The evolution of the ISC Group is a bodyweight exercise masterclass in action – empowering women in insurance to leverage their own strength to close the opportunity gap. Founded in 2003 by chair Barbara Schonhofer (pictured left), the global networking platform has gone from strength to strength boasting almost 10,000 members and over 100 corporate partners worldwide.
In conversation with Insurance Business, Schonhofer and USA Chair Margaret Resce Milkint (pictured right) noted that this is a launch-pad time for ISC, as exemplified by today’s news that it has welcomed Isabel Hudson and Nick Dunlop as new group NEDs.
“We are delighted to welcome Isabel and Nick to join our board of directors,” Schonhofer said. “It is a significant move for ISC Group to have secured such prominent individuals from the insurance industry and both so committed to gender equity and ESG.
“Isabel has been on the ISC journey for the last 20 years and knows how we have evolved to be the leading insurance industry association internationally from our roots as a small business network in the London Market. Isabel has tremendous global main board experience from inside and outside insurance, having served on the boards of QBE Group, Standard Life, Phoenix and RSA. Isabel currently sits on the AXA Group and BT boards.
“Together with Isabel it is another coup for us to have Nick join our board as the first male representation in our Group, and we couldn’t have asked for a more prominent and trusted ally to step forward. Nick had a long career with WTW, one of the most prestigious brokers in the world, and is a significant ISC Group supporter and member.
“He brings us a wealth of international experience as a prominent insurance broker, focused on risk management for global clients and, more recently, the challenges and opportunities presented by climate change. He attended the World Economic Forum in Davos for many years.
“Nick’s knowledge of membership organisations is substantial as he has just completed his year as Master of the Worshipful Company of Insurers, one of the modern City Livery companies and was a long-standing board member of British American Business, supporting international trading between the UK and US.
The addition of Hudson and Dunlop, the scale of the group and the impact of its members on the profession demonstrates the importance of the initiative’s core mission – to bring more women in insurance into leadership positions, said Schonhofer.
Resce Milkint noted that when Schonhofer first approached her about becoming chair of ISC in the USA, it was a responsibility she took – and still takes - very seriously, because she has seen first-hand the impact commanded by the ISC brand. It’s incredible to see the relationships that have developed under the umbrella of the platform, she said, and how women are supporting each other in the safe space created by this community.
“We accelerate and we celebrate each other,” she said. “We have to live this message and we have to role model this message. That’s always been Barbara’s vision. That’s why ISC is now in seven countries because of that synergy, that focus on cross-collaboration – it’s a force multiplier and it’s wonderful to see in action.”
There’s a “mission spirit” in insurance that doesn’t really exist in the same way in any other industry, she said, and it’s exemplified by how the members of ISC Group work together to create a richer, stronger, more sustainable insurance talent pipeline. Resce Milkint strongly believes that the insurance sector has a great opportunity to shine a spotlight on the work it does to protect society and, in doing so, to bring fresh new talent into the sector and to attract great talent from other industries.
“And those who join our industry will enrich us with fresh eyes and fresh perspectives,” she said. “I think it's a new day for insurance. I think it's a new day for women. ISC Group is a big part of that.”
The mission of ISC is underpinned by a few key elements, Schonhofer said, which work in combination to empower women talent and effect lasting change to the makeup of the senior leadership teams of insurance businesses. The first is its focus on forming trusted bonds amongst senior leaders on a global scale via small, intimate events for senior women. These members are given the space to explore and debate thought leadership topics in a safe environment. Twenty years ago, this acted as the founding style of connection for the original ISC members and remains central to the community’s success.
“Then you've got the programmes designed to reinforce the talent pipeline,” she said. “And we’ve seen the impact that has – and how it works for our members. The group coaching piece is about allowing our members to know their natural place in a team, and to understand that they don’t have to be all things to all people.
“The ISC Lunch & Learns are where we often get one of our more senior members to come in and bust some of the myths around what leadership really entails, which takes away the fear for some of our more junior members. They also present an opportunity for role-modelling and mentoring which are frequently touted as central to helping women progress.”
It's the greatest testament to the strength of the ISC that its senior members remain as engaged and involved as ever, despite having already established such strong networks between themselves. It’s the clearest indication of the value that this initiative offers its members, she said, which is why the mission of the ISC remains unchanged even while its business plan is being restructured to enable the platform to continue to work its magic across the sector and across borders.
“We’ve developed a huge following and the global network that has been created is having an impact on women in the market,” she said. “Now we've got to formalise our systems and focus on areas that we know are really making a difference. To do all of that, to really work with and for the industry, we need proper, sound funding. So, we’re looking at our structures going forward, what we’re offering, what it costs us to provide, where we need to get professional support.”
Schonhofer highlighted that the platform is ready to cement those foundations and look to the future, a desire which is only reinforced by the addition of Hudson and Dunlop to the board of directors. Key to this drive will be a greater emphasis on every promotion that occurs across the ISC Group’s membership, she said, as this is the proof of concept that the initiative is enacting significant and consequential change for the sector.
The time is right for the wider industry to throw its weight behind the ISC Group in a tangible way, Resce Milkint said, because the work the association is doing is at a critical juncture where it’s seeing the pay-off from its efforts to date in the opportunities knocking at the door for women in insurance.
“This is the time for us to scale,” she said. “This is our moment, and we want to welcome everyone to be part of this moment.”
Find out more: Learn how you can get involved with the ISC Group today
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