International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated each year on March 8th. IWD celebrates the achievements of women around the world and brings awareness to gender equality in the workforce. The theme selected for 2023, #EmbraceEquity, was chosen to encourage conversations on two assessments of the current job milieu: Why equal opportunities aren’t enough and Why equal isn’t always fair. In independent insurance agencies, that means evaluating women’s current roles and their opportunities for advancement.
Current Ranking of Women in The Independent Insurance Industry
Women far outnumber men in entry-level positions within the insurance industry. In fact, according to research by McKinsey & Company, women account for 66 percent of entry-level positions in the insurance industry versus 48 percent of entry-level jobs in the workforce overall, which is notable.
However, women seldom rise to leadership roles in corporate offices or agencies. Instead, they tend to stay within middle-ranking positions and supporting roles like customer service representatives (CSRs). It’s a shame because, according to research, having women in leadership is good for business.
Having Women in Leadership is Profitable
Forbes reports that including more women in leadership positions improves the economic results of large businesses. However, to achieve that, it appears necessary to have at least 30 percent female employees in the company, and possibly a minimum number of women as board members. A study of over 3,000 companies in the U.S. showed this to be true.
Women also improve profitability by minimizing the risk a firm takes on. Women are more likely to follow rules and less likely to make decisions that put a company’s reputation on the line. They tend to avoid chances of lawsuits, scandals, and environmental violations compared to their male counterparts.
Another financial benefit to having women in leadership roles is that women are highly innovative, and they support innovation. Just increasing female representation by 10 percent on boards led to a 6 percent increase in new patents in a 2018 study of firm performance. It also increased citations by 7 percent. This data came from a study on R&D expenditures published in the Journal of Empirical Finance.
The researched noted that presence of female directors particularly applied to industries requiring innovation and creativity. However, in the current state of the economy, we all need to be more innovative and creative.
How Women Are Uniquely Suited to Leadership Roles
Because of their natural tendency toward high morals and ability to make meaningful connections, women make excellent, high-integrity leaders in any company. They naturally gravitate toward mentorship and are overall more inclusive and empathetic than men.
Women are also eager to learn and further their education. They are enrolling and graduating from college at higher rates than men and make up a higher percentage of graduate students. Women are also pursuing and achieving doctorate degrees at higher rates than men. Over the 2019-2020 academic year, approximately 104,950 women earned a doctoral degree versus 85,230 men.
No one will deny that women are better at multitasking than men. They’re naturally able to juggle many projects and tasks at once without dropping the ball. Along with multitasking, they are innately flexible and accustomed to wearing many hats at once. They make their jobs look effortless and conduct their tasks and meetings with grace and ease.
This applies just as well outside the home as it does in their traditional household management and caregiving roles. Those traditional roles and natural gifts make women especially well-suited for leadership roles in the workplace. This applies across industries, but let’s zero in on women in the insurance industry.
2023 Research on Women in Insurance
The website Agent for the Future, put out by Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance shared the results of their 2023 research on women in the insurance industry. They compiled results from surveying over 1,100 independent insurance agency members, including 632 women, with input from several external sources and experts on women in the workplace.
They found that while the percentage of women in leadership within insurance agencies is increasing (12 percent from 2018 to 2022), it has a long way to go. Men still outnumber women two to one in leadership positions. Over half of insurance agency employees are women, yet less than one-third are in leadership roles.
Part of the reason for that is what McKinsey & Company refers to as a “broken rung” on the first step up the corporate ladder. For every 100 men promoted, only 87 women risk in the ranks. If women looking to advance don’t see a chance of promotion, they seek opportunities elsewhere.
What can we do to support women in rising to leadership positions? Here are a few ideas based on the 2023 research results:
How to Better Support Women in Rising to Leadership
Women have some different values and expectations than men do when it comes to their work experience. Here are some ways to ensure your agency is supporting women on the path to leadership:
- Be conscientious in hiring women
- Have managers actively develop female employees for leadership
- Offer flexible hours for work-life balance
- Create the option of working remotely
- Recognize women’s efforts and reward them financially
- Audit the pay equity status at your agency
- Offer opportunities for continuing education, preparing women for leadership roles
Be sure to conduct internal surveys (“How are we doing?”) to learn how well your efforts are translating into feelings of empowerment. Keep careful records to accurately measure how quickly women are moving up through the ranks to leadership. Make sure salary and bonuses are based on merit and that there’s no noticeable pay disparity between men and women in similar roles or with comparable responsibilities.
Gather the data, review, and pivot when necessary.
Women are uniquely equipped to serve in leadership positions. They generally have higher moral values, are less likely to put a company’s reputation at risk, support innovation, and tend to follow their student tendencies of being highly motivated. Two main challenges are holding them back: traditional views of men being better leaders and their own self-doubt. With adequate mentoring, encouragement, and opportunities for furthering their education, women are more than capable of taking the helm and leading agencies into a new era of innovation and success.