Changing the Conversation Around Women in Insurance – SILA Webinar Recap
On June 16, our Filing and Services and Compliance Manager, Lara York, gave a presentation with the SILA Foundation. In this blog, we recap Lara’s webinar about women in insurance. If you would like to watch the full webinar, you can do so by clicking here.
Having been involved in multiple areas of insurance, from claims to compliance to Insurtech, with both large, fortune 500 companies as well as a small start-up, I have had the opportunity to experience the evolution of the industry and the evolving roles of women in insurance.
When I entered the insurance profession right out of college, it was right on the heels of the Anita Hill testimonies. And the terms EEOC and harassment in the workplace were new on the scene.
When I began my career, insurance was definitely a male-dominated profession. My first corporate workplace was a large sea of cubicles with offices lining the perimeter. I noticed right away all of the offices of managers were occupied by men, and the majority of the rest of the office were women. In 1960, 1/3 of insurance employees were women, increasing each year over time. As a new insurance employee and claims trainee in a male-dominated world, I often received strange looks when I met with clients to write up an auto estimate or climb roofs during storm duty. Many times, my manager had to field calls from clients who assumed I “didn’t know what I was doing” and wanted a guy to come out and re-check my work.
As I loved from one company to the next over the years, more women would discover the variety of careers that the insurance industry has to offer and move up into these management office spaces. We have come a long way. But there is still a long way to go.
Women in Insurance – The Stats
While the insurance industry mirrors the general corporate world, there are some important statistics we should discuss.
In 2021, women accounted for 47% of all workers in the US. Women accounted for 58.9% of all insurance workers. source This means there are more women in the insurance industry as compared to the general workforce.
However, levels of women in insurance begin to decrease moving up the corporate ladder. There are only 28 percent of women at the VP level (compared with 29 percent across all sectors) and 18 percent at the SVP level (compared with 23 percent).
White women make up 45% of insurance entry-level roles yet only 18% of the C-suite in insurance. Fewer than one in five direct reports to the CEO are women.
Women of color face a larger barrier: 12% of entry-level roles and 3% of direct report to the CEO. That’s black, Asian and Hispanic women altogether make up only 3% of the “C Suite.” source
Women comprise about 60% of the insurance industry but hold only 19% of board seats, 11% of named insider officer positions, and 12% of top officer positions. source
As of 2016, women in insurance earned 62 cents for every dollar earned by men. source
When compared to representation in the general corporate pipeline, there is a higher percentage of women employed in the insurance industry but a smaller percentage in top positions.
Women in InsurTech- The Stats
If we look at the numbers specific to insurance technology, female representation becomes smaller still.
An overwhelming number of insurance tech founders are men.
In a 2016 study of 535 insurance tech startups, 4% were founded by women. Startups led by women receive 2.2% of venture funding. Women founders face questions of unconscious bias from male-dominated venture capitalists.
“The funding gap can’t be accounted for by a simple lack of women founders. The Harvard Business Review notes that 38% of all entrepreneurs are women.”source
In 1970, 8% of STEM workers were women. This grew to 27% in 2019.source
Why Changing the Conversation is Important
Now that we understand the statistics, let’s talk about why changing the conversation is important.
Having more representation of women is beneficial for businesses. Studies show that diverse teams are more effective at solving difficult problems, reaching diverse markets and accessing diverse customer segments.source
Women in leadership positions offer important mentorship. All of us can remember back to when we were young children. The people around us influenced who we were and who we thought we could become. If all of our doctors, dentists, teachers, coaches, and anyone in a leadership role had been male, we would likely not naturally see ourselves in those occupations. This translates to the workplace. If younger workers see women in a leadership role, they are more likely to see themselves as leaders.
Women in the workplace can have a positive impact on policies when diverse voices come together to set policies. Everyone comes from their own unique perspective and background. When more perspectives are included in decision making, the more inclusive and impactful outcome. I recall a time a high school teacher had us all stand up on top of our desks and look around the room. The perspective completely changed, and we all noticed things in the room we had not before.
According to the Rockefeller Foundation, “women in leadership have a positive impact on workplace policies.” source Some areas women focus on is addressing the wage gap, changing policies & attracting a more diverse workforce.
Having women in leadership positions often leads to improved communication within teams and organizations. According to Lean In Women in the Workplace 2021, “Women leaders are more active champions of DEI “…women leaders are up to twice as likely to spend substantial time on DI work that falls outside their formal job responsibilities…” This leads to recruiting from underrepresented groups, mentoring women of color, and advocating for new opportunities. When managers are engaged and supportive, this leads to employee well-being and higher retention.source
Better Employee Retention:
This is an especially timely topic right now during the “Great Resignation.” All companies want to attract and retain quality talent. Working parents have been hit especially hard during the pandemic. The combination of childcare and adjusting to remote work has disproportionately affected working mothers. A recent Pew Research Center study found that low pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement and feeling disrespected at work are the top reasons why Americans quit their jobs last year. source
Strategies To Retain Female Talent: According to Forbes, there are several strategies that can increase retention of female workers.source
- Flexible culture – Offering a flexible culture that prioritized performance can help employees feel more engaged and improve productivity
- Equal compensation –
- Education about unique challenges women of color face – Only 58% of Black women and 71% of Latina women are promoted to managerial positions for every 100 men. Companies must have equitable practices in place.
