If you are a woman executive in the world of insurance and financial consulting, you no doubt find yourself in the minority. In the financial industry, women make up over half of the entry-level workforce, but fewer than one in five C-suite positions are held by women, according to Closing the Gap, a study conducted by Leanin.org and McKinsey & Company.
Men and women start at the same level in the industry, but women steadily lose ground along their career path. According to the study, the biggest drop occurs early: women are 24% less likely than men to get their first promotion.
Challenges for Women in Insurance
So what barriers continue to hold women back in the insurance industry?
- A perceived lack of work/life balance:
Because of the lingering expectation that responsibilities within the home reside with women, many women feel guilty for focusing on family for fear they will be judged at work, yet simultaneously worry about not contributing to the needs of the family. This internal struggle leaves them feeling they’re in a no-win situation.
“It’s not unusual for women to define success differently in different periods of their lives. For example, your priorities may shift as your family grows. With help, you learn to balance those priorities. You also learn that the passions that drive you remain the same. I’m driven to make a difference, to know what I do matters. The validation of knowing I’m making a positive impact is what drives me. It may sound very Pollyanna and pie-in-the-sky, but at the end of the day, if you feel like you’re not adding value or you’re not valued, it’s not worth a whole lot.”
—April Lewis, Director of Client Service, Barry Evans Josephs & Snipes
- Fewer women holding leadership positions:
This ongoing issue can inhibit the ambition of others in the industry. Women and other diverse groups who don’t see role models or potential paths toward executive-level leadership are more likely to remove themselves from consideration for higher-level leadership roles.
“I think leaders tend to hire people who look like themselves. We find it easier to hire people we inherently feel comfortable with, and we look for those characteristics we share that we know make us successful. It’s only when we consciously reframe what success might look like, that there may be other ways to ‘get there,’ that we see more inclusion at the top.”
—Lorrie Baldevia, Principal and COO, AssuredPartners MCM
How Do We Change This?
The first step toward change is rethinking the approach to attracting women and diverse talent to the industry. This requires a real commitment to change on the part of leaders. For M’s CEO Wes Thompson, this commitment is an essential element of the Magnet Program for financial advisors.
“Women and minorities often struggle to find workable pathways to leadership or advocates to champion their career advancement. Magnet provides participants with a clear path to success if they perform and chart the outcomes they should expect.
We pair participants with mentors who can provide valuable advocacy and insight, which is important to a professional’s career progression. We think the intentional effort we put into engagement at the Member Firm will both increase the likelihood that all Magnet participants thrive in their role and help us reach our diversity goals.”
—Wes Thompson, President and CEO at M Financial Group
“The mentoring component of the Magnet Program is a game-changer. It makes us responsible at the firm level to take an active role in our new Advisor’s success.
Through programs like Magnet, women in this industry have incredible opportunity to open the door to other women and help them take their seat at the leadership table.”
—Nancy Shepard, Managing Principal and Chief Operating Officer, Lindberg & Ripple
Changing an industry culture is difficult, but it’s critical for the health of the industry. While there’s still a long way to go in the financial services sector, programs like Magnet are taking strong steps to remove the barriers that keep women from leadership roles.