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Amanda Blanc makes first appearance as ABI chair

Amanda Blanc

Amanda Blanc made her first appearance as chair of the Association of British Insurers, as the insurer body debuted new research.

Blanc took to the stage at the ABI’s headquarters at One America Square this morning, to discuss a new ABI report on tackling the industry’s gender seniority gap.

Known to be an outspoken supporter of diversity in insurance, the incoming Zurich EMEA CEO pulled no punches.

Blanc said: “It’s about a subject that I feel enormously passionate about. The people that have worked with me before say I am passionate about everything, but this is something that is going to need a little bit more action than perhaps I would have hoped previously. Ten years ago people said it’s just a matter of time, it’s generational. But I don’t believe that is the case. What we are now seeing is that all of these great actions are not moving the dial.”

Partly-inspired by her time on gardening leave from Axa when she spoke to other mothers on the school run, Blanc called for action.

She added: “I talk to the women in the playground with PhDs, with degrees in physics, in chemistry, in business, and they’re there because they couldn’t make it work. That is just crazy. We have to do something about that. Let’s as an industry recognise that it is a joint challenge. It is something we have to work on together. Let’s get some data and work on it together. And let’s put some real passion and enthusiasm behind it to make some real change.”

Research findings

The report found that motherhood is the dominant reason for the gender seniority gap, though other factors are at play. Its findings suggest that the best way to tackle sexism is not through training, but through organisational change.

Suggested ways to make change include offering senior job-shares easier, allowing for senior roles to be part-time, and propelling women who have previously taken on part-time roles to cope with childcare into advanced positions.

In addition, it revealed that the impact of training to end gender bias is unconvincing, with a lack of evidence that it results in more females being promoted or a shrinking gender gap.

ABI director general Huw Evans chaired a discussion around the research. Joining Blanc on the panel were Allianz director of broker markets Sarah Mallaby, Scor EMEA managing director Malcolm Newman and Public First founding partner Rachel Wolf.

The panel expressed support for the gender pay gap initiative, which was described as “innovative”, but were surprised by the lack of company data available when looking at women’s progress.

Scor’s Newman said: “What I found surprising was that our industry is all about data. What we do with our products, with our customers, we analyse everything to death. Yet we can’t get any data about what we are doing in HR. When I think about my experience in the various companies I have worked at and the people in HR departments, they are generally interested in people.

“They are not necessarily interested in numbers and I think there is an issue there, because they have been the custodians of this data for quite a long time. Maybe the management haven’t shown enough interest in this data.”

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