Hamilton’s Duperreault says progress of women in insurance still slow

By Cate Chapman on July 8, 2015

dupe2NEW YORK—Brian Duperreault walks the walk. The CEO of Hamilton Insurance Group, and former CEO of Marsh, said it’s only when people like him “get personal” in explaining the importance of gender diversity that middle management responds to the need for promoting women in insurance.

“Why am I drawn to this issue?” Duperreault told the IICF Women in Insurance Global Conference in New York last month. “My mother raised me by herself, my wife is a talented professional in her own right … my education was by nuns, who were tough, fair and structured.”

Pausing toward the end of an emotional speech, he then continued, “I want to see my sons’ partners work in a world that treats them fairly.”

Duperreault transfixed another audience a year ago, when he delivered his speech “Where Are the Women?” at the Bermuda Captive Conference, and has been inundated with requests to speak on the subject since.

He told the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation conference that in spite of evidence showing a link between market performance and the level of female representation on boards, and especially across all levels of leadership, the pace of change in the industry has been “depressingly slow.”

“We haven’t made much progress,” Duperreault said. “Women are paid less, there are too few of them on boards, not enough are promoted.”

He referred to a May 2015 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of 600 female millennials in financial services around the world showing most believe that insurers are doing less to promote equality (115 of the of the participants born between 1980 and 1995 worked in insurance). It also shows more believe promotion is biased toward men in insurance than in other financial services industries.

Among the report’s findings:

•    61 percent of female millennials in financial services say their employer isn’t doing enough to encourage diversity (that proportion rises to 64 percent in insurance), and 73 percent believe that organizations talk about diversity, but opportunities are not equal for all (that’s 80 percent in insurance).

•    Half believe that promotion is biased toward men.

•    Only around 20 percent of male millennials in financial services think that promotion is biased toward men, “suggesting an unconscious bias.”

•    13 percent of about 8,000 female millennials taking part in PwC’s broader survey of industries including FS said they wouldn’t work in insurance because of its image (that proportion rose to 19 percent in Asia). Ten percent said as much of banking and capital markets, and 5 percent of asset management.

“Insurance is seen as boring, conservative and lacking purpose,” Duperreault told the conference. He added that obstacles to attracting and promoting women included management failure and the competition for female talent in a field that often required an MBA and scientific expertise.

There is also a “priming effect—bias stereotyping, rapid assumptions,” that works against women in the industry, he said.

But Duperreault also said that insurance is on the “cusp of disruption” by technology, and that its management was too old to be able to react without younger people, including women.

“We need young people and women to help us tackle the disruption that is coming,” he said, noting that demographically “women are going to outnumber men.”