Last week’s appointments at The Guarantee Company of North America and ARAG Services Corporation are good signs for both the new senior leaders as well as Canadian women in insurance in general.
As women rise to the top, a still-rare occurrence at many insurance companies, others benefit, too, from a change in mindset.
“Subconsciously, we need to see more role models for women in power roles and if all we see is men constantly at the helm, we don’t subconsciously know that that’s an opportunity for us,” said Fotini Iconomopoulos, negotiation consultant and founder of Forward Focusing, who is also speaking at the upcoming Women in Insurance event.
The shattering of the glass ceiling by women in insurance is becoming more popular, but it’s a slow-moving process.
“It has improved, but minimally,” said Iconomopoulos. “We’re moving at a snail’s pace.”
She points to positive developments, like the #metoo movement giving women permission to speak up with confidence, and the calibre of events from this year’s International Women’s Day, which saw an impressive line-up of participants compared to previous years.
Uprooting gender bias completely isn’t easy, especially when women try to step up on the corporate ladder.
“It’s OK for a man to exhibit competitive behaviours. It’s not so OK for a woman to exhibit those competitive behaviours, like salary negotiations,” explained Iconomopoulos. Women can also lack confidence, she added, which prevents them from advancing in their careers.
Female job applicants will often want to hit all of the indicators listed for a position, while men will hit half and think that they’re qualified for the role. This happens during promotions as well.
“Most of the senior management folks that I talk to always tell me that they constantly hear the feedback from women, I’m not ready yet, I’m not ready yet, I’m not ready yet,” said Iconomopoulos.
The entrepreneur admitted that she wasn’t the exception.
“I had the same imposter syndrome,” she explained, when looking back on how she started her company. “People had been telling me for years, you really should start your own shop and I said, I don’t want to work for myself, I’m not ready for that yet.”
Client demand encouraged Iconomopoulos to set out on her own, and now she coaches other women on standing out, and standing up, in the workplace.
For one, women can help level the playing field by leaning in – literally. The negotiation consultant advises women to sit at the table, rather than take seats that line the outside of the meeting room, and lean forward when contributing to conversation to emphasize that they have something to say.
Tone is another big piece of the confidence puzzle. Don’t use inflections at the end of sentences that turn them into questions and use an authoritative, strong voice. If you’re in doubt, said Iconomopoulos, why should I believe in you?
Fotini Iconomopoulos will be presenting on unconscious bias in the insurance profession at the Women in Insurance event being held on May 15, 2018. Click here for more details and to register.