Stab-proof vests, car crash dummies and even tradie workwear have traditionally been designed based on the male body, a design quirk that is potentially life threatening.
But even if it’s not life-threatening, dealing with products designed with a male user in mind can be needlessly expensive for Australian women, especially when it comes to car insurance, the founder of new female centric insurtech brand Stella, Sam White told Yahoo Finance.
White spent the last 20 years building businesses in the UK which have ultimately employed more than 200 people and turned over $35 million, but she has long been frustrated by an inability to reward female drivers for their safer habits.
“It’s well known within the insurance industry that women are far safer risks from an insurance perspective than men,” White said.
And it means female drivers are often subsidising male drivers which, to White, is especially annoying when the gender pay gap is taken into account.
An EU directive on gender discrimination in insurance prevents women in the UK from receiving better rates, which led White to turn to Australia.
White launched Stella in July with a dual goal of helping women save money on their car insurance, and of making insurance fun.
But it’s not gender exclusive, it’s just designed for female drivers and female needs.
For every year a driver goes without a claim, they will have $100 taken off their excess up to $300. And the QBE underwritten product also offers cover for up to $2,000 of baby gear damaged in or stolen from the car.
And Stella also offers domestic cover. That is, any deliberate act of damage down to a vehicle by a current or former partner will be covered.
White said the need for this cover wasn’t something she was even aware of until they started analysing the underwriting.
“What’s important about insurance isn’t just what you get, it’s what you don’t get,” she said.
“And from an underwriting viewpoint, products are designed to try and manage risk and one of the things that was quite standard in insurance policies was that if something in your own household damaged your own property, you’re not covered for that because the view is that it was a family-related incident.”
The problem is that when you consider that policy through the lens of a woman who is in a violent relationship, that insurance detail only compounds an already vulnerable situation.
“There’s often situations where partners will damage their ex-partner’s or current partner’s vehicle in an act of revenge or whatever else, and we didn’t want to compound that by not covering it from an insurance perspective,” White said.
“That was a clause that we took out, as opposed to put in, to make sure that it was suitable for women.”
And it goes to the heart of why financial products need to be built by the people who will ultimately use them.
White said society needs to consider everything that is used and how that impacts our way of life. That’s her next step: take on the broader financial industry and build up other female entrepreneurs.
“The whole purpose of the brand isn’t just to sell insurance policies, it’s to support and empower other women. We want to build that community out,” she said.
“Yes, there will be the financial element that we will tap into and distribute but also that communication and that conversation with our customers informing them about stuff that’s going on.”
She said insurers almost avoid communicating as they don’t want to remind their customers of the premiums they’re currently paying.
“We’re going the other way, we want to stay in touch with you and we want you to tell us how we can do more to support more.”
Stella also has its #StellaSquad program, which sees it share some of its car insurance profits with female entrepreneurs.
And White herself has other projects in the wings for Australian consumers.
The self-described serial entrepreneur wants to grow Stella out into other insurance lines and discover the ones where female customers desperately need innovation.
“This is definitely just a first step.”