Only one in five of the most senior insurer jobs are held by women, despite the majority of firms having diversity strategies.
Research by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has found that although four in five insurers have policies to help women climb the career ladder, this is not reflected in the number of women landing top jobs.
Huw Evans, director general of the ABI, said more action was needed to combat the descrepancies.
He said: "Warm words and good intentions are not enough when it comes to addressing a lack of diversity within the insurance and long-term savings industry. Although there is a gender balance across our sector as a whole, four out of five executive and board roles are held by men.
"ABI’s new research demonstrates that most firms are not just talking about change but are taking practical steps to make a difference. Investment in training and use of executive sponsors is high but more firms need to invest in returnship programmes to help new parents back to work."
The research, which looked at more than 82,000 staff, found that 78 per cent of companies had a diversity and inclusion strategy, with 74 per cent having an executive sponsor for diversity and inclusion.
Julie Lord, chief executive and chartered financial planner at Bridgend-based Magenta Financial Planning, said she worked "very hard" to build a successful business for 17 years, and admitted it was "definitely a man’s world back" but said she "never let that bother me".
She added: "I think women have little patience with the merry go round and talking shops that are often populated and perpetuated by men in business.
"Where it is difficult to cut through this culture, which I believe is prevalent in the insurance and financial world, women become frustrated and take their considerable talent elsewhere. Hence the numbers are no real surprise."
The data also found 73 per cent of firms have an executive or management development programme that prioritises good gender balance, while 56 per cent have a development programme targeting those that may be underrepresented.
In addition to this, 78 per cent of companies have already provided unconscious bias training for staff. And for parents, 33 per cent of firms have a returnship programme to help them with their return to work.
Aj Somal, chartered financial planner for Birmingham-based Aurora Financial Planning, agreed that insurers needed to be more proactive in their recruitment of women in top jobs.
He added: "Rather than just stating good intentions, there need to be clear targets and timeframes set to meet bridge the gap in diversity. Only then will the gap be narrowed to a more representative total."