'I just wanted to be treated fairly' – IICF award winner

Brokerage head talks about promoting safer spaces for women

'I just wanted to be treated fairly' – IICF award winner

Insurance News

By Gia Snape

When Kathy Quintana (pictured) started out in insurance, women were generally limited to clerical positions and were not considered for managerial or supervisory roles.

Seeing so few women to look up to helped cement Quintana’s resolve to help increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the industry.

“I was given opportunities down the road, but it took a long time and lot of disappointment,” said Quintana, who serves as executive vice president and chief operating officer for HUB International’s California region.

As regional co-founder and co-chair of HUB Women Network, she helped grow the brokerage’s first company-wide employee resource group.

Years of hard work to create safe spaces for women in insurance have paid off for Quintana.

The Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) named her its Inclusion Champion Award winner for 2023. She was honored at IICF’s Inclusion in Insurance global conference in New York on June 14.

“This has been a lifelong journey for me,” Quintana said of the IICF award. “When I started, the entire DEI space wasn’t even talked about, so to be recognized today for the work that I’ve done has probably been the best moment of my career.”

The Inclusion Champion Award “represents the highest ideals and real-world implementation of championing inclusivity and belonging through mentoring, talent development, and advocacy,” according to the IICF.

The award is bestowed biennially on candidates who demonstrate leadership and DEI advocacy in their workplace and exhibit a personal commitment to community service. Candidates are nominated by their insurance colleagues and undergo a rigorous review by industry volunteers working in the DEI space.

The importance of mentorship

IICF said Quintana was chosen for being widely respected as an advocate for the career development of promising talent of diverse backgrounds and experiences, and for her efforts to drive broader representation of women leadership across HUB International.

As an active mentor for young professionals, Quintana acknowledged that another woman’s counsel and example served as her own guiding star early in her insurance career.

“I had a mentor once. Her name is Brenda Farr, and she was beacon for me. I watched and emulated her because there weren’t a lot of other women [in the industry],” Quintana said.

“I just knew I wanted to be treated fairly. I wanted to be treated with respect and I wanted to be heard, and she did that for me.

“When I started taking on some supervisory jobs, I would try to emulate her traits, and it served me well my entire career. Through lots of disappointments, being passed up for promotions and leadership positions, little by little, I learned to speak up and ask for what I wanted.”

DEI as ‘a way of life’

Quintana started HUB Women Network in California with a few colleagues, with the aim of bringing women together to talk about issues that were important to them in the workplace.

The network began with just 30 ambassadors in California. Today, it has more than 450 ambassadors across North America – including men.

Though HUB International’s workforce is roughly 70% female, the network also serves and benefits male population, according to Quintana.

“I wanted to establish a network that was a safe environment for women and men because everybody’s allowed. It doesn’t matter how you identify yourself,” she said. “The topics we talk about are important to life and to business, so it’s safe platform to talk about professional and personal development.”

In addition to HUB Women Network, Quintana also helped develop the 2014 California Women’s Conference, a two-day event hosting 7,000 attendees.

For the HUB leader, DEI isn’t just a cause to promote or a box to tick.

“DEI really is a way of life for me, in that I have always behaved the way I wanted to be treated,” Quintana said. “As I became influential in leadership positions, I never lost sight of the fact that I started at the bottom and that I needed to treat others with respect.”

What is the biggest DEI lesson insurance organizations can learn?

Though the insurance industry has come a long way in terms of diversity and equity, there’s still much to do, according to Quintana.

“There needs to be people that shepherd those beliefs and use them in their day-to-day workings,” she said. “Those of us that are in leadership roles have influence and it is up to us to make that difference and to speak up.”

Leaders can take that critical first step by listening.

“We need to listen to people that may not sound like us or look like us, and allow them to have a voice,” she said. “Communication is important. I make sure that I am transparent with my people. I ask them questions and ask them for their input.

“So, that’s what our industry needs to do. But I think the bigger question is, when they hear those answers, what are they going to do about it?”

Do you agree with Quintana’s thoughts on the insurance industry’s DEI journey? Share your perspective with us in the comments.

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