By Margaret Resce Milkint and Catherine Lamson
Original article published by NU PropertyCasualty360. Reprinted with permission from the May 28, 2020, issue of NU PropertyCasualty360. © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.
Gender issues have existed in our industry for a long time, yet most evidence has been anecdotal. Now we’re armed with tangible data insights that are more important than ever.
The data study conducted by our team at Million Women Mentors’ Women In Insurance Initiative (WII) reveals notable gender disparity throughout the industry. This first-of-its-kind data collection project, officially launched in February, was designed to measure and provide insight into issues and opportunities that currently exist for women in insurance.
Since our launch in February, our world has dramatically changed with the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic, yet the significance of our movement remains strikingly relevant. We must prioritize during this crisis but continue to think about the future of work, and the role we all play. How are women leading in the new normal, and how will they? How can we better spotlight STEM careers in insurance? How do we harness our collective resources to advance more action, collaboration and networking?
Using the WII data as a launchpad to better understand how to help close the gaps so we can focus on re-imaging, expanding and amplifying opportunities for women in insurance is our Step One. The data was aggregated to provide a comprehensive look at the drivers of inequity and to look at areas of improvement within our industry.
Here are three main takeaways from the study:
1. Women are highly loyal to their companies
A majority of the insurance industry employees are female; therefore, the role women play is integral to the success of the industry. Interestingly, they tend to stay at a company for longer periods of time than men. However, they are employed in less-senior roles and generally found at lower salary levels than their male counterparts.
Our tenure findings have not been explored in other studies, and this is an area that we want to continue to delve into further. We found that, in general, women are working longer. They make up 62% of those that stay 20 years or more at a company, and they outnumber men in each age range aside from 75 years or older. In particular, women occupy parttime, intern and non-managerial professional roles longer than men.
Due to their stagnation in entry-level positions, women fail to make that first jump into management. Where it breaks down is when you get to the managers of managers, and that’s where men start to take over. The “Manager of Entry-Level Manager” position showed an 18% disparity, with men holding 59% of the roles. Overall, women are underrepresented among executives, making up only 29% of senior leaders.
Men also begin to outnumber women at the $100,000 to $119,000 salary range. As soon as the women’s numbers start to drop off, it seems to compound from there, with only 18% of women earning more than $200,000. Even when you factor in the corporate role, women are being paid less than men in senior positions.
2. Race and ethnicity play a factor in pay and role disparity
When accounting for intersectionality, ethnicity data showed a downward trend for women in both pay and corporate roles. Although there was some variation in the data by ethnicity, the overall disparity and bias remain the same except in one significant case: the African-American groups.
African-American women were found to acquire higher salaries than white women. As we build off of this surprising finding, we will look to collect data that answers why these women are flourishing. Of African American women, 48% are in the $160,000 to $179,999 salary range compared to 30% for white women at the same inflection point.
Dr. Leroy Nunery, the founder of Plūs Ultré consultancy firm, conducted a study titled “The Journey of African-American Insurance Professionals” that provides quantitative and personal insights into the significant deficiencies of opportunity faced by African Americans over many decades at leadership and other employment levels throughout the insurance industry.
Nunery’s study found that 49% of African-American women had more than 20 years of experience in the industry. “This seems to imply, on both sides, there’s career immobility, a stagnation in terms of progress. There’s plenty of years in, but not necessarily the progress going forward,” he said.
Even so, respondents in his study were eager to continue developing the insurance industry for the better. “Ninety-four percent of those we surveyed and interviewed said they would gladly encourage somebody younger or behind them to come into the industry. That seems to tie back to tenure. No matter what obstacles you face, there’s a sense of persistence and perseverance that is resonant within the industry,” he said.
The discussion of race and ethnicity within the industry sparks another vital conversation. “It’s really important to highlight the strong historical linkages between women’s surage and civil rights,” Nunery said. “Alliances versus competition is important to call out, not to say that we’re pitting one group against another, but rather that we can collectively find solutions that benefit all."
3. Insurance companies are lagging in efforts to promote gender diversity
Findings revealed critical data points regarding gender parity initiatives that highlighted key takeaways from the survey. Simply having diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace isn’t enough. In order to be held accountable, companies must follow through and ensure that there are clear plans of action with the goal of an equitable workplace.
The survey found that 78% of insurance companies lack internal targets for gender diversity. Of the companies that responded 61% set and published targets for gender diversity, but they noted that progress against these targets is not published. “Without targets that are clearly articulated around initiatives and strategies, it’s hard to conceive that diversity, equity or inclusion will really be achieved,” Nunery said.
We know that we can do better. Now that we have the intelligence, we hope to see these statistics shift toward more comprehensive diversity and inclusion initiatives that are utilized and shared across the industry.
The results are clear. Women are working longer at the same company than men. That loyalty, though, is not aligned with promotions and increases and pay. Women also tend to occupy the lower corporate levels and progress to the rst managerial level, but fewer continue to climb the ladder to the next level. We do not have all the answers yet, but it is the start of a meaningful, data-driven conversation.
Take action now
Linking back to the new normal we are facing, taking action, seeking support and developing a game plan to map a way forward is a career and personal must. Keeping sight of your goals and your personal brand is more important than ever to position yourself for success and advancement. This is a time to advance and not retreat. We are building and sharing valuable resources from across the insurance industry for you to access as we navigate this unfamiliar territory.
Check out our infographic to visualize the data we’ve collected. Join our upcoming Lunch & Learn Series, Virtual Focus Groups, and share our WFH Resource Guide. Because we’re an industry built on helping others, those who need us most are still counting on us to give 110% in the upcoming months.
We are navigating a new path together and are eager to learn your thoughts, advice and lessons learned. We can all succeed during this time of COVID-19, and we’d love to hear your thoughts on these important emerging issues. Email WII at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your experience about new diversity, inclusion-belonging programs and STEM initiatives at your company and in your networks!
Our simple ask is to share, amplify, and make this data personal. By doing so, you help start the active and real conversations needed to drive change for women across the insurance industry.
Challenging ourselves to view this moment as a catalyst for transformation is our focus, quoting the inspiring and beloved catalyst, Maya Angelou: “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”