Gender equality is about putting men and women on an equal footing for the benefit all in the protection world, says Phil Jeynes.
There is a comedian called Richard Herring who spends every 8 March on Twitter, replying all day to tweets asking when International Men’s Day is (19 November, by the way).
There are thousands of tweets, invariably from men, since 8 March is International Women’s Day and there is a section of male society who believe that such an event is designed not to empower and venerate half the population but to antagonise and marginalise the other 50 per cent.
You do not only find these people on social media. A scroll below the line of any article about equal pay, sexism in the workplace or a lack of diversity in senior roles will introduce you to people who, at best, think this is all a bit of ‘political correctness gone mad’ but, at worst, believe that the status quo is correct and need not be challenged.
In my view, any business is improved by having a range of experiences, opinions and expertise within it. In protection, where we aim to grow the number of people buying cover, it is common sense to give ourselves the best chance of reaching our target audience by having members of that audience help to guide our marketing and product design efforts.
Recent research from Canada Life suggests that more than half of women aged 25-45 have no protection in place – despite the majority having children and/or mortgage or rent commitments.
On the back of this, clearly our message is not cutting through to a large number of women.
I don’t have a solution. I’m not sure any one person does. It will need nuanced changes to the way our industry interacts with distributors and customers over a sustained period.
Most importantly though, it will need senior women within our sector – lots of them – to balance the thinking and round out our experience base.
I don’t have a solution. I’m not sure any one person does
Tangentially, at my local youth football club every year I meet with parents to explain that some of them will need to step forward and coach the team. Often they are reticent and need some coercion, with the voice of experience telling them it’s actually rewarding and fun.
That voice is always male and the suggestion that the volunteer could be a mum just as well as a dad always provokes giggles – from both genders. The reason is simple: all our coaches are men, most of the players are boys, every coach of a football league team is a man. There are virtually no role models at any level to show women that coaching football is a possibility for them.
In the working world when I talk to young men, fresh from actuarial studies, about their aspirations, they talk candidly about wanting to run an insurer, and why shouldn’t they? They can see other male actuaries doing just that, across the industry. Just as in football, however, our female role models are too few.
Promoting equality isn’t about denigrating one gender in favour of another, it’s about putting both on an equal footing to the benefit of all.
Phil Jeynes is head of sales and marketing at UnderwriteMe