- Access to mentors – The struggle to advance to managerial roles is in part due to lack of access to mentors or resources. Taking steps to create mentoring programs can lead to improved retention and engagement.
- Understand challenges of working mothers – “Mothers are 3 times as likely as fathers to be responsible for a majority of housework and childcare during the pandemic” Empathic leadership = success
- Integrate diversity at all levels – It is not enough to have your female workforce only at the lower levels. Diversity needs to exist throughout management as well. Diverse leadership teams perform better. When potential hires see themselves represented at top levels, they are more likely to want to work there.
How to Change the Conversation
Understand What the Statistics Mean: We’ve spent some time diving into important statistics about women in insurance, but some key takeaways from those numbers include:
-There are more women in the insurance industry than in the general workforce.
-There are fewer women in the insurance industry holding high-level positions than other women in the general workforce.
-Even though the insurance industry overall has more women than the general workforce, these women are severely limited to lower positions.
Recognize Unconscious Bias: When striving to change the conversation around women in insurance, it’s important that we recognize our unconscious biases. What is unconscious bias?
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Unconscious biases, which are attitudes, behaviors, and actions prejudiced in favor or against specific groups of people that everybody holds and are formed automatically and unintentionally create challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce.”
These biases can run deep and hold women and minorities in insurance back in their careers.
Change Your Language: Many of our unconscious biases come out in the way that we talk. When in team meetings, addressing coworkers or in written communications, are you using inclusive language? Some examples of simple changes you can make to be more inclusive in your language include:
“sales rep” vs. “sales guy”
“hey everyone and “hey y’all” vs. “hey guys”
Change Your Imagery: The way your company visually represents women is important, too. What does your company imagery say about women? Do your marketing materials include women, or are they absent entirely? To change the conversation about women, review your marketing materials and online presence. Find ways to include visuals of women visually in internal and external materials.
Support and Mentor Women in Your Company: Moving up in leadership roles requires formal and informal relationships. However, women may find it difficult to form these important networks when there aren’t many other women around them. This is especially true when there are few women in leadership roles at their company. To better balance this offset and help women advance in their roles, companies need to support and mentor women as they try to build these networks. Businesses can do this by creating formal/informal sponsorship opportunities and internal mentor programs. Additionally, companies can help their women employees get involved in forums and associations.
Feedback Awareness: You can change the conversation by being aware of feedback you are giving to women. The professional feedback men and women often receive are strikingly different.
McKinsey and Company did a study and found that, “One [insurance] carrier used advanced analytics to analyze its written feedback forms and found that women were much more likely to receive comments on their communication style or even how they dressed in written evaluations. In comparison, men were much more likely to receive feedback on the things that they needed to learn to run the business.”
How Women Can Join the Conversation
Women need to take an active part in changing the conversation, too. There are several ways that women can improve our circumstances.
Understand Our Hesitations: It can be intimidating being the only woman on your team or in your office. But it’s important that you understand what hesitations may be holding your career back.
For example, women are less likely than men to self-promote. A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that, “women consistently rated their performance on a test lower than did men.” Men are more likely to voice opinions or ideas in meetings, demand raises and go for jobs they may not be ideally qualified for. Women tend to be less comfortable with self-promotion and downplay themselves. This may be due to societal pressures or expectations.
Self-confidence and assertiveness can help close the gap. If you struggle with being assertive, here are a few books we recommend!
- The Assertiveness Guide for Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships by Julie de Azevedo Hanks, PhD, LCSW
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
- Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships by Marshall B. Rosenberg PhD
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
Support Each Other in the Workplace: Sometimes women can be each other’s biggest adversaries. As women, it is important that we support each other in the workplace and celebrate each other’s accomplishments. To do this, we need to start by understanding our own unconscious bias of women (even as women). What biases do we have that are holding each other back?
Given that women make up over 60% of the insurance industry workforce, we can be a big support for each other.
Educate Yourself: One of your biggest responsibilities in changing the conversation is to educate yourself. Discover what is required to be promoted, and work on those goals. Are you underemployed because of an assumption? Be willing to put in the effort to keep growing and improving your skill set. Strive to build a network with both men and women who can support you and help lift you up.
Learn as much as you can through:
-Courses and certification programs
-Books, journals, blogs, articles
-Webinars, podcasts, YouTube, networking events
Conclusion: How We Can Impact Our Companies
“So please ask yourself: What would I do if I weren’t afraid? And then go do it.”
– Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, author of Lean In
We have come far in improving the workforce for women. However, we still have a long way to go. There is still plenty more we can all do to support an inclusive workplace. Men, women, corporations, CEOs, marketing departments, etc., can all work together to help change the conversation around women in insurance!
If you would like to watch Lara’s full webinar on women in insurance, you can do so by clicking here.
InsCipher is an insurtech company providing software and services that are revolutionizing inefficient insurance processes. Save your agency time and money by automating surplus lines compliance, filing, and reporting. Want to learn more? Request a free demo today