Inga Beale of Lloyd’s Speaks at Women of Themis London Event

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Lloyd’s CEO Inga Beale spoke at a Feb. 7, 2018 Women of Themis event in London.

On Feb. 7, 2018, Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd’s, delivered a powerful keynote speech for Themis Advocates Group Women’s Leadership Forum in London last week. Themis Advocates Group appreciates that so many women from the insurance and legal industries were able to attend. The group also sincerely appreciates the time Inga Beale provided to inspire a room full of future female leaders. For those who were unable to attend, the complete text of Inga Beale’s speech is below:

(*Posted on behalf of Themis Advocates Group)

Good afternoon,

Thank you for inviting me to speak and particularly during such a momentous week, as the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of votes for British women get underway around the country. This afternoon is all about equipping and inspiring you to get to those top roles within the insurance sector. We all know that there are very few women occupying those roles and that is a situation that we must urgently turn around, not just to push forward progress for women, but for the health and future of this profession.

Collectively we have an incredibly important purpose. Businesses, governments, and most importantly people – individuals – rely on us to be there when it matters most. We keep economies going and build resilience in what increasingly feels like a fragile, rapidly changing world. Together we pay trillions of dollars of claims each and every year – helping people to get back on their feet when disaster strikes and enabling new endeavours to get off the ground. Without us, the wheels of global economic and societal progress would grind to a halt.

So with such an important purpose, it is absolutely vital that we have leadership teams who represent the world we serve – half of which are women! It simply cannot remain as imbalanced as it is in our sector.

Let’s look at some the numbers. Last year it was found that 15 percent of all board seats globally are taken up by women, compared to 12 percent in 2015, according to Deloitte research which tracks the efforts of 64 countries to promote boardroom gender diversity.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, that research found that companies with a female CEO or board chair have almost twice as many women on the board as companies led by men. It also found that 29 percent of board positions are held by women in companies with a female CEO. This compares to 15 per cent in companies with a male CEO.

If we look at countries around the world leading the way, Norway was found to have the largest share of board seats held by women at 42 percent, followed by France at 33 percent and Sweden at 32 percent. The UK came 12th on 20 percent, an increase from 15.6 percent in 2015. And a recent Oliver Wyman survey found that female managers, senior managers and executives in financial services are 20 to 30% more likely to leave their employer than their peers in other industries.

Why is that? This same survey found that many women face a mid-career conflict – a point when they weigh up the costs of a career, and what they are sacrificing in their personal lives. Now I wouldn’t say this is the case for all women, but many feel that the costs seem too great in relation to the uncertain benefits of pressing on. Insufficiently flexible working options, inadequate support for family responsibilities, lack of clarity on promotion processes and equal pay, and unconscious bias were named as the most significant hurdles for women juggling family commitments, and their career.

But there are other factors, too.

Throughout my career, both for myself and in hiring people, I have noticed that women tend to think that if they can’t tick all of the boxes on the job description, then they are not good enough for a role. The very first promotion I was offered I refused. I fell into the trap of thinking just that – I’m not good enough to take on that role. Women need to really believe in their ability, to get out there and take on those challenging roles.

But there also needs to be a shared vision in achieving equality in the workplace – not just for women, but for all people. It is everyone’s responsibility to take action – to challenge existing attitudes and behaviours and drive change. The UN Women HeForShe global campaign is one example – a call for action for people around the world to stand together to create a bold, visible force for gender equality.

In 2016 I joined senior leaders across the insurance profession in support of the Insuring Women’s Futures HeforShe campaign, which aims to give everyone the opportunity to see where they can personally make a difference in reinventing insurance for women and making all of our lives, and those of whom the industry serves, more inclusive.

I think it’s important that we recognise the gender imbalance at the top is everyone’s problem, and this is just one initiative where we can get that message out there. Reporting is a powerful spur to action. And so are targets – provided they force companies to do what they should be doing anyway. Since signing up to the UK Women in Finance Charter launched by the UK government in the first half of 2016, Lloyd’s have published targets for gender balance in our senior management. We aim to achieve a better balance than we have now with at least 40 percent women, at least 40 percent men. Those numbers clearly demonstrate that we all need to take action, with our own career development, and with supporting those around us to take up those senior roles. We have more momentum now than ever before to make some real progress in creating much more gender inclusive business leadership teams. Now is the time to really crack this.

As you heard with the Deloitte figures on female representation in senior levels when there are women on Boards or the CEO of organisations, it is absolutely critical that all women across the insurance sector be ambitious and determined in their own careers to reach those positions – to act as role models, and to spur on positive change.

That is something that I am absolutely committed to. Some years ago, I was asked about what my purpose was. I hadn’t really thought about it much before, and after some contemplation I realised that it was all about empowering women in business. I feel very aligned with that purpose today and it drives me on, particularly when things get a bit tough. I know that I simply don’t want to let women down, and I must keep on for them and keep moving forward.

I think there are three elements that are essential for career development. These are best summarised as P.I.E. PIE stands for Performance, Image and Exposure. In other words, we know that to progress we must “Perform”, and most firms around the world measure and give feedback on people’s performance at work.

