thank you to all the VOiCE partners who have enabled us to bring together this first of its kind – a measurement of diversity and inclusion across the Irish insurance sector. This report showcases the inclusive nature of the insurance sector in Ireland. Further, it shows the strides we have made in becoming more diverse and building inclusion in our sector, and some of the incredible diversity of talent in it. But there is more to do. From this, we will be able to begin the benchmarking process which will be essential to improving our DEI strategies and introducing positive cultural change. We hope many more companies from the insurance and financial sectors will join this exciting programme and become pioneers of DEI understanding and effectiveness globally.”

The data although positive for the sector also reveals some room for improvement in the sector:

•The data shows diversity gaps at management levels which require action at both a company and sector level. Women represent 54.1% of the sector, with men at 45.6%, and 0.25% self-disclosing as another gender identity. The near parity in numbers is evidence of progress made ​in recent years and indicates that policy and practices are working.

However, the representation of women drops significantly at senior leadership levels, accounting for only 36% compared to 64% for men in those positions.

•The data also highlights a low number of disability employment with only 1.5% of employees in the sector identifying as a person with disability. This figure stands in stark contrast to the 13% of the Irish population with a disability, underscoring the urgent need to reshape our work environments to be truly inclusive and universally accessible.

•Another noteworthy point taken from the data is the varied age distribution that exists in the insurance workforce. The data shows that 43% of workers in the Insurance sector are between the ages of 28 to 43 years old, with just over 40% aged 44 to 59 years. A greater focus will be required for the insurance sector to understand the skills, strengths, and expertise of these workers and how they can support an older workforce.

Understanding generational diversity allows organisations to tap into the strengths of different age groups, promoting diversity, collaboration, creativity and innovation​.

•While the wellbeing score was high, 33% of VOiCE organisations have no flexibility or remote/hybrid working policy in place at present, with the same percentage (40%) having no ‘right to disconnect’ policy. Organisations, including those in the insurance sector, are still navigating the challenges of this new working norm. However, it is essential for employers to plan how to support their employees in the ‘new normal’ of hybrid/remote working, to maintain the levels of wellbeing and work/life balance reported within the organisations.

•Additionally, the report notes an opportunity for growth, as 77% of organisations currently lack formal mental health policies. And despite 83% of organisations in the sector having Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), low uptake persists due to concerns about quality, confidentiality, and perceived usefulness.

MEP Frances Fitzgerald on launching the report commented: “I am delighted to launch the inclusio report today as it strongly aligns with much of the work that I have undertaken in the European Parliament. We know that the most successful organisations understand their people, allow them to grow and succeed – putting strategics in place to support this.

Organisations often have good intentions to make real progress in Culture, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I), and ESG reporting, however, they struggle to gather employee rich demographic data, measure culture, diversity and inclusion and prove progress.

However, this report shows that it can be done, progress can be tracked and with mandatory reporting being introduced for companies under several EU Directives in the coming years more employers will need to start taking this seriously. I would encourage more sectors and companies to get involved and begin measuring their progress to bring about a real change in workplace culture.”

For any sector to thrive it needs to attract the most talented employees and innovators from a diverse range of backgrounds and retain talent in a highly competitive market. It is about equipping leaders and employers with the insights they need to deliver meaningful culture change and achieve true employer excellence. This inaugural report is just the beginning for the insurance sector. In the first half of 2024, two additional leading insurance companies will give their employees the opportunity to contribute their voices to the sector benchmarks, contributing to the 2025 progress benchmarks.​

Eoin O’Brien, Project Lead, CIRDAS SETU commenting on the launch said: “SETU through the Faculty of Lifelong Learning, CIRDAS and partner inclusio have provided a pathway for the insurance sector on their EDI journey. This strategic partnership utilises our academic expertise to engage with sector for the development of solutions and it has provided a pathway for the insurance sector on their benchmarking journey, and we are excited to enable progress in DEI across the sector.”

The initiative has been coordinated through a strategic partnership involving the Faculty of Lifelong Learning at South East Technological University (SETU) Carlow, inclusio, the Centre for Insurance Risk Data Analytics (CIRDAS)*, and ISEFSC. The sectorial Founding Partners of VOiCE are FBD Insurance; IPB Insurance; Irish Life; New Ireland Assurance; Saol Assurance/ AIB Life; and RSA Insurance Ireland and 123.ie. This benchmark framework will raise the overall performance of Culture and DEI strategy across financial services and insurance sector.

Pictured at the Report launch is the MEP Frances Fitzgerald (centre) with inclusio CEO and Founder, Sandra Healy and Anthony Kelly, Head of Communications and Culture at RSA Insurance Ireland and 123.ie and VOiCE Advisory Board Member. (Image Aleksandra Schmidt Photography).