Closing the Gender Gap in Insurance

Closing the Gender Gap in Insurance

Towards the end of last year, I participated in a Women in Leadership workshop at the Connected Insurance conference in Chicago. As one of the women on the Breathe Life leadership team, it made perfect sense for me to attend this event and as I settled into my seat with my coffee and croissant I was soon both impressed by the wit and grit of the women participating and flabbergasted to learn about the state of women in the insurance industry, there just really aren’t enough in leadership roles! I came away from this session with a desire to learn more about where women stand, what their future looks like, and how we can encourage more to consider building their careers in this complex and fascinating industry. 

So, where do women stand in the insurance industry? And what does their future look like? The industry is going through a massive period of change, barreling towards digitization and integrated organizations, but how will these changes impact opportunities for women?

A large amount of the workforce will be retiring in the next few years, and companies will be facing a talent gap.

But only 4% of millennials have any interest in working in insurance, which presents a problem.

The industry must showcase how exciting working in it actually is in order to attract new talent. Women will not only help fill these gaps but also lead to more diverse companies that have greater success in reaching their customers. 

To map a path forward, it’s important to assess the industry’s current state as it relates to its female workforce. The industry relies upon the labor of women, but only at lower levels. While women make up 46.5% of sales agents and 85% of claims and processing clerks, they only hold 11% of named executive officer positions and 19% of board seats at insurance companies. And women in insurance still earn less than men; 62 cents on the dollar. This is even lower than the pay gap in 1951!

Barriers to advancement for women in insurance have acted on several levels to keep them from rising through the ranks. The whitepaper, Women in Insurance: Leading to Action, published by Million Women Mentors, examines some of these barriers. While, yes, there’s a pay gap, they’ve found that it’s more of an “opportunity gap.”

When comparing women and men in similar jobs, there’s a smaller difference in pay. But there are fewer women promoted into these roles, thus an opportunity gap. Women have not been given the same opportunities as men to advance, but that’s changing.  

Other barriers to entry have been unsupportive cultures and organizational bias. But with more and more data emerging that proves the positive impact of having women in the C-Suite on the bottom line, cultures have begun to shift.

An analysis of businesses in the S&P Composite 1500 found that those with women in top management roles experienced an increase in “innovation intensity” that were, on average, worth $40 million more than companies with exclusively men in leadership roles.

Women contribute to innovation, often by bringing a different perspective in addition to their expertise, and net income.

With the technological disruption, new uses of data, and digitization, a once-staid industry has been adding new jobs, new job definitions, and new leadership roles. If anything, it should be easier to promote women now. For example, Chief Digital Officers and Chief Innovation Officers might not have been sitting in the C-Suite ten years ago. These new additions represent an opportunity for companies to actively increase the number of women in executive roles.

Networking and mentorship are two of the most effective ways to increase female representation in top roles, but only 8% of insurance companies have formal programs to develop strong careers for women. This is one of the reasons that the Million Women Mentors, Women in Insurance Initiative was launched. It was meant to provide mentorship opportunities and increase female representation at member companies such as Accenture, State Farm, and Prudential. 

After so many years in the industry in lower-level roles, women have developed invaluable insights into consumer behavior. They’ve begun taking on leadership roles in InsurTech startups, at Breathe Life women make up 35% of the company and we’re continuing to push for more women in all our teams. On top of this, we’re also seeing women launch their own companies, often to address issues that they’ve identified in the consumer experience. Women founded InsurTechs are on the rise and a lot have been successful in obtaining funding. We’re also seeing the launch of female-founded InsurTech Accelerators such as Startupbootcamp. Additionally, the female-founded company Quesnay runs an InsurTech accelerator geared toward woman-founded or co-founded companies. 

The tides are starting to turn! One recent study found a 48% increase in representation since 2013, and a 98% increase in top executive positions held by women. 

As the insurance industry moves forward into an exciting future, I’m hoping that we can continue to encourage women to take the lead!

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