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Women at Lloyd’s of London


Lloyd's of London, women at Lloyd's, Painting a prettier picture.

By Natasha Turner.

A slim woman in a fitted orange skirt suit stands in the centre of a spacious room.

She has one heeled foot forward, and one hand on her hip while the other clutches a black purse. Her hair, which matches the colour of her suit, is arranged under a black beret. The circles of rouge on her cheeks are illuminated against her paper-white skin.

Next to her a man wearing a blue suit and slicked back hair extends his arm, presenting her to the room.

Surrounding the pair are upwards of 70 men, all in matching suits and gelled comb-overs.

Their long necks crane to catch a better glimpse of the woman. All eyes are on her. She is a rare treat in this sea of suits – a prize to be ogled.

This cartoon, entitled ‘A little ray of sunshine visits Lloyd’s’, is one of a series of around 12 on display on the 11th floor of Lloyd’s insurance market in London’s financial district, where companies come together as syndicates to write insurance policies.

Although there are now women among the throngs of paper-burdened brokers filing through the rotating glass doors at Lloyd’s to meet with underwriters, gender equality at the 328 year-old insurance market has been a slow process.

Women were not allowed in to the Lloyd’s underwriting room until 1972, by which point it had already moved offices six times.

In 1973 Lloyd’s appointed its first female broker, Liliana Archibald. Archibald subsequently became Lloyd’s’ first female ‘Name’ – the term used to describe rich individuals who backed insurance policies for which their entire personal wealth was liable if the insurance was claimed.

Senior manager for media relations, Alex Dziedzan, is keen to stress that the culture nowadays is a far cry from the Lloyd’s depicted in the cartoon.

“Everyone in this painting is white, middle class and male. The market isn’t like that today and hopefully we’ll keep going that way,” he told my fellow business journalism students and me.

Women now make up a third of Lloyd’s’ 2,000-strong workforce and, two years ago, Inga Beale made history by becoming Lloyd’s first female chief executive.

Her name now sits at the bottom of a list of every chair of the market since 1688. This list has been engraved onto six-foot stone plaques that are mounted on the wall.

Although Beale has spoken out against the idea of having gender quotas at Lloyd’s, she believes that diversity should be ingrained in the day-to-day business of the market.

She has been quoted in the Guardian saying: “What you do is, you de-genderise every statement you make. You’re in a business environment; you de-gender everything. You never say he or she.”

Unfortunately, gender-neutral language is yet to be adopted by Beale’s senior staff.

Tom Bolt is Lloyd’s Director of Performance Management. He oversees the writing of risks and has been called ‘the sheriff of the market’ by Dziedzan.

In a 20-minute talk delivered to 12 students (six men and six women) in February 2016, Bolt used the male pronoun exclusively.

In describing the process of risk management, every character was male: the customer – “if he has a loss, we have a loss”; the underwriter – “the guy, the underwriter” who “goes to his boss and says I want to take the risk and he says, OK but only one per cent”; and Lloyd’s competitors – “there’s plenty of guys in the world selling stuff that we want to sell.”

It may have taken 300 years but gender equality at Lloyd’s is now a prominent concern.

Following a successful first last year, Lloyd’s will be running its second diversity festival – Dive In Festival – from 27-30 September 2016, to encourage diversity in business.

‘A little ray of sunshine visits Lloyd’s’ may illustrate history, but it shouldn’t depict the future.

  1. Love to meet Natasha Turner after reading her article “Painting a prettier picture”
    I am writing a follow up book called Girls In The City in similar visual poetic style to my Men In My Kitchen, recently published: or
    I am collecting stories, and using my own after 22 years in the City running my own financial business. I want to span the decades to hi-light the changes, or not for women…in a very different way.

    • Only just read this article. I was given a “ticket” as a placing broker at Lloyds in 1974. I believe I was the 3d. Not quite sure! In any case, I have a few stories if you have not yet written your book.

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