Embracing Equity for Women in Insurance
- April 18, 2023
As we move towards a more inclusive and diverse society, it's important to address the inequities that still exist in certain industries, particularly in insurance. One area of significance is the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles within the insurance industry.
I grew up in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States after college. I was raised as a hard worker, educated as a Systems Engineer, and viewed myself based on my contributions. As I entered the insurance industry, I didn’t consider the possibility that I would be perceived differently. However, in the first ten years of my profession my awareness changed. Early in my career, someone confronted me by questioning that my career progress was related to my status as a woman and as a minority; I received a hard-earned promotion to a manger position and a colleague remarked that this was great because I was a “double minority.” This encounter quickly led to a conversation about diversity in leadership.
Despite female employees making up a significant part of the industry's workforce, they're often overlooked for leadership positions — or in my case, they face a warped perception of women in the industry that may lead to self-doubt. The moment I was referred to as a “double minority,” I realized I didn’t want to be seen as a “token promotion” or even a female leader. I wanted to be seen as an individual and recognized for my hard work, skills, and contributions.
Considering my experiences and first-hand knowledge of how improving equity is key to supporting the next generation of female leaders, I want to share common barriers women face in obtaining leadership positions and the steps that can be taken to promote gender equity, diversity, and inclusion in the industry.
Women are still underrepresented in the insurance C-suite
According to recent statistics, women make up about 60% of the insurance industry workforce, but only 18% of corporate officers and 11% of board directors. This discrepancy in leadership positions highlights the ongoing struggle for gender diversity and equity within the industry. However, there are examples of progress being made towards gender parity. For instance, some insurance companies are adopting policies to increase diversity at their leadership and management levels.
Additionally, women's networks and mentorship programs are being established to provide support and opportunities for growth. Despite these positive steps, there are still issues around equity that need to be addressed, such as the gender pay gap and the lack of representation for women in senior-level positions. Efforts towards gender diversity and equity must continue to ensure a fair and inclusive workplace for all.
Industry leaders are moving beyond equality and embracing equity
According to The Global Citizen, “Equity is when resources are shared based on what each person needs in order to adequately level the playing field.”
Equity for female workers in the insurance industry can take on many forms. It can mean equal pay for equal work, opportunities for advancement, access to leadership roles and a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusion. It may also involve policies and initiatives that support work-life balance, such as flexible work hours, parental leave and childcare benefits.
A diverse workforce can also bring new perspectives and ideas to the table, leading to better decision-making and innovation. When women are treated fairly and given equal opportunities to succeed, they can thrive in their careers and contribute to the overall success of the industry.
Ultimately, achieving equity requires a commitment from both companies and individuals to recognize and address gender-based disparities and to promote a level playing field for all employees. By working towards equity, the insurance industry can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for female workers and harness the full potential of its diverse workforce.
The benefits of promoting gender diversity
Promoting gender diversity in the workplace has numerous benefits. Having a diverse workforce with different backgrounds and perspectives can lead to increased creativity, innovation and problem-solving. Women bring unique qualities to the workplace, such as different communication styles and problem-solving skills. It's important to recognize and value these differences, rather than expecting women to conform to a male-dominated workplace culture.
To achieve true equity, it's important to have reverse mentoring, where women and men can learn from each other and meet in the middle. This can help break down the "boys club" mentality that still exists in many workplaces. Men can learn to appreciate the value of details and women can learn to communicate more assertively.
Additionally, promoting gender diversity can lead to more women in leadership positions, such as CEOs. It's key to recognize that women should have equal opportunities to reach the highest levels of leadership, rather than being confined to roles like "Chief Diversity" or "Chief Transformation.”
Overall, promoting gender diversity in the workplace isn't only the right thing to do, but it also leads to a more successful and innovative organization.
Strategies to help leaders promote equity for women in insurance
The best way to encourage upward mobility is to be intentional about positioning. Women who demonstrate talent and have proven themselves as capable leaders must also have access to roles in the organization that lead to the C-level. Organizations shouldn't leave this up to chance, but instead, be intentional about rotating female leaders so that they can build the necessary experience that prepares them to rise to the C-level. In a lot of insurance companies, a woman may demonstrate incredible skills, and yet they get stuck in the same role over and over.
Molding and mentoring allow women to foster the skills that organizations look for at the C-levels. Being more intentional isn't only a matter of numbers, but also a matter of implementing programs that provide access to experiences within an organization to prepare women for those C-level roles. Leaders can apply the following strategies to transform talk about equality into action for equity:
- Implement a diversity and inclusion training program for all employees, including managers and executives, to increase awareness and understanding of unconscious biases and promote a culture of inclusivity.
- Establish clear and measurable goals for the representation of women in leadership roles and track progress regularly to ensure accountability. Leaders can use demographics to measure diversity across key performance indicators (KPIs) like recruitment, selection of candidates, pay and benefits, promotion opportunities and employee satisfaction. It’s critical to continuously check, evaluate and share data to gauge the effectiveness of diversity and inclusion strategies and adjust as needed.
- Offer mentoring and sponsorship programs that connect female employees with senior leaders who can provide guidance and advocate for their advancement. For example, NTT DATA’s WIN Employee Resource Group (ERG) supports and develops women in their leadership capabilities by providing networking, mentoring, and outreach programs and opportunities.
- Provide leadership development opportunities tailored to the unique needs and experiences of women, such as coaching, training and networking events.
- Review and revise recruitment and hiring practices to remove bias and increase diversity in the candidate pool, such as removing gender-specific language from job descriptions and requiring diverse interview panels. Additionally, leaders must highlight equity efforts in hiring materials and be transparent about their programs at the recruitment stage.
- Encourage flexible work arrangements and provide resources for work-life balance, such as parental leave, childcare and telecommuting options. Leaders can advocate for the value and importance of flexibility in the workplace and create a culture where flexibility is seen as a driver of better performance, rather than a hindrance.
- Foster a culture of feedback and transparency, where employees feel comfortable sharing their experiences and challenges and leaders actively seek out and respond to feedback.
- Celebrate and recognize the achievements of female employees in leadership roles to promote visibility and inspire others.
- Partner with external organizations and networks that support women's advancement in business, such as women's leadership groups and industry-specific associations.
It’s time to encourage more young women to enter the insurance industry
As the global insurance industry continues to evolve, it's important that more young women are encouraged to enter the field. According to a recent study, only 4% of millennials are interested in working in insurance right now.
To encourage more young women to consider a career in insurance, leaders in the industry can take proactive steps to create a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture. These steps might include offering mentorship programs, networking events, and professional development opportunities that specifically target women. Leaders can also work to increase awareness about the diverse range of career paths available within the insurance industry, from underwriting and claims management to marketing and business development.
Millennials and younger cohorts aren't only looking for a job; they're looking for a place where they belong. For many years, organizations believed, “we have plenty of people that we can choose from” and now you must demonstrate that your organization is an interesting environment that considers your prospects’ sense of belonging and purpose. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion, insurance leaders can help create a more vibrant, dynamic industry that attracts the best and brightest talent, regardless of gender.
To share your thoughts, connect with Mercedes on LinkedIn.
Learn more about related topics:
- The TikTok-ification of Insurance
- eBook: Interconnected Insurance: Platforms, Partners, and CX
- Blog: Takeaways from ‘How Insurers Can Own the Customer Experience In 2022
- On-Demand Webinar: How Insurers Can Own The Customer Experience In 2022
- Blog: 4 Lessons for Insurers Navigating the New Era of Interconnected Companies
- On-Demand Roundtable: The New Era of Interconnected Companies
- Research Paper: Insurers Shift Their Digital Transformation into High Gear