The shutdown that followed the COVID-19 pandemic ironically forced many companies forward when it came to technology and innovation, and the shift appears to be a permanent - and positive - one, especially for women.
“Companies are recognizing if people are getting their work done, it doesn’t matter where they are or how they’re doing it,” said Yosha DeLong (pictured), senior vice president, global head of cyber at Mosaic Insurance and a speaker at the Women In Insurance Chicago event. “It really opened up an opportunity to get creative with the way we work in general, but people also realized there’s this talent pool out there, a lot of women, and we can be flexible with them through technology because they’re good at their job and we need them in the workplace.”
The last year was really interesting from an innovation standpoint, DeLong said, because everyone was in the same position: finding a way to work through the stay-at-home order and juggle other responsibilities at the same time. Some had elderly parents or other family members to care for; others were home alone and struggling with the isolation; and many people were at home with their children, tasked with childcare and virtual learning on top of their jobs.
Throughout this experience, men often reported never having spent so much hands-on time raising their children before, and DeLong believes it was eye-opening for many, creating more empathy for what people with families go through during a pandemic or otherwise. Working from home or working swing hours, which previously tended to be viewed skeptically in the workplace, became critical to the vast majority of employees - especially women.
DeLong worked with a woman who homeschooled her children during lockdown while her husband was still physically going into his workplace. She loved the fact her job in insurance didn’t have set hours - allowing her to take on the childcare and homeschooling until her husband got home, and then do the majority of her work in the evenings.
“The great thing about technology is, it enables us to not miss a beat,” DeLong said. “There’s a lot more support for women than when I got in the industry almost 25 years ago, especially those trying to raise families or support elderly parents. It’s been a male-dominated industry for years, and women don’t think of it as the opportunity it can be.”
When DeLong was young, she thought working in the insurance industry meant being an agent. “That was my limited perspective,” she laughed - and she now advocates for having conversations on different job prospects in high school, while promoting diversity across the board.
“We need to continue to foster younger people’s interest in this industry through various methods,” she said. “How do we drag more people into the insurance industry and show them what a great opportunity this can be for their career? That’s a question we need to answer.”
The fact that it’s now accepted talent isn’t isolated to New York, Chicago, LA and San Francisco should help, said DeLong, a panellist at the “Innovation: Evolving as an insurance market” session at the Women In Insurance Chicago event. Embracing technology and flexible hours means “we can look for talent all over the place,” and DeLong has high hopes this means more women will find their way to leadership roles in the insurance industry.
An outlier in insurance lines of business, cyber is around 50% female leadership and DeLong’s theory is “that’s because it’s something that wasn’t really exciting at one point, but we as women saw we could provide a unique perspective on it.” When she speaks to her peers about how they got into cyber, they all have a similar story - “That lean in kind of thing,” DeLong said - and the desire to carve out their own path.
“I hope we continue to see more of that,” DeLong said. “We need women to continue to have their voices heard and the opportunity to share their unique perspective on work in general, but especially in the insurance industry. Anything I can do to support that - I’m in.”
Hear what else Yosha has to say about leadership, innovation and forging your own path forward at the Women In Insurance Chicago event on August 31.