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Joanne Wojcik

COMMENTARY: Lack of diversity remains a big issue in insurance sector

July 20, 2014 - 6:00am


Let's face it, the insurance industry has a diversity problem. Industry leadership continues to be “pale, male and stale,” while the clients they serve are quickly becoming a vibrant tapestry of different colors and cultures reflective of the changing business world around us.

The same holds true for gender diversity. While more than half of entry-level positions in insurance and risk management are held by women, less than 2% of the CEOs in the industry are women — embarrassingly less than even the Fortune 500, where women hold a scant 5% of CEO slots.

That's why Business Insurance introduced the Women to Watch program in 2006: To create a leadership pipeline for women in all of the fields we cover. Since this recognition program's inception, we have identified 280 women who are potential candidates for senior leadership positions. While we add only 25 women each year to this elite group, we identified 80 in 2006 and 50 in 2007 because we thought we had some catching up to do.

While some of these women have gone on to bigger and better roles, such as Inga Beale, a 2006 Women to Watch honoree who in January became the first female CEO of Lloyd's of London, many are still knocking their heads against the industry's glass ceiling.

So we decided to launch another initiative in 2011 and expanded Women to Watch to also include a Leadership Workshop in conjunction with the awards ceremony. The intent was to obtain insight into what has been holding back women and then provide education to help them advance their careers.

Unfortunately, I fear we haven't done a very good job of promoting the value of this workshop since so many of our industry colleagues seem to think it's an event solely for the Women to Watch community.

Our ultimate objective is to create an incubator for espousing greater diversity throughout the insurance industry.

The industry's future depends on all of us becoming more progressive and egalitarian. In recently speaking with one of our 2013 Women to Watch honorees, she told me about a Young Risk Professionals event she attended in New York where more than half of the Gen-Xers and Millenials in attendance represented virtually every other color and ethnicity but white. This is the talent pool.

It is my dream that programs like Women to Watch will one day become obsolete and a part of history, like the Women's Suffrage or Civil Rights movements. Better yet, maybe some day we'll see the need to create a diversity & inclusion program for attracting middle-aged white men to the insurance industry. Now wouldn't that be something?

 



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