Ph.D. Research Scholar
Department of Commerce and Business Management
“Women’s are the largest untapped Reservoir of talent in the world”
– Hillary Clinton
Introduction The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. The Constitution not only grants equality to women, but also empowers the state to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. ‘Empowerment’ may be described as a process which helps people to assert their control over the factors which affect their lives. Empowerment of women means developing them as more aware individuals, who are politically active, economically productive and independent and are able to make intelligent discussion in matters that affect them. Present article discusses about empowering women’s leadership in insurance sector in India.
Conceptualising women’s empowerment in Insurance
Women in Insurance Initiative is to create a consortium dedicated to making a difference for women by propelling and supporting the insurance industry as a great place for women’s advancement. Supporting the message of opportunities for new jobs requiring technical, financial, and sales skills will build an employment base which serves as a competitive force. Women are critical to the industry’s future. We must ensure that more women are recruited, mentored, and sponsored up the system to drive equity in leadership at the executive level.
All organizations today believe in gender diversity in the workforce. Yet women remain under represented in corporate India and their unrealized contribution is both a social and economic loss for the country. There is an increase in the women workforce at the entry level but as they move into different roles in their lives – balancing work and family makes them give up their jobs.
Conceptualising women’s economic empowerment in Insurance
Indian women contribute just one-sixth to economic output, which is half of the global average. Imagine if a vastly populated country like India, where a major part of its population is young and agile, were able to utilize a substantial portion of its female workforce, the results it might fetch would be nothing short of ground-breaking.
Women are not just emerging as buyers of insurance policies, but also as sellers of policies with the number of women insurance agents on the rise. As per the latest IRDAI annual report, 5.79 lakh women are working as agents in the life industry making them 27.81% (up from 27% in 2016-17) of the total agency force as on March 31, 2018. Of these, 49.53% are employed by private insurers and 50.47% by LIC. Among the private life insurers, Max Life Insurance Co has the highest percentage of women agents at 46.11% followed by IDBI Federal Life Insurance Company at 39.17% and AEGON Life Insurance Co at 34.10%, the report said.
“We need to have more women agents as well. Insurance companies will also be encouraged to have more women workforce. It is heartening to note that six of the insurance companies (two life, one general, one re-insurer and two specialized insurers) are currently headed by women,” IRDAI chairman Subhash C Khuntia said.
V Viswanand, deputy managing director, Max Life Insurance, said women have traditionally played a pivotal role as agent advisors. “The most fundamental job of life insurance is to provide protection to one’s family and women are naturally inclined to engage effectively with customers on these conversations. We have also seen over the years that women agent advisors are not only high on productivity but have a high degree of commitment to the values and goals of the organisation,” he added.
Gender diversity is about equal representation of men and women in the workplace. A topic that’s debated globally, gender diversity is something that both small as well as big organizations across the world are ensuring in their work cultures. From improvement in financial performances, better and newer skills to increase in customer base – the advantages of gender equality, on an organizational level, are many.
One of the challenging sectors where women are taking everything in their stride is the insurance sector. The change is remarkable considering there was a time when financial world was dominated by men and women were asked just to give their opinion. Today, however, women are representing the insurance sector at all positions right from the junior to executive level. In this sector, we need employees who can be empathetic, patient and caring. Women are joining this sector as financial advisors, agents and employees and are excelling in their career.
Women have proved to be very efficient employees considering the skill set they bring in business. For example women are more sensitive, empathetic, intuitive and aware of the concerns of people, which make women very useful in claim processing roles. Furthermore, their ability to multitask has helped them excel in critical departments such as underwriting in the insurance sector.
Women are also relationship experts and great at networking. These qualities help them to excel as agents and financial advisors. Insurers prefer women as they have all qualities that make for ideal insurance agents ranging from hard-working, productive to good persuasive skills. It also gives women agents flexibility to work from home, supplement income of the family and the ability to manage the household as well.
Studies and researches have also proved that women employees excel in certain skill sets, which not only gives them an edge over their male counterparts but also make them greatly advantageous to businesses. Not only in the field of operation, but their dedication, management skills, and nurturing qualities also make them very capable leaders as well.
