The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality. I believe the time to highlight the contribution of women to the tech sector is long overdue. For too long it’s been a male dominated sector, but women have made untold contributions to the digital world we live in. However, it’s often been against the odds – women currently only make up 22 percent of artificial intelligence workers globally. There remains a persistent gender gap that means women aren’t able to unlock technology’s full potential.
Women are also often put off careers in tech due to the threat of online gender-based violence and a lack of legal recourse – if you look at how women politicians are targeted online, compared to their male counterparts it’s easy to see why some women decide they don’t want to operate online.
The United Nations is now calling for governments, activists and the private sector to continue to push to make the digital world safer and more equitable.
While the issues in the tech sector may be relatively recent as it’s still a young industry – one of the oldest industries in the world – insurance – has also had an image problem when it comes to women and has always been seen as male dominated and a laggard when it comes to progress. Things are improving in the insurance industry – primarily through in-house programmes – and women now comprise more than 60 percent of the insurance industry, yet they only hold 19 percent of board seats.
It’s in everyone’s interests for companies to close gender gaps, as research from Morgan Stanley suggests the most gender-diverse companies outperform their regional peers by 1.7 percentage points on average.
Penta’s recent report examined the EDI performance of 10 companies, revealing the overall EDI scores and ranking, as well as commentary on the top 10 insurance companies.
Aviva leads the sector, strongly perceived as a company that is willing to implement EDI policies, and with a Chief Executive in Amanda Blanc who is a standout voice on equality issues. For example, in a shareholder meeting, Blanc features prominently in national media as she criticises a number of sexist comments made by some private investors. During International Women’s Day last year, she warned of a “frustratingly slow” pace of change in pay at senior levels, with research predicting 30 years to reach gender parity.
Aviva was praised for its paternity leave policy, with 80% of fathers at the company taking up to five months, while several employees are named in HERoes Role Model and 2022 Empower ethnic minority lists. Danielle Harmer, Chief People Officer at Aviva, is quoted discussing how companies can help break the taboo of menopause, stating, “It’s not just an issue for women – it impacts everyone.”
AIG won a number of EDI awards and rankings, such as being recognized among top 50 companies for diversity for a 5th consecutive year. It was also included in the FT Adviser Diversity in Finance Awards 2022 shortlist, which features “showcase those companies whose diversity and inclusion strategies have been exceptional”.
Overall, it seems some progress is being made but for that progress to continue it’s key to recognise which individuals throughout an organisation have the capacity to be a thought leader for EDI, and engage with media proactively.
Diversity, inclusion and gender equality should be a priority in all sectors – evidence shows that more inclusive teams are better for team performance, decision making and collaboration and that’s good for employees and for business whatever sector it’s in.