Macquarie Chief Executive Shemara Wikramanayake’s recent ‘call to arms for girls of any ethnicity, sexuality or ability to study STEM subjects and consider a career in finance’, as detailed in the Nov 2020 Australian Financial Review, prompted me to reflect on the current state of senior leadership in Financial Services.
When I first started in travel and health insurance, I found it exceptionally male-dominated, with very few women in senior leadership roles, certainly no CEOs. Fast-forward 15 years and we celebrate a significant milestone in Australia, with the top three travel insurers all headed by women.
Cara Morton (Covermore), Anna Gladman (nib Travel) and Miranda Fennell (Allianz Worldwide Partners) are responsible for over 80 per cent of all travel insurance policies in Australia, protecting (in the 12 months leading up to Jan 2020) an estimated 10 million overseas journeys. Allianz continues the trend, appointing their new female CEO in North America. And Covermore in North America, Ireland, APAC and China are all led by talented women.
Naturally, this level of equality does not happen overnight, and it couldn’t have been achieved without the hard work of industry legends such as Carole Tokody, Beth Godlin and Meredith Staib. It has been a gradual, yet consistent, shift in the culture and approach in the industry that has helped us hit this significant point.
If I look at the private health insurance industry in Australia, we have still got a way to go. I’m proud to be led by Sheena Jack here at HCF, while Emily Amos leads the PHI team at BUPA, but that’s only two out of the top 10 health insurers led by women. There are many parallels between the two industries, and the senior leadership toolboxes are closely aligned, so I look forward to the time that PHI moves closer to travel insurance in the CEO statistics.
Wikramanayake stated: “Working to ensure diversity of thought and capability is critical.” As we take the steps towards a Covid-normal world, we’ll have to be able to embrace the strength that comes from diversity. It’s great to see such positive steps in the two industries that I’m passionate about, with tangible examples of successful women as finance role models for girls today.