Industry Still Lags on Diversity

For International Women's Day, here are several ways insurers can build a more balanced workforce--and reap significant benefits.

While our industry has made great strides in recent years, we still have a long road before balance is achieved at the leadership level. A recent study found that women represent more than half of the industry’s entry-level positions, yet hold only 18% of its C-level roles.

These numbers are not uncommon; among all industries, only 79 women are promoted into manager positions for every 100 men. The disconnect starts early, and, as a result, just 1% of insurance organizations have a female CEO at the helm. The imbalance is further fueled by the industry’s gender wage gap, with women making just 62 cents for every dollar earned by men.

As the #BalanceforBetter campaign advocates, “gender balance is not a women’s issue, it is a business issue.” A balanced workforce results in more than a level playing field. It yields tangible business advantages that are key to staying ahead in today’s competitive and complex market.

See also: Why Women Are Smarter Than Men  

Women remain underrepresented at the executive level across all industries, yet research consistently demonstrates their positive impact on business. A McKinsey study found that organizations in the top quartile of gender diversity at the executive level are 21% more likely to outperform their peers. Additionally, MSCI reports that, over a five-year period, U.S. companies on the MSCI World Index with at least three female directors achieved median gains of 37% on earnings per share.

For our industry to realize its full potential, insurers must develop diverse leadership teams that better mirror and relate to their customers and employees. With the insurance unemployment rate hovering between 1% and 2%, it is more important than ever for our industry to attract and retain top talent from all backgrounds.

Organizations that cultivate inclusion and intersectionality enterprise-wide are more likely to be seen as employers of choice in today’s candidate-driven market. In fact, on Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies list, the highest-ranked organizations had double the number of women in senior management than those that were ranked lowest.

There are several ways insurers can build trust while taking steps to realize a balanced workforce.

Embrace mentorship as a movement. Mentorship is a foundational element in helping break through the glass ceiling and building diverse and confident leaders. Through mentorships and sponsorships, women and members of other underrepresented groups gain access to senior leaders and role models that may not have otherwise been possible.

These can be internal programs or ones run through industry groups like Million Women Mentors, which aims to spark confidence in women and girls to succeed in STEM careers and leadership positions. Whether long-term or for a specific situation, these relationships can help propel women into manager roles and beyond, enabling them to move up the corporate ladder at a similar pace to men.

Create a culture of inclusion. Diversity of thought results in effective problem solving and more innovative ideas. Cultivate inclusivity through formal diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs and employee resource groups. By seeking out various points of view and effectively engaging and supporting employees of all backgrounds, teams benefit from unique viewpoints and healthy discourse. A greater sense of inclusion translates to an increase in decision-making quality, collaboration and perceived team performance.

Promote networking among women. Women helping and lifting up other women is vital to success. In fact, a commonality among most high-ranking women is a strong female-dominated inner circle, according to a recent study. Women whose networks are wide with strong female relationships at their core receive jobs at seniority levels that are 2.5 times higher than those who have smaller, male-centric networks. Female leaders are also more likely to surround themselves with other women. Credit Suisse found that female CEOs are 55% more likely to have women heading business units and are 50% more likely to have women as their CFOs.

Engage men as allies. A growing number of enlightened men are publicly advocating for women’s equity, standing as allies in identifying and breaking down barriers. In many organizations, male executives are spearheading employee resource groups and championing corporate D&I programs. By inviting men into the conversation and committing to open dialogue, organizations create shared ownership. A balanced insurance workforce will not be achieved through just one voice, but through a chorus of voices for change.

Hold leadership accountable. In an EY survey, only 39% of insurance leaders said their companies are formally measuring progress toward gender diversity, and just 8% shared that they have structured development programs in place for women. Additionally, Deloitte found that while 71% of organizations aspire to have an inclusive culture, their actual maturity levels are low. Implementing D&I programs is an important first step, yet true change will come as a result of organizations holding key decision makers accountable for setting and meeting goals.

See also: Survival Guide for Women in Insurtech  

International Women’s Day is March 8; however, its spirit and mission extend throughout the year. Through mutual trust and respect, along with actionable steps and accountability, our industry can work to create a culture of inclusion and achieve balance beyond gender.

Looking to get involved? There are a number of insurance D&I organizations that join to support each other’s missions and events: STEMConnector’s Million Women Mentors Women in Insurance Initiative, Advancement of Professional Insurance Women (APIW), Business Insurance’s Diversity & Inclusion Institute, Dive In, Gamma Iota Sigma, Insurance Careers Movement, Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) Global Women’s Conference, Insurance Supper Club (ISC) and Women’s Insurance Networking Group (WING).

Margaret Milkint

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Margaret Milkint

Margaret Resce Milkint is managing partner of the Jacobson Group. A member of the firm’s executive management team, she is a key ambassador in establishing strategic client relationships and broadening the firm’s reach and breadth of insurance talent solutions.

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