I was raised in a house with five sisters, but later, the gender balance in my world went from one extreme to the other. As I moved up in my career, my world became increasingly male.
As the only female member of the Swiss Re Life Capital executive committee with a long career working in male-dominated environments, I am a strong proponent of gender equality. The benefits for business (and particularly insurance) are undeniable.
We've come a long way over the past century – 6 February marks 100 years since women in my country won the right to vote – but we haven't come quite far enough.
So it's worth now examining what were the factors behind that momentous shift. That watershed moment in history was partly a recognition of the reality that women had ably replaced men in many industries and businesses while they were fighting the First World War. That level of equality became impossible to reverse, and I think we are in the middle of another moment like that right now in the business world – I just cannot believe it took 100 years!
Aside from the moral and ethical arguments in favour of promoting gender equality, there is a strong business case as well: the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap report 2017 showed companies with a higher proportion of women in executive positions perform better than companies with no women at the top – in some cases by large margins. Sadly it is still the truth that, particularly at more senior levels, women make up a smaller proportion of these teams.
More interestingly: A study from the Kellogg School of Management concluded that diverse, heterogeneous groups produce better results than homogeneous groups because the resulting tension or discomfort leads to more careful processing of information. Other research in 2017 showed that people who notice bias in their managers would change their behaviour at work, and not for the better – 34% reported withholding ideas or solutions, and 48% said they looked for a new job while at their current job during the same time period.
Historically, insurance has been a very male-dominated sector. Our reliance on heavily technical or mathematically-related skillsets often coincided with skillsets that society did not encourage women to foster.
But since men and women each have a different approach to risk, and the insurance (or reinsurance) industries are all about managing risk – we need a broad variety of views at the table in order to manage these risks adequately. This is especially important given our existing challenges like natural catastrophe accumulation or cyber.
Women should feel that they can be themselves at work. Organisations need to champion authenticity, and with that comes diversity and inclusion. It's about all employees – regardless of our gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, etc. – being allowed to be our best, most authentic selves.
I'm proud that Swiss Re is showing leadership and commitment to promoting a diverse workforce through flexible policies such as Own the Way You Work. You can find out more about our career opportunities at: http://www.swissre.com/careers/
The solution to this challenge will take a joint concerted effort between society and business to do away with outdated stereotypes because neither can accomplish this task alone.
So what are you doing to promote diversity and inclusion? What else can we do? I'd love to hear from you and welcome all perspectives!
Location: London, United Kingdom