From women’s roles in traditionally male-dominated industries, to creating comfortable spaces for LGBTQ employees in the workplace, to the current landscape for female founders in VC, how can organizations better support equality and opportunity within insurance?
The Covid-19 pandemic, the recession and other variables (like school closures) had an outsize impact on women in the workplace, also hitting female-founded companies harder than their male-founded counterparts. And while we’ve seen more women coming into roles in traditionally male-dominated industries like insurance and technology, representation in leadership roles still remains an issue inside many organizations. As we move toward a more equitable future for all, incumbents and start-ups alike are thinking about tactics and approaches that can help facilitate an industry-wide culture of equality, diversity and inclusivity.
Visibility and transparency in the workplace are essential components to nurturing a culture of equality and inclusivity. A diverse talent pool and pipeline can also help a business reflect and understand its customers and their needs in a more comprehensive way, as broader representation brings in new ways of thinking.
Andreas Künzler, Tax Counsel and member of the Diversity Board of Baloise, explained, “Having people of different backgrounds, experiences and attitudes can on the surface make teamwork seem more complicated – simply because there are more opinions. However, the output, the results, are always better because different perspectives can help to shed light on possible risks and downsides of a problem.”
A recent BCG study showed for LGBTQ employees, creating an inclusive work environment carries many rewards – from better employee retention, to more successful teamwork.
Künzler, founding member of the JUUMP! network at Baloise, added, “LGBTQ employees who feel comfortable sharing their identity in the workplace are much more likely to speak their minds, be themselves, and form meaningful relationships in the workplace – the impact this has on productivity and employee satisfaction shouldn’t be underestimated.”
When it comes to women taking on leadership roles inside organizations, many insurers have more work to do. The FTSE Women Leaders Review, a business-led body backed by the UK government, recently published its voluntary recommendations setting targets for FTSE 350 companies to increase women’s representation to at least 40% of both boards and leadership teams by the end of 2025. Many big listed UK companies are already close to achieving their 40% target for female representation on boards (currently at 39.1%), however other European countries are still lagging behind: with Belgium at 33%, Germany at 29%, Switzerland at 27% and Luxembourg at 26%.
Inside organizations, management should be communicating the benefits of diverse teams from the top down, with a special focus on supporting female talent from within the organization – providing better growth and mentorship opportunities in order to fill leadership positions. Reverse mentoring – a practice where junior team members act as mentors to senior leaders or executives – can also be a useful tool in creating a culture that helps retain and attract female talent. Rotating team members throughout different units, offices, and even countries is another key tactic which can be used to encourage more diverse workplaces, breaking up work siloes and generally encouraging communication and collaboration across units.
While VC is incredibly important to the future of the businesses we invest in, buy from, and are employed by, only a very small proportion of VC capital funding is presently going to female-founded teams. In 2020, for example, only 2% of VC funding went to female founders, and 9% to female/male co-founder teams. Projecting forward at the current rate, only 10% of funding will go to women by 2045. Although in 2021, female-founded startups more than doubled their capital investment from 2020, and all-female-founded businesses have been reporting robust deal activity, they still represent only a small proportion of total VC investors. In fact women are highly underrepresented across all categories – from associates to principals – and this is most prominent within the decision-making category. In the UK, for example, only 13% of partners are women and in the US only 5.6% of VC firms are run by women.
This lack of diversity within venture capital funds is leaving money on the table. Still, positive change is underway. VC-backed female founded companies are IPO-ing and women-led funds also on the rise. In addition, the UK government is trying to increase access to funding for women via tax incentives, angel investing and other efforts. Recent industry events in emerging tech (DeFi, crypto and web 3.0) are also including more women than ever before.
Diverse teams help give organizations both the representation and the language necessary to connect with different kinds of founders, customers and the issues that matter to them both. Creating an office climate that encourages and promotes inclusion requires both strong leadership and buy-in at the individual level. While the journey toward a more equitable and diverse workplace can at times feel like an uphill climb, it’s a worthwhile effort and one that insurers should be actively undertaking.