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The Female Lead: Inga Beale

08-Mar-2018 13:55:29 / by The Insurance Institute

The Insurance Institute

Dame Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd's of London and CII President, talks to us about why women need to believe in their own abilities more in order to succeed.

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On 6th February 1918 history was made. After decades of campaigning, women across Britain and Ireland were given the right to vote when the Representation of the People Act was passed. This legislation enabled all men and some women over the age of 30 in the UK and Ireland to vote for the first time, and paved the way for universal suffrage a decade later. It was a milestone for women, and a breakthrough towards achieving a more equal, inclusive world.

Just a few years on, in 1921, the Chartered Insurance Institute accepted its first female fellow, and the next year invited the first women to address the London Institute. However, it wasn’t until 1939 – almost two decades later – that a woman was appointed to a senior post at the CII. Still, when I look at Lloyd’s, it wasn’t until 1969 that the market began allowing women to be involved in its business by passing a resolution to admit women as investors (also known as Names). This development helped change attitudes and in 1973 Liliana Archibald became the first female allowed to conduct business in the Lloyd’s underwriting room.

We have come a long way since then, with the insurance sector introducing a number of initiatives to build an increasingly diverse and inclusive profession, including the global Dive In Festival. In 2001 the CII welcomed its first female president Lillian Boyle, and in 2014 I was hired as Lloyd’s first female CEO – something I’m incredibly proud of. These milestones are evidence of the changing face of the insurance profession, but it isn’t changing fast enough.

Collectively we have an incredibly important purpose. Businesses, governments, and most importantly people – individuals – rely on us to be there when it matters most. We keep economies going and help build financial security and resilience in what increasingly feels like a fragile, rapidly changing world. Together we pay trillions of euros of claims each year – helping people to get back on their feet when disaster strikes, and enabling new endeavours to get off the ground. Without us and the advice we provide, the wheels of global economic and societal progress would grind to a halt. 

With such an important purpose, it is absolutely vital that we have leadership teams who represent the world we serve.  We know the business case speaks for itself, more diverse teams are more successful in growing in new markets and are more innovative – both really important aspects for the insurance profession.  There are many reasons why we still haven’t managed to significantly improve that diversity and many people are of the view that if we can solve the gender imbalance, we can solve the imbalance for other under-represented groups.  

A recent survey found that many women face a mid-career conflict – a point when they weigh up the costs of a career, and what they are sacrificing in their personal lives. Now I wouldn’t say this is the case for all women, but many feel that the costs seem too great in relation to the uncertain benefits of pressing on. Insufficiently flexible working options, inadequate support for family responsibilities, lack of clarity on promotion processes and equal pay, and unconscious bias were named as the most significant hurdles for women juggling family commitments, and their career. But there are other factors too.

Throughout my career, both for myself and in hiring people, I have noticed that women tend to think that if they can’t tick all of the boxes on the job description, then they are not good enough for a role. The very first promotion I was offered I refused. I fell into the trap of thinking just that – I’m not good enough to take on that role. 

Women need to really believe in their ability, to get out there and take on those challenging roles.  It is a matter of authenticity and self-belief.  Having teams made up of all sorts of different people provides a more diverse and holistic approach to business and to customers – an approach that is vital if we are to continue to build public trust in our united profession. 

 Inga Beale, CII President and CEO of Lloyd’s

Read the full piece and more in the March edition of the Insider Magazine