Kajal Vakas is the senior vertical market manager of claims at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. We interviewed her ahead of IWD2023 to find out her perspective on women in the insurtech space and beyond.
What initiatives have you seen from companies looking to boost the inclusionof women?
We know through our work with the insurance sector that the market is working hard to create greater gender parity and also support women in the workplace through specific insurance solutions for female entrepreneurs[i]. One leading insurer has created the “Women in Insurance” initiative, to increase women’s access to insurance products and services that respond to their needs and expectations.
From a career development perspective, it is important to acknowledge the importance of events such as the Women in Insurance Awards and Conference as well as the Elite Women Awards.
But there is still lots of room for improvement where gender balance is concerned. The fifth annual review of the Women in Finance Charter[ii] shows that while more than a third (37%) of firms had met their targets for female representation in senior management, and a further 41% are on track to meet them, but for the first time, the average level of female representation has remained flat, at 33% in 2021.
Having too few women in leadership positions and/or founding companies could ultimately lead to tech being an industry built by men, for men. Can having more women in leadership positions help attract a more gender-balanced customer base?
Speaking from an insurance sector perspective, having more women in leadership positions is more about ensuring there are people in a position to influence how insurance products are designed to serve the varying needs of all sectors of society, including women. For example, some female drivers may want a different type of motor insurance policy that includes immediate support in an accident, breakdown cover and help finding a replacement vehicle. A woman who lives on their own may look for a home insurance product that includes a wider range of claims support services and perhaps the choice to have female repair people if needed.
For insurance providers, the challenge is not so much about attracting a more gender-balanced customer base given motor insurance is mandatory and buildings insurance is often a requirement by a mortgage provider, it’s making sure that the development of solutions are actually what customers want. Adding women from all types of cultural, racial and economic backgrounds adds diversity of thought to any company. This diversity of thought can benefit all customers, regardless of gender.
How can the industry attract more women, and also, more women into leadership roles?
It can start with the job ad. Women and men read job vacancies in different ways – women tend not to apply for roles if they don’t meet all the set requirements. We have found at LexisNexis Risk Solutions that simple tweaks to the wording – ‘preferred’ rather than ‘required’ for example, have made a difference to the number of women applying for roles.
Then it is a matter of being purposeful about women’s career progression – coaching rather than managing, allowing people the freedom to think, explore new ideas and reach their individual potential.
Many women go through phases in their career. It amazes me that there are still companies that don’t support women coming back from maternity or adoption leave with more suitable flexible working options. Often returners are on a high potential career trajectory that they could meet and excel in, if they were just given better flexibility to balance career and family life.
I also believe we need more male ally-ship. Male or female, we all work together for common goals. Since starting at LexisNexis Risk Solutions I’ve noticed the male:female ratio is higher than anywhere in my tech career so it’s fantastic to see that we are moving in the right direction.
Is there anything you would like to add?
There are many leading women in insurance and technology who command a presence and rightly so. Many of us, however, have been in that situation where we make a point and it’s not taken seriously, but when a male colleague says the same thing people sit up and take note. This is not a sector specific issue, it happens the world over. We have an opportunity to leverage strategies encouraging allyship such as the ‘amplification strategy’ that was adopted by the female members of the Obama administration[iii] in The White House to ensure women not only have a seat at the table but also a voice.