In 2014, Inga Beale became the first female CEO of Lloyd's of London, a leading specialist insurance market.
To be a chief executive takes a lot of confidence and management skills to steer a company forward. However, when Beale was offered her first-ever promotion in the insurance industry, she didn't think she was good enough to manage even one person.
"I can remember, it was in the 1990s and I had been working in the insurance sector for about 14 years and I was offered my first promotion. This was going to be the first time I was going to manage one person at work, and do you know what? I said 'No,'" Beale told CNBC on Thursday.
"I look back at that 32-year old Inga and I don't recognize her now — but that's how under-confident I was. I didn't think I was ready or good enough to take the job."
Luckily for Beale, she was "fortunate enough" to work for a business that incorporated a pro-active talent management program that encouraged promoting women and female leadership.
"It was only through that, that they then had to persevere with me and then persuaded me: 'You can take that job, you've got the confidence to do that,'" she said.
As the debate surrounding pay disparity gathers momentum, companies are being pressed to publish their own reports on how much they pay each sex. British firms that have more than 250 employees are legally required to publicly release their gender pay gap data by April.
For Lloyd's of London, the insurance market reported in February that it had a gender pay gap of 27.7 percent — a figure that Beale isn't happy with. She does remain confident, however, that the actions that the firm is taking, such as setting targets, can help minimize this gap.
According to Beale, one of the reasons why the gap has occurred is because only a third of Lloyd's senior positions are held by women. Consequently, other companies also are having to address these issues, by getting more women into senior roles.
"There are all sorts of things we can do as businesses in terms of our policies and practices; as individuals — to shout out inappropriate behaviors and actions. And we've all got to have a discussion about it quite honestly, we've got to understand everyone's viewpoints. It's not an easy subject."
Lloyd's is working hard to close its own gap, having changed greatly since the 1970s, when women first started working at the insurance-based firm, to the present day — when its CEO is a woman. The company has also become more involved in inclusion, with a number of inclusion networks formed in 2014, in addition to Lloyd's recently becoming a signatory to the Women in Finance Charter and committing to the Working Forward campaign.
Beale remains positive on the future, "We have to think of everything we're doing about being equal for all," she said.
"And I believe that if we can get this gender thing right, we can then get it right for all sorts of other groups that feel perhaps marginalized or underrepresented, particularly in the senior levels in the workplace."
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