FAnews sought after the experiences of women in the insurance industry, through the eyes of three generations; a Baby Boomer, Generation X and Millennial.
They gave us insight into the challenges and opportunities they currently face as women in the insurance industry, in their different generational categories and looked at what we should be doing today to ensure the future achievements of women in insurance and what actions need to be taken to strengthen the talent pipeline and develop and diversify the workforce.
Tapping into new thinking
There have been some interesting challenges and opportunities as a woman in the insurance industry for me. In a previous role, when I was appointed as a General Manager, I was the only woman on Exco, which at the time, was dominated by men. This was an enormous challenge as the men I was working with were very reluctant to change things and think out of the box. I also found that with the changing environment which we found ourselves in, one needed to understand what was driving the changes and what the impact was likely to be on the business, and these changes were not always well received. I found that I needed to coach and guide younger staff a whole lot more – emotionally this was a massive problem as many of these younger staff being promoted were not ready to handle the positions which they were being put in. You had resistance from the longer serving staff as well – for me this was a huge challenge because instead of moving forward quickly, we encountered many unnecessary delays in moving the business forward, therefore not meeting strategic objectives.
One needs to have strong mentors who can coach and guide potential staff in roles which might previously have been held by contemporaries – this will give all parties the confidence to allow people to move on without having to worry about the “gap” the experienced staff have left behind. Training with strong mentoring / coaching is fundamental to groom and grow staff, and I think that more could be done in this space. We see a number of employees enter the workplace with fantastic academic ability who struggle to apply what they have learnt in the business environment.
It would be great if there was a basic course which companies or industry bodies could run on the basics of business. This would quickly give everyone an understanding of what is expected from them in business. This would assist new entrants, as well as existing staff, to understand what is expected in the workplace – by this I mean a general understanding of what is acceptable from basic email and phone etiquette to relationship management.
I am a really strong believer in communication in the workplace today. So many people use email and never discuss what is happening in the business which is changing so quickly. Staff also do not have the confidence or the knowledge of who to speak to, as they are so focused on and driven to meet targets and objectives – this to me is very outdated and organisations are potentially missing out on tapping into new thinking. In having these discussions, you can clearly identify potential in staff and what their strengths are, making it easier to identify talent for new roles or promotion.
The key to success
Gen X’s core values include diversity, self-reliance, practicality, informality, work/life balance, flexibility and technology. Like other engaged workers, Gen X’ers give their best when their responsibilities in the workplace align with their values. Their performance suffers when their values are ignored. Gen X’s are also increasingly the BOSS in today’s organisations and this includes many women.
The generational divide continues to be a challenge for many managers and you still hear older managers complaining about the do it my way or hit the highway attitude of older workers. The newest diversity challenge in the workplace is generational.
There are many women in the driving seat in the insurance industry. Leadership is where we find the inequity: worldwide statistics show that women occupy only 19% of board seats, 11% of named inside officer positions and 12% top officer positions such as CEO, COO and CFO. Only 8% of Insurance Companies have formal programmes to develop strong careers for women. Only 35% of independent agencies are led by a woman agency principal or senior manager, according to latest studies.
The gender pay gap is also still a problem and it’s predicted that women will not reach global pay equity with men until the year 2152. Global research also indicates that the financial and insurance industry has a larger gender pay gap than any other sector.
Attracting young talent is crucial to overcoming gender disparities and pay inequities in the industry. Women in insurance are highly interested in personal networking and are motivated to form mentorship relationships with both men and other women and this should be encouraged.
Review talent plans – starting with recruiting committed, new-skilled talent and foster upward mobility and retention in the work environment. Question whether your company is making working in the insurance industry compelling and question what can be done differently for recruiting at all levels.
Mentorship and sponsorships will ensure inclusivity in the industry. Not only do women need to support each other, but both women and men need to make it a priority to hire and promote women to leadership position.
Millennials and Generation Z (youngest generation entering our workforce) are changing the paradigm and this will continue to evolve as long as we continue bringing younger generations into the workforce. Promoting the hiring of strong mentors and conducting internships with a focus on shaping the experiences and viewpoints of our future workforce should be encouraged. The key to success is to be flexible and create an open-minded environment where voices and ideas are heard, nurtured and embraced to ensure innovation.
Chief Executive Officer
Reinsurance By Design
Expose Millennials to a canvass
There has been a significant paradigm shift in the industry towards mentoring and coaching the younger generation which is a great positive. A challenge Millennials face is the lack of sponsorship which is a key attribute to growth. Young females are seldom advocated at key levels for opportunities within the industry.
The industry needs to create an inclusive environment. As a Millennial, we want to be a part of the bigger picture so why not expose us to the canvass? Invite us to participate in key projects and decisions, in this way we bridge the gap of knowledge sharing and lend a meaningful output to the industry.
We as women need to have a mindset change and debunk the theory of gender. It is our own impositions that derail us from moving forward. As Sheryl Sandberg voiced, women need to shift from thinking ‘I'm not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that, and I'll learn by doing it’.
Business Development Manager
SHA Specialist Underwriters