From the President

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Diversity is one of the key issues for my term as FERMA President. The theme for International Women’s Day on the 8 March this year was “Make it happen” – which echos what we aim to achieve at FERMA in 2015.

Gender diversity for FERMA is about recognising and celebrating the differences between men and women, working out how businesses can be encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities these differences present and, for FERMA, doing what we can to reduce the gender gap. It is also about how women can be encouraged to hunt out opportunities and rise to the challenge. Gender diversity is not about ironing out the different characteristics and qualities of gender.

At a country level, there has been slow progress in closing gender gaps. The Global Gender Gap Report produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) highlighted persisting gender imbalance in businesses across and within regions. Increased gender diversity at the top of companies correlates with better company performance and even of less risk of controversial behaviour – yet women are still under-represented at top-management levels. In France, for example, women account for only 9% of executive committee members, and as you will see from our interviews at the AMRAE conference, women make up the majority of workers in the insurance sector in France, but they are less than 20% of senior management.

Previous research by the consultants McKinsey upended the myth that female managers are less ambitious than their male colleagues. Women are just as ambitious as men, but on average tend to display less confidence about their chances of succeeding in the environment in which they are working.

Confidence is most correlated with collective factors, meaning that the corporate culture matters twice as much as the mind-sets of individuals in terms of the confidence of women leaders in succeeding, McKinsey found. Support from male colleagues was critical to overcoming these barriers, while that the current “anytime, anywhere” performance model penalises women more than men, again as our interviews from France illustrate.

More recent research by KPMG highlighted three reasons for CEOs to take on the gender challenge:

  • Business – it makes business sense to release the talent of your total work force. There are countless articles about the “brain drain” in the risk and insurance profession and about the dearth of talent at leadership level. This argument is key if we believe that risk leadership is the way forward for our profession.
  • Social – most businesses have a clear vision and values. There is a fundamental link between these fine words and gender parity in businesses.
  • Personal – this may be an afterthought for many business leaders, but men who identify with the ambitions of women in their families are likely to support the gender case more strongly.

FERMA with its good record of women in leadership has a position of influence and an objective to use this “special place” to make a difference to gender-diversity in our profession.

Our objectives during this year are:

  • To develop a FERMA vision, mission statement, policy and strategic action programme for diversity;
  • To have that strategic action programme make a sustainable improvement in gender diversity visibility and performance.

While supporting diversity-related activities across our association boundaries, publishing articles and celebrating successes, we have been building a network of “diversity champions” who we are ready to activate.

See the interviews with French risk leaders and top career tips from former FERMA President and now technical adviser, Marie-Gemma Dequae at http://bit.ly/diversity-belgium.