Statistics around women in the workplace paint a dreary picture. According to human resources consulting firm Mercer and its recent report, “Accelerating for Impact: 2018 Gender Inflection Point,” it will now take 217 years, compared to 170 years projected in 2016, to close the global economic gap between genders based on the current rate of change. For women in insurance, who drive the industry as 60% of the workforce, the gap comes at the leadership level, according to ACORD, where only 12% of women occupy the top positions of CEO, COO, and CFO.
“We are back to where we were in 2008 with regards to the economic gap between genders, so I don’t believe a lot has changed,” said Yiana Stavrakis, chief sales officer at Specialty Program Group and a speaker at the upcoming Women in Insurance Atlanta event in April 2019, referring to the Mercer whitepaper. “We are talking about it a lot more, which is amazing, but the proof is in the actions, not the words, so I don’t believe we’re there yet.”
If insurance organizations want to see change, they need to create opportunities for everyone to succeed, she added.
“For example, it’s been discussed that women tend not to be promoted to top leadership positions because they gravitate toward roles that do not require P&L management. When businesses create programs and/or have opportunities for employees to learn valuable leadership skills, they need to be conscious of selecting individuals from a diverse subset,” explained Stavrakis, adding that these efforts need to be ongoing. “There needs to be some structural organizational changes from the top down recognizing that diversity and inclusion is important. It starts by looking at employee data to determine a baseline, which then also helps you monitor success of implemented D&I programs.”
Women in insurance can also ensure that they’re putting themselves in positions that will lead to opened doors and new opportunities. That can sometimes be hard to accomplish when traditional networking spaces, like golf courses, still prevail.
“You’re fighting against something that is rampant in our industry,” said Stavrakis, though she also overcame this hurdle herself and has advice for others looking to break the mold of the ‘boys’ club.’
“Something that I’ve been able to do – and I wasn’t conscious of it at the time – was get involved in multiple industry trade associations. I was able to build relationships at a young age and have grown up with people in the industry so they’ve become family, and I don’t need to go play golf with them or go to the bar with them because we connect on a different level. We’re talking about their children, we’re going to dinner, we’re spending holidays together. I didn’t realize the impact that would have when I did it, and I’m just so grateful that I did.”
As for events focused on promoting the success of women in the industry, such as the upcoming Women in Insurance Atlanta, Stavrakis told Insurance Business that everyone needs to be involved in these conversations and should come out to attend.
“I think it’s wonderful to have a network of women that understand the challenges you face. It’s invaluable and it’s really helped me progress in my career, having people that have experienced similar situations and overcome them,” said Stavrakis, “but men are in our world, they’re here, and if they’re not part of the conversation, we’re hindering our success.”
Take a deeper dive into this issue at Women in Insurance Atlanta.