Cooperative and mutual insurance sector has significantly higher numbers of women CEOs than stock companies

Tuesday, 08 March 2016

Insurance sometimes has a reputation of being a conservative industry, run in a time-honoured way by groups of men with little involvement by women, particularly at senior levels.

Recent research carried out by the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) for this year’s International Women’s Day, however, demonstrates that cooperative and mutual insurers – and particularly ICMIF member organizations – are leading the way in changing this situation. More and more women are leading mutual and cooperative insurers and playing a key role in growing the insurance sector globally.

ICMIF’s analysis of the insurance sector to mark International Women’s Day 2016 reported that nine of the largest 100 cooperative and mutual insurers in the world have women CEOs*, while only one of the top 100 stock company insurers globally is led by a woman.

Some regions of the world feature very high numbers of female CEOs in the cooperative and mutual insurance sector. Canada is of particular note, with 27% of CEOs of mutual and cooperative insurers being women.

Commenting on this statistic, President and CEO of ICMIF member The Co-operators (Canada), Kathy Bardswick, said: “I am not surprised that cooperative and mutual insurers are once again showing leadership, given our bone deep commitment to remain connected to and reflective of our stakeholders. I do look forward to a time, however, when we can celebrate statistics across all geographies and industries that truly reflect parity.”

Hilde Vernaillen, Director and Chair of the Management Committee, P&V (Belgium) said:  “This high percentage of woman at the top of cooperative and mutual insurers shown by ICMIF’s research is no surprise. Our business model gives high importance to the development of people, all people in all their diversity. Our business model recognises the richness of diversity, including gender diversity. Woman feel comfortable to grow within cooperative and mutual organizations without constraints. They don’t experience the so-called “glass ceiling”. Women in our organizations feel highly respected in their function by colleagues.”

Senior Vice-President, ICMIF, Liz Green said: “The mutual and cooperative model is the fastest-growing part of the global insurance market since 2007, with a 30% growth in premium income during this period, compared to a 13.6% increase for the global insurance market as a whole.

“Five of the nine largest cooperative and mutual insurers globally that have a female CEO are members of ICMIF and in total 14% of our member organizations are led by women. It is also very interesting to note that 70% of these female-led member companies have outperformed their local market over the last five years,” Green concluded.

Monique Leroux, President of the International Co-operative Alliance and Chair of the Board, President and CEO of ICMIF member Desjardins Group said: "The world is facing many challenges: financial volatility, employment shortage, climate change and growing inequality. These slow global sustainable growth. 

The world needs to encourage the economic and political potential of women. We have to fully leverage this important economic power of women in the world. 

Cooperatives are the main source of income for 250 million people. We provide employment to 12% of the G20 work force. The global turnover of coops is 2.4 trillion USD. Let us unleash coops' potential by encouraging women and men to participate more, and to build a better world."

In 2013 ICMIF published a unique, anecdotal report Women in Leadership Positions which investigated ICMIF’s female leaders’ views about how they run their companies and what the major challenges are for them as a woman CEO or President. In the report themes around equity, values and democracy were prevalent as was discussion about talent development for females as well as males.

The mutual and cooperative sector globally represented 27% of the global insurance market in 2014, a significant growth in global market share from 23.5% in 2007. It wrote USD 1.3 trillion in insurance premiums in 2014 and held over USD 8.3 trillion in assets (2007: USD 5.9 trillion).

The positive social impact of mutual and cooperative insurance is demonstrated by the sector employing over 1.1 million people across the world with over 950 million people being served as members or policyholders of mutual/cooperative insurers.

International Women’s Day is celebrated yearly on 8 March and is a day when women around the world and from all walks of life are commended both for their achievements and for their efforts towards equality. International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries, communities and business organizations.

*Source: ICMIF Global 500 Report 2014