Blog: Young women, jump at an insurance career

1980s woman

  • Today is a long way from the days when women were not even allowed into the underwriting room as a broker or an underwriter
  • A strong culture of mentorship, training and meritocracy is important
  • Attitude to diversity has changed from mere platitudes to a recognition of the benefits it brings to the industry

As we mark International Women’s Day 2018, Angela Darling, group risk and compliance director at Complete Cover Group, feels the insurance industry has come a long way towards accepting women onto boards in the last 40 years.

“That’s the trouble with women when they get into a position of power. They don’t know what they’re talking about.”

I was newly promoted when I received that helpful comment from a male colleague back in the early 1980s. I had expected a few undermining swipes here and there, but this one was friendly fire, which made it stand out.

Thankfully, as a driven young woman, I had worked very hard to know exactly what I was talking about. Most of the time anyway. I definitely felt I had to prove it though. For many years, I would add every letter after my name from every professional qualification I ever got. Each one was like a little badge to justify the fact that I, a woman, was offering my professional opinion. The audacity. In the end, the oversized signature went the same way as the shoulder pads and power suits. Out of date. No longer necessary. An anachronism in today’s world of work.

As we mark International Women’s Day 2018, I must say that overall I feel very positive about the progress that has been made in the insurance industry since I started out over 40 years ago.

We need more, of course. We could be doing with more women in executive roles, the pay gap needs to close and depressingly, the ‘Me Too’ movement has highlighted that we cannot afford to be complacent. Horrific abuses of power can all too often be hidden in plain sight.

But we have certainly come a long way from the days when women were not even allowed into the underwriting room as a broker or an underwriter. 

I can’t help but feel excited for the ambitious young women that I see rising through the ranks at Complete Cover Group today. Having a fantastic female role model in CEO Sharon Beckett helps of course. As do other strong female influencers across the industry.

I know how important it was for me to have female role models and mentors when I was climbing the career ladder and it remains important today.

The strong culture of mentorship, training and meritocracy at my own firm gives me real hope for the future as it opens doors for ambitious women and men alike. Our investment in apprenticeships and training is something that I am particularly proud of. I refused to go to university myself - I was too impatient to get to work -  which is perhaps why it gives me such satisfaction to see young people taking up the opportunity to train and prove themselves on the job, regardless of their age and background.

It is not just us of course. There are positive signs that the drive for diversity and meritocracy has momentum elsewhere in the insurance industry too. The Worshipful Company of Insurers’ Independent Women In Insurance is doing a great job of supporting and developing female talent. This is something that we must continue to encourage.

From my time as a Policy Standards Board member and chair of the Governance and Diversity Committees at the Chartered Insurance Institute, I have definitely witnessed a real shift in attitudes to diversity, from mere platitudes to a much wider-spread recognition of its importance and the major benefits it brings to the industry.

It requires action from the top and sometimes this is slower than we might like, but it is happening and it is heartening.

Ultimately, to any young woman today who is considering a career in insurance, my advice would be to jump at the chance. I wholeheartedly recommend it. The opportunities are there for the taking and if I was talking to my 20-year-old self, I’d do exactly the same all over again. Minus the shoulder pads.  

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