But there’s also the “Image” element – how others perceive you, how do you come across in business situations. Now I will admit that there are often days when I’m walking into a room full of men, and have to bolster myself – to muster up the courage to speak my views, and show real strength of character. I’m sure that many of you have similar situations and will have felt the same pressure to perform. In those situations you really have to believe in the skills and talent that have got you into that room and find confidence in that.

More generally, I have found that the best way to make sure people see your best side is to be authentic. Authenticity is a quality prized by employers, and will help you get on in your career. I first realised the true value of being authentic when I worked for a woman in Australia at the BBC – this was after I had walked away from the industry and went travelling. She said what she thought and wore what she wanted. Up to that point I had tried to fit in with existing cultures, instead of being myself and putting the onus back on the team to embrace who I was.

When I got back to London I decided to restart my career in insurance – but on my terms. My confidence in my abilities grew. I stopped trying to be anyone other than myself. And I began to realise my value. If you don’t, it’s less likely that your employer will. If you know you are good at your job, own it. Demand more! And that doesn’t apply just to your salary either. Be bold and ask to be put on leadership courses and training offered by your organisation. Sitting there and doing your job brilliantly isn’t enough – you need to be confident in going after every opportunity you can to develop and take charge of your career.

And then there’s the “exposure” piece which is equally important for your career progression – getting exposure to the right people and situations within your organisation and outside of your organisation. So I would encourage anyone who is given the opportunity of something new and different to be flexible in your career choices. Take a chance, give it a go – it takes some courage but it can really pay off. That’s what I did. And that’s what I am still doing. I’m still learning on the job – Lloyd’s is a complex, fascinating, demanding place to work – and the sort of place where you learn every day. What I take confidence from is that, having worked my way up from the bottom, I know that I will be able to deal with any challenges that come my way. nThat’s a good weapon to have in your armoury. It’s also a quality that the company you work for will benefit from.

Moving back now to the subject of diversity and inclusion – as CEO of Lloyd’s, this is an area that I feel particularly passionate about, especially when it comes to creating the sort of environment that attracts the best and the brightest talent, no matter their background, or differences. When you run an organisation you want people to be free to be the best they can be. You want people to take risks, to learn from mistakes, to think the unthinkable because diverse thinking leads to better decisions. What you don’t want are employees distracted by the daily fear their colleagues might not accept who they really are. Creating a workplace culture in which everyone can bring their whole selves to work should be, therefore, a business priority for all CEOs – and all people in leadership positions.

There’s a ton of research supporting the business case for diversity – I won’t go into that now. Suffice to say diverse organisations find it easier to attract talent, retain employees, perform better in terms of profitability and productivity and make better decisions. It is the responsibility of all of us in leadership positions, who have the influence to change attitudes, to lead from the front and drive out the prejudice, ignorance and hate that lingers still in some parts of society. If you are not taking positive action to promote diversity, you need to ask yourself why – there is no excuse for inertia.

The question we face as leaders and managers is: How do we change the culture in our organisations to ensure diversity and inclusion are so integrated they become totally woven into the decision-making process? When I became Lloyd’s first-ever female CEO, I faced a real challenge. I inherited a venerable institution steeped in charming – or anachronistic – tradition, depending on your perspective, that was anything but diverse. So since my arrival at Lloyd’s, my exec team and I have worked hard to overcome these perceptions by putting in place a Talent Strategy.

In summary, we have modernised our approach to sourcing, developing, managing and recognising talent. And not just internally within the Corporation – the body that oversees the Lloyd’s market – but externally to the Lloyd’s market, too, by providing a framework and tools they can use.

I am really pleased with the progress we are making. The other day I got an email from an employee describing his experience of diversity and inclusion in the Lloyd’s market. He wrote: “For me Lloyd’s is place where it doesn’t matter who you are, what you are, or where you have come from – if you are the right person for the job, we want you to work for us. People don’t realise what it means to be part of a minority. But actually in organisations like Lloyd’s, you are not a minority. You are just one of many. But at the same time, with your own individuality – whatever that might be.”

This sentiment is proof that put the right measures in place, challenge existing cultures and get people speaking honestly about how they feel and it is possible to change views on all aspects of diversity, however deeply entrenched. Change is happening in the wider business community too but let’s not kid ourselves we are there yet.

So I urge you, take diversity in all its forms seriously. Use the power you have to make a lasting positive difference to your organisation. Empower the next generation to fulfil their true potential. Be remembered for what you did – not what you didn’t do.

Thank you.

#ThemisLondon #WomenofThemis

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About Rod Hughes

I'm a writer, bibliophile, witty wordsmith and generally a commentator on the world around me. Professionally, I am vice president of a Pennsylvania-based public relations agency that helps businesses get their messages out into the world in a positive, effective way. All commentary within this blog is my own and unrelated to my employment endeavors. If this blog prompts deep thought, debate, laughter or a viral rash of some kind then I will consider my life just a tad more fulfilled.

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