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Gender Diversity Has Made this Life Insurance Company a Great Place to Work At various levels median salaries for female employees are higher as compared to their male counterparts.

By Baishali Mukherjee

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Headquartered in Mumbai, IndiaFirst, is one of the country's youngest life insurance company promoted by two large public sector banks - Bank of Baroda and Andhra Bank - along with UK's leading risk, wealth and investment company Legal & General. Launched by then Union Finance Minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee in March 2010, IndiaFirst is today present in over 1000 + cities and towns across the country through 8500+ partner bank branches, covering over 10+ million lives. With a share capital of Rs. 625 crore, It has over INR 100 billion (Rs.10,000 crore) of AUM in just 7 years of operations.

Breaking the Glass Barrier

The Senior Management Team at IndiaFirst consists of the three senior women leaders including the MD & CEO. This is 33 % of Top Management Team. Out of the Total employees promoted, 22 % were women employees (75% of the eligible women employees got promoted). Employees who could not make through the next level of transitions were supported with developmental feedback and with an Individual Development Plan.

R. M. Vishakha, Managing Director & CEO IndiaFirst Life Insurance, a senior BFSI professional says, "IndiaFirst Life has always believed in gender diversity. Our partner, L&G, has a stated mission of "50:50 by 2020" and has HR processes that mandate evaluation of female candidate resumes for every position. There is absolutely no compromise made on competence and capability. It is about ensuring that a fair chance is provided and subconscious bias against women at any level does not overshadow providing equitable opportunity."

Increasing Gender Diversity

Out of the total non-sales population of the company, 33% are female whereas in sales it is 19% of total sales population. Female employees constitute 22% of total population (Ratio 1:5). The company strives to increase the female population across sales by looking to hire Female Managers (BUH's and Group Heads). This would also help in getting more female employees at frontline sales roles. Also preferences are given to women employees in certain urban locations.

At various levels median salaries for female employees are higher as compared to their male counterparts. In addition, the female attrition (out of overall female employees) as compared to male attrition (out of overall male employees) is substantially low. At IndiaFirst Life, average appraisal rating for female employees viz-a-viz male counterparts, are higher for over past two years. "At IndiaFirst, we break many a stereotype, from having a woman CEO, to one of the very few woman appointed actuary and a woman Chief Strategy Officer." Vishakha added.

Performance and policies

The average performance scores for Female employees are 3.8 which were higher than average performance scores for Male employee which is 3.5. The company also has policies which enable flexibility at work and offer employees a freedom to plan their work schedule accordingly. Some of the policies like Maternity Policy (182 days), Sabbatical Policy and Alternate Work Arrangement Policy are utilized by women employees.

"Gender Diversity is a conscious awareness to break free of age old beliefs and judge each individual on their merits that will achieve true Gender diversity. It will lead to an ideal scenario where women will be taken into the workforce and given opportunities based on their merits and competencies," assert Vishakha a Chartered Accountant and Fellow of Indian Insurance Institute who has a successful track record of over 25 years in the financial services industry with both public as well as private organizations.

Creating an inclusive work environment

Praveen Menon, Chief People Officer, IndiaFirst Life Insurance feels that one of the focus of great places to work is the ability to create an inclusive work environment that fully engages diversity - diversity in thought, experiences, gender, skills and perspectives.

"Gender parity enhances the quality of decision-making as we get diversified views. An undeniable fact is that women are as loyal if not more to their organizations and are as qualified, creative and ambitious as their male counterparts. I strongly feel that every organization must support women in every possible manner to help them pursue their careers be it flexible working hours, crèches, friendly policies and even increased training for them – in a few words – an appropriate eco-system enabling them to reach the pinnacle of success in their respective positions," Menon reiterates.

Overall gender wise exits in IndiaFirst Life Insurance include 42% male and 31% female. Sales which usually sees a high attrition (40%) also sees just 6% attrition for female employees in the company. If very many organizations are able to create this eco-system in their own ways a positive social change across the country won't take very long.

Baishali Mukherjee

Former Freelancer

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