Women in Insurance: Benefits of Diversity in Leadership

Women in Insurance: Benefits of Diversity in Leadership

Women have made gains in the insurance industry but remain underrepresented at the highest levels of management, says Helen Donegan, ArgoGlobal’s head of operations, international.

Argo Group Head of Operations, International, behind the scenes spotlight feature on the benefits of diversity in leadership

Since joining the company in April 2019, Helen Donegan has worked on restructuring ArgoGlobal’s operations function by creating a team-based model to ensure efficient underwriting and controls. The goal, she says, is to improve efficiency and enable flexibility and scaling up without adding significant expense to the bottom line.

“That is the nirvana of where we want to be,” she says.

Donegan’s career has included working in U.S. reinsurance as well as standards and performance review within Lloyd’s of London’s Performance Management Directorate. In her most recent position before joining ArgoGlobal, global head of underwriting management for MS Amlin, she helped restructure the company into a matrix organization supported by a global underwriting support, oversight and control framework. That experience prepared her to reach her goals at Argo, she says.

“The pace of change at which I have worked previously has been hugely helpful for what I want to achieve here, which is really to transform our operational offerings for International,” she says.

Finding opportunities and inspiration in insurance

Although Donegan initially considered a career in law, she found insurance to be a good fit for her wide-ranging interests.

“I found the work is nowhere near as narrow in insurance as I assumed,” she says. “You can get involved in a huge array of things and really make a difference.”

Donegan is impressed by people who make their mark and inspire others.

“People look to those role models day to day,” she says. “That’s where I get my inspiration: when I see people making a difference and being appreciated.”

The benefits of diversity in leadership – when those leading the way come from different backgrounds, cultures and points of view – include the power to effect lasting change, she says.

“People hire and hang out with those they are comfortable with. If people in those positions are more diverse, they will attract a more diverse workforce.”

Gaining greater representation for women

Women have made significant strides in the industry and at Argo Group in particular, but there is more work to be done, Donegan says.

“There are definitely more women in roles at my level or in senior management, but I don’t think we’ve quite broken into the executive management band yet.”

Part of the solution, she says, is to proactively offer programs designed to help crack the glass ceiling that prevents women from attaining leadership roles at the highest level. She says Argo has already done significant work in that regard.

“We really need some superstars out there to get on that top level,” she says.

Other important areas of focus, she says, include addressing the industrywide gender pay gap and pursuing diversity all the way to upper management and board membership.

“There are only two women in total who sit on any of the three ArgoGlobal International boards, for example,” she says. “I think that balance will of course improve in the not-too-distant future. There are a lot of great women in our offices and in the market. I think it’s a timing issue, but there has to be some focus on getting women into the top positions in our industry, and of course, at board level.”

Donegan has set a related goal of her own.

“I would like to be one of those people sitting on the board in three years’ time,” she says.

Learn more about Women in Insurance at Argo.