Lee-Ann Swartz, Unit Manager: Emerging Markets at 1Life
While the sector has a way to go, the insurance industry is recognising that women have their own unique needs and requirements.
The so-called ‘glass ceiling’ is the traditional measurement of how women struggle for parity in the working world, but it is just one of a myriad of challenges that women in most sectors face.
For example, in the long-term insurance business, women have had to deal not only with an industry that has traditionally been very male-dominated – especially in leadership positions – but also with services provided by that sector that have not been properly geared towards them.
Lee-Ann Swartz, Unit Manager: Emerging Markets at 1Life, suggests that although substantial strides have been made, these topics need to remain at the top of every organisation’s discussion list, both from an individual and a client-facing perspective.
“It is important that the insurance industry not only recognises existing gender disparities within the sector, but also that it better acknowledges the needs of its customers. For example, do we truly understand the specific needs of a woman when it comes to issues like her individual life and health insurance requirements, let alone how her assets should be insured?” she notes.
Yolandi Froomberg, Support Unit Manager at 1Life adds that this is important, because the traditional roles women have played in society in the past have shifted significantly. Today, many women are career-oriented and play a big part in the generation of the overall household income.
Many diverse roles
“What this means is that women today are more independent and are financially stronger than in the past. Thus, women must be viewed as individuals that can take care of themselves and stand on their own two feet. Therefore, it is only natural that life and health insurance products should be tailored to suit these unique needs,” she states.
“Collectively, I think our industry has been propelled forward by digital transformation and virtualisation, and now it needs to evolve to meet the needs of women who today play many roles: from executive to wife and mother and – in the current circumstances – even possibly a home-school educator.”
Swartz says 1Life has noticed that the broader sector is beginning to diversify to offer products designed specifically for women, adding that the latest string in 1Life’s own bow is a dread disease cover that is tailored to the needs of women and children.
“Such diversification is vital, given the nature of the world we live in, and the increasingly unique needs women have. We must acknowledge the strides that insurance companies have taken already to address the ever-changing needs of women, through products designed to adapt to and match their needs.”
“While a big shift is still required, the momentum is certainly swinging in the right direction. We are fortunate to be part of an organisation that empowers women, where we have not experienced inequality within the workplace, and there are platforms to provide the right support across everyday life and work.”
Understanding the market
Froomberg adds that insurance organisations need to ask the right questions, and in a manner that enables them to gain an in-depth understanding of women and their unique needs, their life stages and the relevant solutions that can best support these – it is important that they understand women as individuals and don’t treat them as a homogeneous group.
“Remember that many behaviours vary between the sexes, and it is necessary to take into account aspects like the fact that most women take on the role of caregivers and therefore won’t have the same risk profile as men.”
“insurance organisations need to ask the right questions, and in a manner that enables them to gain an in-depth understanding of women and their unique needs, their life stages and the relevant solutions that can best support these.”
“More pointedly, it’s about understanding the caregiver role in detail. For example, a woman who has just had a baby requires specific policies and investments that will differ to a woman whose children are already finishing school.”
Swartz points out that for 1Life, the key is to make a range of options available so that whatever life stage a woman is at, the individual can access a range of choices and find the perfect policy to suit them.
“I believe the industry needs to accept that inequality exists and not shy away from this, and I’m truly glad to see that this is starting to happen across the board.
Ultimately, the sector must embrace a willingness to adapt and change, provide an environment designed with women in mind and should continuously evolve as women and their roles do,” she concludes.
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