Mutual insurers champion gender equality

25 Oct 2013

ICMIF, the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation, has taken a lead on gender equality.

As part of its efforts to assess whether co-operatives and mutuals were more inclined to appoint women in leadership positions, ICMIF has carried out a survey to see what women CEOs had to say about their role within their organisation.

A previous study carried out in 2012 had revealed that women are taking a much more significant role in senior management of co-operative and mutual insurers than in the case for the insurance sector generally.

ICMIF explored this issue further by asking women CEOs of ICMIF members to respond to a short nine-question survey. One of the core aims of the survey was to reveal whether women believed co-operatives and mutual were more likely to give top jobs to female employees. The survey was also designed to explore the role played by women mentors in helping younger women executives progress.

Women were also asked what they saw as the key leadership attribute of being a CEO and whether female CEOs approach the job differently than their male colleagues.

Referring to the survey, Hilde Vernaillen, CEO of P&V Group of Belgium, said: “In my experience talent at any level of the organisation must include the right balance of male and female energy. Achieving this at a senior level often requires a firm desire and commitment from the Board.

“The very fact that 29 of ICMIF’s member organisations have chosen to appoint females into CEO, Chair and President roles tells me that our mutual and co-operative models appears to be more enlightened than the stock company alternatives.”

Women CEOs and top level leaders are particularly strongly represented in co-operative and mutual insurers in the Americas. According to ICMIF, in North America, seven out of 18 companies (39 per cent) are led by a woman. Moreover, in Latin America and the Caribbean, seven out of 47 member companies have a woman CEO or Board leader (15 per cent).

The Members’ Governance Report carried out in 2012 also revealed that in 2010, 25 per cent of the ICMIF member firms had three or more women on their board of directors. By contrast, only 16.7 per cent of other insurance firms had three or more women as board members.

There has been a significant increase in the number of women appointed to the top jobs in recent years within the mutual and co-operative insurance sector, according to ICMIF.

Women taking part in the survey said some of the key leadership attributes of being a CEO, chair or president were passion, commitment honesty, transparency, strategic thinking or problem solving skills. Some also argued that the co-operative governance structure gives equal chances to men and women who are qualified to run for leadership roles.

Photo: Hilde Vernaillen, CEO of P&V Group of Belgium