The Property and Casualty Insurance sector has historically been viewed as a “male-dominated” industry, meaning men hold the majority of the upper management positions. Property Casualty 360 reported last year, “At the largest insurers and reinsurers women held only 6 percent of top executive positions, 12.5 percent of board seats, and 8 percent of inside business, legal or actuarial officer roles such as chief actuary or division president, according to a recent industry study by St. Joseph’s University Academy of Risk Management and Insurance.” Coleman Search Group recently asked top-level female executives if they would share their perspectives to provide insights that may help other women excel in the insurance industry and improve statistics by landing more influential leadership positions.
As one Commercial Lines Sales and Marketing Vice President for a major insurance carrier progressed in her career, she found it harder to overcome the proverbial “glass ceiling.” She feels that even though the industry is benefitting from diversity, there still seems to be a preference for male-oriented leadership styles in many upper level positions. That being said, she has found career success through taking a positive perspective on any opportunities she has faced in the industry. She comments, “I don’t really see things as obstacles. Everything is a problem to be solved and some are more difficult than others.”
A Senior Vice President and Chief Claims Officer for a major insurance carrier said for her, one of the biggest issues she has faced is ensuring women are effectively supporting and encouraging each other to reach their full potential. She says, “I have had several women champions over the course of my career and without them I doubt I would be where I am today.”
Here are some key points they shared with Coleman Search Group to help other women be successful in reaching higher-level positions in the insurance industry:
1. Stay educated and informed on the trends and new facets of the industry. The Commercial Lines Sales and Marketing Vice President says, “The insurance industry needs new ideas, new ways of thinking. Technology and data analytics are transforming the industry for the better, making insurance careers more attractive.” Insurance companies are always looking for candidates that are on top of the latest trends and developments in the industry. Continually pushing yourself to learn more, stepping outside of your comfort zone by taking on new responsibility or volunteering for high visibility projects may be what sets you apart from other employees and candidates pursuing those attractive opportunities. Obtaining additional insurance designations will also help to position you as a key candidate for many high-level positions. One of the executives stated that obtaining a Chartered Property & Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation and a Senior Claims Law Associate (SCLA) designation were keys to her success.
2. Use your personal strengths and interests to succeed. The Chief Claim Officer indicated, “There are so many career paths within the insurance industry to choose from, and the work can be very meaningful. Find the area of work that you enjoy most. For some people that area is loss prevention and mitigation; for others it is helping injured workers get back to work. What is so great about this industry is that there are many options available to you. If you are willing to navigate for that right fit, it can be an awesome career.
3. Evaluate yourself regularly and be open to adjusting your work style to excel. According to the Commercial Lines Sales and Marketing executive, “Self-awareness is a great place to start. Ensure that you are fair and objective in your position on issues, and that your interactions reflect that integrity. Show confidence and assuredness, but not arrogance. If you persevere in that manner, you will be accepted, valued and elevated into positions of influence.
4. Be open to new opportunities (even if it scares you). “As more women move up in the industry it is necessary to develop a broader skill set. Be voracious about learning new things and jump at opportunities, even when you think you might not be quite ready for them,” explains the Chief Claims Officer.
The insurance industry is always evolving, and women continue to make great strides every day. Soon, more women will hold high-level positions bringing even more gender balance to this ever-changing field.