Why (and How) there are more Women in Leadership roles at Finance Company, Towergate Insurance

by | Dec 7, 2021 | Best practice story

Which women in leadership do you admire?

Head of Learning & Development, Ian Sadler, adds to the conversation amongst today’s thought leaders on why more women in leadership are needed in male-dominated industries to help organisations stay competitive, and tells the story of how women in leadership rose from 7% to 12% at the insurance firm, Towergate.

Role models and community were key to the success of the training programme. See how you could build on the role models and community in your organisation.

Towergate Insurance are one of the brilliant Princess Royal Training Awards Winners 2021.

Why are more female leaders needed in male-dominated industries, today?

In conversation with the City & Guilds Foundation, Ian outlined that the profile of the client base and business partners in the UK finance industry is changing. This change affects organisations in other industries as well as finance, including business-to-consumer companies.

“This world’s changing. Entrepreneurs are completely different to where they were 20-30 years ago. Technology has changed tremendously. Younger, more diverse people are our clients and customers. That profile needs to be replicated with our leadership population of today. The need for diversity in leadership roles is critical and I think a lot of organisations are looking for learning solutions to support the change.”

While more women are becoming senior leaders, many are in roles that don’t lead to the CEO seat. Towergate’s training programme nurtured talent with the potential to reach this level. One from the first cohort of 45 was promoted to the Towergate Senior Leadership Board.

This appointment is a standout in comparison to other finance and male-dominated businesses. Alexandra Evreinoff, Managing Director of the global Diversity & Inclusion consultancy and network, INvolve, highlighted last week that even though Europe is bringing more women into boardrooms, the majority of appointments are advisory or don’t provide a pathway to the CEO position, like HR and Communications.

The Women in Financial Services 2020 research carried out by Management Consultants at Oliver Wyman across 468 companies in 37 countries and jurisdictions found that the industry is making the fastest progress on increasing the number of women in senior leadership roles since the firm began measuring such trends in 2003. There has been some improvement in the representation of women leading revenue-generating businesses: those most likely to provide the next generation of CEOs. But this change does not translate into the most senior position(s). There’s only 6% female representation at the CEO level.

Source: Oliver Wyman | Representation of women on executive committees and boards in major financial services firms globally

Towergate’s training programme helped women break through the barriers holding them back from reaching higher potential. Focus groups revealed the toughest challenges shared by many women, which Ian summarised.

“Skills are important but what comes out the most is having the confidence and network to share best practice, experiences, challenge everyone and inspire people.”

Charly Young, Fellow at the Management Consultancy ‘Centre for Synchronous Leadership’ and CEO at The Girls’ Network, which runs mentoring programmes to improve access to opportunity to young women from less advantaged backgrounds, pointed out how limiting beliefs affect women’s confidence from a young age.

Ian added, “Legacy and perception are big challenges, where women look up at the jobs above them to see they’re already filled with mostly men, there is a perception or a belief that you need to be a certain type of person to be in those roles. Having the opportunities and the culture to support women’s professional development effectively is also a barrier.”

“This programme worked because of the culture we drove and how we counteracted unconscious bias, right through to the executive board”.

How did Towergate increase women in leadership from 7% to 12%?

What was involved in the 12-month training programme?

  1. Selection of Delegates Country-Wide: Following a self-assessment application and line manager’s approval, as well as a review of current performance ratings, talent and succession plans, all candidates were interviewed. The delegates were based all over the country.
  2. Needs Analysis: Conversations with the executive team and female talent identified key challenges faced by female colleagues.
  3. Executive Board Support: Both in investment and growing the culture. Senior leaders were involved on the ground and showed commitment by introducing each workshop and being present to answer questions.
  4. Role Models and Mentors: Guest speakers and women in senior leadership at Towergate talked about the challenges they experienced and how they overcame them, inspiring an “I can do that as well” attitude. They endorsed the programme and acted as mentors. Their involvement helped support the embedding of learning by providing relatable real-life examples.
  5. Networking: The Learning & Development team ran more and more networking sessions throughout the programme, which helped colleagues connect and support each other even in the work from home environment. The networking provided a safe space to share stories, learning, successes and blockers.
  6. Performance Monitoring: This took place continually throughout the year to ensure the learner is embracing the opportunity effectively and displays role model behaviours.

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