One way to command respect in a room of men

This woman learned how to be taken seriously when clients ignored her in favor of her male colleagues

One way to command respect in a room of men

Insurance News


For insurance professional Liz Van Dervort from Gillis Ellis & Baker (GEB), confidence is everything.

Following her appearance on the Insurance Business America list of Elite Women, she spoke candidly about her time in insurance.

Van Dervort’s confidence and natural love to learn has provided her with the confidence needed to thrive in a male dominated industry.

“I definitely run into [male chauvinism] a good bit. If I take a male co-worker with me on a sales call and somebody’s a good ‘ol boy, … I can definitely tell they’re not looking at me as a peer and sometimes they only address the men in the room,” said Van Dervort. Knowledge was her tool to turn the situation around.

In those situations, Van Dervort says she needs to demonstrate her knowledge and expertise right away to be taken seriously as a peer.

“As soon as I do that, it really does diminish the gender difference in a meeting. They see me as a peer … they know I’m an expert in what I do, much more so than them, and then the gender issue usually is a non-issue,” she said

“Confidence,” she said, “plays a huge role. And you get that confidence from knowing what you’re talking about - understanding the risk and the product that you’re selling.”

Van Dervort has no particular motto she lives by, but agrees with the saying: 'Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ For her, insurance fits this description. The industry’s connection with so many other industries, and the constant changes that come with technology and the buying habits and needs of consumers, make the profession far from boring.

“Every day keeps me on my toes … It’s never the same day twice … I’ll go from a medical office to a stable … to a manufacturing plant all in one day. I just don’t think there are a lot of fields where you get that variety,” she said.

The mix of desk job and travel also allows Van Dervort a pleasurable balance of office-based camaraderie and mentorship (both giving and receiving), and to indulge her love of photography.

“I love to travel and I love photography. Photography is an art form and the way I just relax. I’m always looking forward to my next trip,” said Van Dervort.

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