This article has been written in answer to Ellie Webster's insightful observations (In response to London's Leading Underwriters Report 2019 on Gracechurch's London’s Leading Underwriters report (LLU), drawing attention to the lack of diversity in the underwriters ranked and challenging it to better represent the female underwriting talent in the Market.
Our response: The LLU Report evaluates who London Market brokers and underwriters rate as the most respected underwriting leaders, outside of their own businesses. The survey is based on a representative sample of the London Market brokers and underwriters and is designed to monitor trends. We don’t set quotas for gender. The current reality is that the respondent base, while representative of the workforce in London is hugely male-dominated. This is something that we, as many, have hoped to see change over time. As a strong supporter of diversity, it is as frustrating to us as it is to Ellie that this appears to be stuck, but we would rather report the challenge as it is than try to artificially increase the numbers of female leaders listed in the Report in some way, as this would be counterproductive and the forces of resistance may take comfort in numbers that do not represent the reality.
A few words on the methodology (because it matters): LLU is a scientific survey of a representative group of underwriters and brokers and the results are based on around 650 responses. Our database (the universe of all brokers and underwriters) comprises around 6,000 individual brokers and underwriters and covers the majority of brokers and underwriters in the London Market. The sampling process involves a systematic manual check of all insurer websites, LinkedIn etc. as well as sourcing complete up-to-date lists of named individuals from our clients who currently cover most of the market. Respondents can mention up to three underwriters and this results in c.1200 nominations. The end-result is a survey that is representative of the views of all brokers and underwriters in the London Market.
How it works in practice (the gender issue is actually worse than you think): In the broker and underwriter cohorts (the respondents) there is currently a gender imbalance 80/20 in favour of men. Because there are disproportionately fewer women to vote for, compared with men, the resulting number of female underwriters in the rankings is low in absolute terms. However, as Ellie's analysis shows, only 5% of women are represented in the top 10 listing, whereas we estimate the actual market representation to be around 20%. This ‘double-whammy’ is caused by respondents being generally less likely to vote for women. We can’t be sure why this is, except to hypothesise that in a male-dominated arena, women are less visible and therefore less considered, an effect that is perhaps symptomatic of the negative unconscious biases that gender imbalances can foster.
We constantly draw insurance leadership’s attention to our gender evidence to show them the negative and constraining effect this has on the performance of any modern business. Getting this point home has not been always been easy however, with indifference being the norm.
Gracechurch’s promise is to always empirically measure performance, as it is, and challenge the market to go to the next level. We will continue to draw attention to the gender imbalance whenever we can in our day-to-day consulting work, because we know that with diversity comes improved performance.
Finally, we think that making the point matters and will therefore publish an article this week on Slipcase and LinkedIn which lists and celebrates the female underwriters who made the 2019 LLU rankings. In that article we will robustly set the challenge for the Market to step-change its efforts and make diversity transformation a key performance measure in its modernisation drive.
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