ICMIF declaration for International Women's Day 2017: Mutual and cooperative insurers lead industry in gender diversity

Recent research carried out by the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) on gender diversity at board, CEO and senior management level demonstrates that cooperative and mutual insurers – and particularly ICMIF member organisations – are leading the way in diversity. More and more women are leading mutual and cooperative insurers and playing a key role in growing the insurance sector globally.

The latest edition of the ICMIF Members’ Governancereport noted that the percentage of women on the boards of directors of mutual and cooperative insurers rose to 20.6% in 2015, compared to an insurance industry average of just 17.8%*. This represents a significant growth for the mutual and cooperative sector over the previous 10 years, having increased from an average representation of women on boards of 14.3% in 2010 and an almost twofold increase from 11.0% in 2005.

Just under 85% of ICMIF member companies had at least one woman director on their board in 2015 and impressively, 48% of companies had three or more women directors, a significantly greater percentage than the industry average of just 17%. This also represents a sizeable improvement from 10 years ago as in 2005 only 56% of members had a women director on their board and fewer than 20% had three or more.

At CEO/senior management level, almost 27% of senior executives were women, compared to 25% in 2010. There has also been an increase in women being appointed as CEO at ICMIF members, as 18% of members were led by a woman CEO in 2015 compared to just 13% of members in 2010 and around 7% in 2005.

Hilde Vernaillen (pictured), Chair of the ICMIF Board and Director and Chair of the Management Committee at member organisation P&V (Belgium) said: “The high percentage of woman at the top of cooperative and mutual insurers shown by ICMIF’s research is no surprise. Our business model gives high importance to the development of people, all people in all their diversity. Our business model recognises the richness of diversity, including gender diversity. Woman feel comfortable to grow within cooperative and mutual organisations without constraints. They don’t experience the so-called “glass ceiling”. Women in our organisations feel highly respected in their function by colleagues.”

Commentating on the findings from the report, Senior Vice-President, ICMIF, Liz Green, said: “On International Women’s Day it gives us great pleasure to share how the cooperative and mutual insurance sector has long known what the rest of the insurance industry has been slow to realise. The best boards for insurance companies are the more diverse boards, and that the most effective senior management teams are the more diverse management teams. The fact that ICMIF member companies’ boards have almost doubled their average female representation over a 10-year period highlights their commitment to addressing gender imbalance and promoting diversity, not just in terms of how they are governed by their board of directors, but also throughout their companies.”

Liz Green said: “The trends coming out of the mutual and cooperative sector are very encouraging, and while there is still a lot of work to do by the insurance industry in general in terms of gender parity in executive management, our sector is certainly leading the way. These companies with a high proportion of women on their boards and women in senior executive positions have been proven to perform better, not only financially in terms of growth, efficiency and profitability, but also in terms of instilling a culture of inclusion within their respective insurance companies, which in turn, is transferred to the customer in terms of better service and engagement from their employees of all gender.”

The mutual and cooperative sector represented 27% of the global insurance market in 2015, a significant growth in global market share from 23.5% in 2007. It wrote USD 1.2 trillion in insurance premiums in 2015 and held over USD 8 trillion in assets (2007: USD 5.9 trillion).

The positive social impact of mutual and cooperative insurance is demonstrated by the sector employing over 1.1 million people across the world with over 960 million people being served as members or policyholders of mutual/cooperative insurers.

International Women’s Day is celebrated yearly on 8 March and is a day when women around the world and from all walks of life are commended both for their achievements and for their efforts towards equality. International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries, communities and business organisations.