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Women in Leadership: Are We Doing Enough?

Across the global financial services sector, the number of women in leadership positions is slowly increasing. But professional challenges still exist for women looking to progress into senior positions. Here, Sarah Schadek-Keane, Managing Director for International Actuarial at Emerald Group, considers how the market needs to evolve so that companies don’t miss out on the incredible female leadership talent waiting in the wings.
Written on 05/23/24

At a time when so much is changing in our workplaces, predictions of slow growth in the numbers of women in senior positions across financial services are disheartening. All companies in this sector should be bringing greater focus to improving diversity at a senior level.

At Emerald Group, we see first-hand the efforts being made by clients to create opportunities for senior female actuarial candidates. Interestingly, companies that operate globally from more than one location often bring a stronger than average focus to this challenge. As industry-leading recruiters, we take every effort to champion an equal mix of candidates, and clients are increasingly motivated to support this.

Senior Candidate Scarcity

It's fair to say that there is a scarcity of senior female actuarial candidates, and understanding why this is the case is important to help us find solutions.

There are both visible and invisible barriers to the progression of women to senior positions that impact all sectors. Family, societal and economic pressures interrupt the careers of many women. Women often take time out for family reasons at crucial moments of career progression, leaving their male colleagues to move ahead on the career ladder. Outdated organisational practices, company cultures and gender bias can result in highly competent women opting out of the corporate and consultancy workplace, resulting in an ever-smaller pool of candidates for senior positions.

What Works?

Undoubtedly, the actuarial sector is male dominated, even without the impact of these broader influences on the pattern of women’s careers. So how can companies support women heading towards senior positions?
At Emerald Group, we take pride in supporting women at all levels. We have a gender-balanced workforce with a high number of female leaders. All employees are supported as their lives and circumstances change. We encourage staff members to return to us after maternity leave, and we’re willing to flex working patterns to help with personal circumstances. 

Above all, we see first-hand how team members grow personally and professionally when they work in a respectful and empowering environment. 

Are You Doing Enough?

With this in mind, I encourage you to consider the following:

  • When recruiting and promoting team members, focus on skills, not employment history. This can be a hugely influential factor for women who have had time out for family responsibilities.  
  • Flexible working patterns allow committed employees to balance responsibilities, without jeopardising their impact at work. With child care and carer responsibilities largely being shouldered by women, this can be game changing. 
  • Mentoring programmes can support individual progression. Reverse mentoring initiatives can also help current leaders understand – and mitigate – some of the pressures that diverse employees face. This can bring new levels of insight for predominantly male leadership teams. 
  • Creating a company culture that recognises and addresses outdated thinking can foster an environment where everyone can thrive. By improving psychological safety you’ll encourage employees to stay and candidates to choose you as their employer.

Progress in the journey to greater female leadership is fragile. Everyone has a role to play in supporting women in the workplace and building up a pipeline for future female leadership. Nurturing today’s talent will speed up this progress, and help ensure that both current and younger generations of women can achieve their aspirations of senior leadership, ultimately for everyone’s gain.