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Kathryn Knowles: Changing the female social norms

kathryn-knowlesThis year has seen women stand up and make sure they are recognised for their achievements.

The Chartered Insurance Institute’s Insuring Women’s Futures programme, Women in Protection network and a wave of awards events focused on the triumphs of women in the industry have set the trail blazing for females in financial services. The passion we see at these events, recalling everything we have achieved and planning what we can do next, is inspiring.

That said, there is part of me that wishes there were no specific female awards, groups or conferences. I would like to be recognised for what I do because I am good at it, not because I am a girl.

The issues we are trying to tackle within the financial services sector are far greater than we anticipate.

We are challenging social norms that have lasted generations – that women stay at home and nurture the family, while men go out and earn the money. This broad generalisation is quickly becoming old-fashioned.

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Changing social norms is not an easy thing to do, but that does not mean it is not worth doing. Every movement has to start somewhere. Why not start it now?

We cannot overlook the importance of having women role models for younger generations, to show careers in finance are not just for men. Of course, there will still be women that have to give things up to be care givers. I stand with those women. I put my career on hold, and continue to do so to some extent, as I have three young children.

While I want to be my own person and build my career, I put my children first. If that means less money or opportunities, so be it.

We need to engage young girls, teenagers, new mothers, wives, divorcees, widows and pensioners.

We need women to understand their worth and their partners to understand the sometimes non-quantifiable value they bring to a household. We need to change the mindset that the person staying at home with the kids is not worth as much as the person that brings home the bacon. The CII recently found the average 65-year-old woman had a pension pot worth just one fifth of the value of a typical 65-year-old male. That is unacceptable. Are women being punished in later life because they have given up careers to nurture the next generation?

The protection industry can help. In particular, employers should not ignore the advantages of training female advisers and helping women back into the workplace after having children.

Protection market growth estimated at 20% in 2018

And by hiring women, employers are not only doing the right thing recruitment-wise; they will also increase access to a pool of consumers that may have previously shied away from male-centric organisations.

The majority of our clients have medical histories they may be more comfortable discussing with a female. Indeed, there are many times when women feel they can talk more easily to other females over men.

Kathryn Knowles is managing director of specialist risk experts Cura Financial Services

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