Helping to close the female protection gap

image of Vikki Harrison

Vikki Harrison

Advice & Product Manager, Protection

Women have up to 20%2 less cover than men when it comes to the amount of protection they have. Continuing our support of International Women’s Day, Scottish Widows are championing the importance of women having the right level of cover in place and making sure they look after their health.  

Good health should be a priority; however, this can be difficult for many women who lead busy lives and don’t take the time needed to stay on top of their health and wellbeing let alone think about protection. Recent protection research conducted by Scottish Widows and YouGov found that 65% of females hold no protection products.2

Being a female myself I can resonate with this as often we feel that looking after our health is not as much of a priority as other things and many women may neglect health exams for a variety of reasons. 

It is no secret women are leading busier lives than ever before and have a tendency to let themselves slip lower on their priority lists. However after putting so much energy into caring for the health and lives of others, it is time women started putting themselves first and investing in themselves so they can be there for the people that matter most to them. 

And yet we know that early diagnosis can drastically change the outcome of a critical illness. Breast cancer continues to be the biggest claim area for females9 with 74% of our Critical Illness claims paid to women in 2022 being for some form of cancer.9

This is where as an industry, we have the opportunity to engage with female clients about their protection needs.  Our research shows that: 

  • 60% of women in employment/currently unemployed are concerned about a loss of income if they are unable to work due to illness of injury (rising to 69% for single mums).2 
  • 52% of women in employment/currently unemployed could only afford to support themselves financially for up to 6 months if they were unexpectedly ill or injured.2
  • 38% of females could only support themselves for up to 3 months, if they were to become seriously ill and not be able to work.2
  • A further 9% would not be able to support themselves/household financially.2 
  • 43% have never sought financial advice for protection.2

So what is stopping women taking out protection for themselves? 1 in 3 (31%) of females surveyed said they feel financial matters confuse them, this is 11% higher than males. And almost 1 in 4 (22%) of those who don't hold any of the listed protections, said they don't understand financial protection or feel that they have enough knowledge to get the right cover for themselves for at least one or more of the listed protections.2

22% of females with no income protection felt that it was too expensive2.  However the majority of females surveyed acknowledged that they would need to take action if they couldn’t work due to long term illness. 


The average price of a daily cup of coffee is

£3.40 - £24 per

week/£103 per month.3

Monthly subscription to a streaming service costs from c.£10.99.

Average weekly takeaway spend is £23 per week4 this equates to £1,220 per year. 

= £23 per month5 £100,000 of Life & CI cover. 

For almost half (42%) said they would have to use their savings, 29% would need to rely on their partner, 23% on family and friends for financial support to pay their essential bills if they could no longer work due to illness or injury.2


I’ll rely on my savings…

Even large amounts of savings can vanish in a matter of weeks if you lose an income. And that would be even more painful if you’d hoped to spend that money on the good things in life like a new car or holiday.

In the financial year ending in April 2021 the average UK household spending was £528.808 a week, so how long would your savings really last? 

According to savings stats from the FCA, up to a third (34%) of UK adults had either no savings, or less than £1,000 in a savings account. This equates to around 22.8 million people with very little or no money to fall back on.7

Even more worryingly almost 1 in 3 (27%)2 said they would need to rely on Government Benefits.  They may receive some support from the government – but not enough and not for long.  Statutory Sick Pay currently £109.406 a week for up to 28 weeks if you can’t work due to ill health.  The new State Pension is currently £221.206 a week (subject to NI Records).  In 2022, the average weekly household spend was £528.80.8

So how can advisers help to educate women on the importance of protecting themselves. Of those who did take life insurance, 41% took it out with their mortgage with 16% of women taking out life insurance took it out with a financial adviser.2

Given the need for women to take out protection, the industry needs to get smarter at targeting them. There are pivotal points in life where risks can change. They include entering and re-entering the workplace; starting and ending a relationship; motherhood and caring; and ill-health and dying. 

It is our jobs as both providers and advisers to provide simple, clear advice that is easy for consumers to understand.  Our research showed that women find information on rewards/added value benefits i.e. access to GP, mental health/ wellbeing would be the most helpful information providers and advisers could provide in discussing their protection needs (36%) closely followed by understanding costs by age group (29%) and claims statistics (27%).2

Annual protection statements can help to start these conversations. A growing number of insurers, including Scottish Widows send out details each year to advisers and policyholders outlining what cover they have in place. As well as acting as a reminder, this is a useful medium for flagging up the key moments when protection needs can change.

Hear how having a critical illness policy helped Carla deal with being a mum, wife and being diagnosed with cancer.

Watch now

Scottish Widows protection products can provide your clients with financial reassurance. Women may be interested in:  

  • The younger and healthier you are, the lower your life insurance premiums are likely to be. Starting early allows you to lock in lower rates and offers long-term financial security. 
  • 1 in 7 UK females will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.10  Our critical illness cover includes cancer in situ.  
  • We offer standard rates to 99% of cases where there is a family history of breast/ovarian cancer.9 
  • All our critical illness policies include children’s cover up to age 22 at no extra cost. 
  • All Scottish Widows products come with additional support and counselling services from RedArc and free access to a GP within an average of 411 hour using Clinic in a Pocket.


1Source: Scottish Widows data 2022

2Source: LBG Protection Research (UK adults 18+/ UK females 18+, representative sample of the population). YouGov Feb 2024.  All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2059 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd - 8th February 2024.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+) 

3Source: Freshground 2023

4Per household, Nimblefins 2023

5Based on 35 year old non smoker over 30 years 

6Source: Gov.UK, 2023

7Source: FCA 2023

8Source: ONS Family spending April 2021 to March 2022, 2023

9Source: Scottish Widows Protection data 2023

10Source: Cancer Research UK Breast Cancer Statistics accessed March 2024

11Source: Square Health Data