General Insurance Article - Bright future for women in mutual and cooperative insurance

The International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) newly formed Young Leaders Programme had its official launch as part of its Biennial Conference in London last October. Fifty-five young leaders attended and just under half were women, highlighting a clear commitment from mutuals and cooperatives world-wide to “press for progress”.

 In total, ICMIF’s Biennial Conference saw a 28% representation by women on the speaker list and 30% representation by women on the delegate list. But it was the younger cohort who came out on top in terms of gender diversity at this event with 49% of the Young Leader delegates being women. At a time when the insurance industry is struggling to attract ‘up and coming’ millennials, opportunities such as attending a global industry-leading event such as the ICMIF Conference are enabling and empowering both men and women, in equal measures to climb the career ladder.
 ICMIF has also established a new Young Leaders Forum (YLF) for millennial/Gen Y professionals who have been identified by their senior managers as strong candidates to become future leaders within their organisations. The gender split of the Forum is five women to four men based on current membership.
 The main purpose of the YLF is to provide learning and development opportunities for these future leaders within ICMIF members, by exposing them to wider issues affecting the insurance industry and by enabling them to understand the global reach of the mutual sector.
 ICMIF and its members continue to press for progress
 Meagan Phillips from one of ICMIF’s largest US members, Securian, spoke of the benefits which came from attending the Conference and talking with other young people from mutuals and cooperatives around the world and finding that, in many cases, they shared the same experiences and the same attitudes. “It’s completely different from anything else I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. The first thing I’ll tell my manager is that this has been an invaluable experience for me in my leadership development, and it’s something I will encourage my company to do again so that other young leaders can build their skill sets and be ready for the future,” she said.
 Young leaders participated fully in the plenary sessions and workshops of the ICMIF Conference, and indeed three of them – including Julia Ludin (DEVK, Germany) – also shared their knowledge and experience as speakers in the main conference. The Young Leaders Programme featured side sessions which were open only to the Programme’s participants. One of the real highlights, according to many, was the business breakfast which was attended by several female CEOs from ICMIF member firms including ICMIF Chair Hilde Vernaillen (P&V, Belgium) and CEO, Anne Mette Toftegaard, (LB Group, Denmark).
 “The CEO session was obviously really invaluable, getting to know the CEOs and learning how they got to where they are,” said Bianca Tse from The Co-operators (Canada). But for her, the networking opportunities were perhaps the greatest benefit of the event. “What comes out of discussing the issues that other young leaders may have, and indeed that senior executives may have, is collaboration that could lead to solutions for all of us,” she added.
 “Thirty-one companies from 16 countries sent their young leaders to participate as delegates, and one of the threads running through the whole Conference was the need for mutuals and cooperatives to develop the next generation of talent,” says ICMIF Vice-President - Business Intelligence, Ben Telfer. “The young leaders’ attendance was embraced by the CEOs and senior executives who attended and their presence added to the diversity of thought at networking events and discussions. I was delighted to see such an equal diversity split amongst the participants too.”
 ICMIF research champions the mutual sector’s diversity
 Research carried out by ICMIF on gender diversity at board, CEO and senior management level last year demonstrated how 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 ICMIF Members’ Governance report, published in 2017, 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 represented 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% at that time.
 Last month ICMIF reported on the announcement from member organisation Thrivent in the USA on the election of Bonnie Raquet as the first-ever female Chair of the board of directors at member organisation Thrivent (USA). "Bonnie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role of the Chair of our board of directors, and we look forward to her continued leadership," said Thrivent CEO Brad Hewitt. "We are also proud that Bonnie has been named the first female Chair of the board in our organisation's history. This is a monumental moment that we celebrate."
 Speaking on behalf of ICMIF, Chief Executive, Shaun Tarbuck 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. This is also borne out by our new focus on the ICMIF Young Leaders Forum and Young Leaders Programme at the recent ICMIF Biennial Conference and the positive diversity we saw amongst participants. Our business model recognises the richness of diversity, including gender diversity. The women leading our member organisations tell me they feel comfortable to grow within cooperative and mutual organisations without constraints. They don’t experience the so-called “glass ceiling” and say they feel highly respected in their function by colleagues.”
 The mutual and cooperative sector represented 27% of the global insurance market in 2016, a significant growth in global market share compared to 24% in 2012. It wrote USD 1.2 trillion in insurance premiums in 2015 and held over USD 8 trillion in assets (2007: USD 5.9 trillion).
 Over 990m policyholders now have mutual/cooperative insurance products and cooperative and mutual insurers have consistently increased their employee numbers since 2012 with over 1.13 million people now employed by the sector across the world.
 International Women’s Day is celebrated annually 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.

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