Opinion: Top 5 lessons for women climbing the executive ladder

Opinion: Top 5 lessons for women climbing the executive ladder | Insurance Business America

Opinion: Top 5 lessons for women climbing the executive ladder
The following opinion article is written by Megan Stewart Hodge, global head of business development for Metabiota, a novel risk analytics company focused on helping the insurance industry and governments build resilience to, and mitigate the impact of, epidemics.

In this article, Hodge addresses her top 5 “lessons learned” for women in the insurance business, and she sheds light on what it takes to navigate through the “traditional and homogenous” aspects of the insurance industry.

According to a recent report from Credit Suisse, only 12% of women in the insurance industry are in top management positions. Without commitment to and accountability for improvement within the diversity of its leadership ranks, “climbing the corporate ladder” is not always palatable (or feasible) for women within the traditional framework of career paths in many insurance organizations. Thus, a challenge is posed to women looking to grow and advance in the insurance industry: “Rather than view the lack of diversity within the leadership ranks as a roadblock, how do I circumvent the traditional glass ceiling in defining and achieving my version of success?”

To be best positioned to tackle this challenge head-on, a woman looking to grow in the insurance industry must develop a comprehensive skillset (a “personal value proposition”) and project the confidence to forge this innovative path, through:

1. Learning from the inside out: Learn your business, as well as your clients, comprehensively and holistically. Don’t accept the “status quo” – recognize the industry is poised for growth and disruption, and strategically position your company and your clients to successfully navigate future challenges and opportunities. When you become an expert in the space, you are recognized as a thought-leader and viewed as an invaluable advisor to your clients and asset to your organization. Likewise, you become a more highly sought-after candidate for potential opportunities (within as well as outside of) your organization.

2. Owning your seat at the table: Project confidence in your role, expertise and the value you bring to your organization, your clients and your role within the industry. Advocate on behalf of your position, your team and yourself. Recognize work-life balance is a reality of, not a blemish on, successful careers and chart a course through the evolving demands of both with confidence.

3. Embracing mentorship/sponsorship: Identify those in the industry who have reached a senior level – see them speak, meet them at conferences, follow their path. Furthermore, reflect on the companies (and characteristics of the companies) at which they’ve achieved these career milestones. Per the key theme at the IICF Women in Insurance Global Conference (New York, June 2017): “Diverse and inclusive organizations are more likely to succeed and sustain success.” Assess if your organization is well positioned to support your personal success, as well as its own. Support and champion the junior team members at your own company and within your network to help deliberately move the industry forward alongside your own career growth and progression.

4. Championing innovation: Seek out innovative companies that are forging a new path, as they are likely to break away from the traditional and homogenous mold. Companies that take a bold and deliberate stance on embracing and adopting technology and innovation are often the same companies achieving success in their diversity initiatives, as they are truly committed to change and advancement. These are companies with whom to align and succeed.

5. Following your passion: Challenge the status quo with your current career path, your organization, and (taking a step back) your overall aspirations. “Own” your value and potential and then redefine your role to align what challenges, motivates and incentivizes you with the unique perspective and insights you offer to your organization and/or the industry as a whole.

It has been proven that the organizations that embrace diversity, inclusion and innovation will be best positioned to succeed – gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to financially outperform in their industry, according to a recent report from McKinsey & Company. Aligning and growing with these leading organizations best positions women in the short and long-term for success in a challenging and inspiring career in the insurance industry.

The preceding article was written by Megan Stewart Hodge, global head of business development for Metabiota. The views expressed within do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Business.

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