Mutual and cooperative insurers lead the industry in terms of gender diversity on boards and in senior management

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The percentage of women on the boards of directors of mutual and cooperative insurers rose to 20.6% in 2015, compared to an insurance industry average of just 17.8%*, according to the latest research published by the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF). This represents a significant growth for the mutual and cooperative sector over the previous 10 years, having increased from an average representation of women on boards of 14.3% in 2010 and almost doubled from 11.0% in 2005.

Corporate governance practices of ICMIF member companies were surveyed for the latest edition of the ICMIF Members’ Governance report, which focusses on the size, composition and tenure of the boards of directors, as well as gender diversity at board, CEO and senior management level.

Just under 85% of ICMIF member companies had at least one woman director on their board in 2015 and impressively, 48% of companies had three or more women directors, a significantly greater percentage than the industry average of just 17%. This also represents a sizeable improvement from 10 years ago as in 2005 only 56% of members had a women director on their board and fewer than 20% had three or more.

Member companies in all major geographical regions experienced a rise in the average proportion of women on boards. Almost a quarter of board positions of European mutual and cooperatives insurers were held by women in 2015, and Europe also had the greatest proportion of companies with three or more women directors in 2015 (60%) followed by North America (53%). More than 90% of Latin American companies also had at least one woman director on their board in 2015, a major increase from ten years ago (2005: 25%).

At CEO/senior management level, almost 27% of senior executives were women, compared to 25% in 2010. There has also been an increase in women being appointed as CEO at ICMIF members, as 18% of members were led by a woman CEO in 2015 compared to just 13% of members in 2010 and around 7% in 2005.

Regionally, 39% of senior management positions at ICMIF members in Latin America were occupied by women and in Asia and Oceania, it was almost a third. Latin America was also the leading region in terms of gender diversity of CEOs, 39% of members were led by a woman CEO. Europe and North America also had a relatively high proportion of women in the role of CEO at just under 20% and 19% of ICMIF members respectively.

Commentating on the findings from the report, Shaun Tarbuck, ICMIF Chief Executive, said, “The cooperative and mutual insurance sector has long known what the rest of the insurance industry has been slow to realise: that the best boards for insurance companies are more diverse boards, and that the most effective senior management teams are the more diverse management teams. The fact that ICMIF member companies’ boards have almost doubled their average female representation over a 10-year period highlights their commitment to addressing gender imbalance and promoting diversity, not just in terms of how they are governed by their board of directors, but also throughout their companies.”

Tarbuck added, “These trends coming out of the mutual and cooperative sector are very encouraging, and while there is still a lot of work to do by the insurance industry in general in terms of gender parity in executive management, our sector is certainly leading the way. These companies with a high proportion of women on their boards and women in senior executive positions have been proven to perform better, not only financially in terms of growth, efficiency and profitability, but also in terms of instilling a culture of inclusion within their respective insurance companies, which in turn, is transferred to the customer in terms of better service and engagement from their employees of all gender.”

The ICMIF Members’ Governance 2016 is an exclusive member-only report for ICMIF members. To obtain a copy of the report, please contact Ben Telfer, Vice-President, Business Intelligence (


*Data on the average women board representation of the insurance industry from MSCI ESG Research Women on Boards, ©2016 MSCI ESG Research Inc. Reproduced by permission.