Visitors to the 23rd Rencontres of AMRAE in February could have left Cannes with the impression that women have a huge presence in France’s risk management and insurance sectors.

Women composed a large share of participants in the event’s sessions and workshops, as well as among the executives, advisers and sales personnel hosting the exhibitors’ stalls, set up by the insurance industry.

As of today, most of the people who work in the sector, at least in France, are women. But if women are a majority among insurance workers, they still represent a minority among the industry’s leaders.

According to the latest report by l’Observatoire sur les Métiers et les Formations des Salariés de l’Assurance, a think-tank that deals with labour issues in the sector, women represent almost 60% of all insurance workers, but they fill a miserly 27% of all executive positions. Ten years ago, the ratio was an even less impressive 16.6%.

The FERMA newsletter interviewed several leading risk professionals in France to learn their views on gender diversity in the risk management and insurance sectors. The picture that emerged shows that there is progress, but plenty more to be achieved, and many companies have still to put the value of diversity into effect in their business.

Some of their comments are specific to France; others could apply in many other countries.

    • There are few women on the executive committees of most large companies in France, like most other industries.
    • Men are still seen as more natural leaders.
    • Where women do play a leadership role in an insurance business, typically the company is not French.
    • Working practices are often not family friendly.
    • Women may be more risk conscious than male colleagues – good qualities for risk professionals but possibly less valued in candidates for leadership.
    • Informal networks are important.

For the full report and individual interviews:

Isabelle Bousquet, Senior Director of Global Business Continuity & Crisis Management at Carlson Wagonlit Travel

Raïa Faby, the Head of Technical Claims at broker Gras Savoye

Corinne Cipière, Managing director at RSA France

Consultant Béatrice Blanchard Duhayon

Marie-Claude Delaveaud, Director of Risks and Insurance at DCNS

Patricia Goudarzi, Director for Sales and Distribution for ACE in Continental Europe

Nadia Côté, Managing Director at ACE France