Companies also offer flexible working hours to female employees so that they can balance between their work and family lives. Considering the rise in nuclear families, crèche facilities are also offered so that female employees can continue with their jobs even after having a child.
Not only big towns and cities but insurance companies also offer growth opportunity for women in rural areas where they can work at their own convenience while looking after their household.
The corporate sector unanimously agrees on this, and as a result has become more serious on the gender diversity front. Although opportunities for women are growing all across the corporate sector, the insurance industry, in particular, has a lot to offer to the womenfolk of the nation.
Conclusively, gender diversity can be hugely beneficial to the management. Women add significantly to the performances of the company in terms of adding to the business growth, acquiring new customers as well as servicing existing customers well.
The report also identifies some steps that insurers should be taking to address the needs of the women’s market. In particular, insurers should:
1. Build intelligence on women’s insurance needs. This means gathering data that is specific to women from the insurance product development and marketing chain. But it also means collecting new information on women’s demographics and socioeconomic trends, and behaviours. This allows insurers to identify market segments and develop suitable marketing and distribution strategies.
2. Create the right products and value propositions for each market. Insurers can conduct in-depth focus groups for each segment to gain a better understanding their needs and of the cultural nuances that distinguish each group (as well as the similarities that unite them). Women in some markets, for example, indicated a desire for products that combine protection for the elderly as well as features that support saving for children’s education.
3. Improve distribution to women clients. Insurers need to get closer to the women buying their products. To do this, they can engage and empower more women in the insurance sales force and within other departments of insurance companies, including actuaries, product designers, marketers, and middle managers, to improve their abilities to understand the women’s market. They can also provide gender-sensitive training to the sales force to better engage women clients. And, as mentioned, using digital channels can help insurers reach women whose own mobility might be restricted because of economic or social constraints.
Women’s empowerment and Organisation
Aviva Life Insurance launches Wings to empower women at the workplace.
Aviva Life Insurance has announced the launch of ‘Wings’, a specially designed mentorship program to empower the female workforce, said a company statement issued today. The program is an initiative of the SHE division of the company, for mentoring all the women employees. SHE was conceptualised in 2016 by Aviva India’s Women Network, an active community of socially enabled women who take up the charge of addressing causes in the interest of women empowerment. The new initiative has been aimed to empower the women in Aviva to fulfil their professional and personal goals.
An effective practice of mentoring at the workplace helps women ideate about what they will become, giving them a clearer picture of their future and their growth prospects.
“A woman mentor for the female employees gives them an avenue to freely communicate in a safe environment, allowing them to focus on growth and improvement. Additionally, through mentoring, we also develop a leadership pipeline for the company, hence ensuring that the practice is not just beneficial to the individual but to the organisation at large,” said Anjali Malhotra, chief customer, marketing and digital officer, Aviva Life Insurance, who is also a Wings mentor.
Reliance Nippon Life Insurance Company is amongst the leading private sector life insurance companies in India, which is also empowered women through Face to Face channel, Which is headed by the female ,and this wing is specially for the female, they focus on married, graduate and any kind of working experience.
Believing that an empowered woman is sure to lead India to prosperity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to gift financial security to his Indian sisters this Raksha Bandhan.
The more the women will be empowered and the more they participate in economic activities, the country will prosper in the same measure, the prime minister said.”I thank you because only by your benediction, have I got the opportunity to work for the progress of the country and serve the poorest if the poor. It is your benediction that often serves as my armour,” Modi adds in the letter
The insurance industry finds itself challenged to change by new technologies and evolving market needs. The existing workforce is generally older and less agile. What an opportunity – the industry finds that it must recruit and advance women, engaging them with a passion for the insurance business today and tomorrow! With young people excited about big tech and other brands, the insurance industry must remain competitive. Women and young girls want equity; they want support; they want life balance; they want a challenge; they want to contribute; and they care about the company and its communities. All of this has to be considered in retention and upward mobility programs – employees need a sense of “belonging.”
Women are wealth creators and drivers of growth and development, contributing to both their individual insurance companies and to our economy. When we look at technology, data and analytics, finance, and other areas critical to the future of the insurance industry, women – including women of colour – have proven that they can fill vital roles.