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Women insurers see inroads on gender equality

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In a survey conducted in conjunction with the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s 2016 Women in Insurance Conference Series last month, more than four out of five women say the industry is making progress toward gender equality.

When asked whether they agreed with the statement “strides to achieve gender equality are being made in the insurance industry today,” 12% of the 383 participants responding said they “strongly” agreed and 74% said they “somewhat” agreed. Only 1% said they “strongly” disagreed.

In a statement announcing the results, the Los Angeles-based IICF said that the figures “represent a significant jump” from 2015’s results, when 72% of attendees agreed that strides were being made to achieve gender equality.

When asked about the biggest roadblock to women aspiring to leadership positions in the insurance industry, 35% said that women don’t promote themselves enough or effectively, 31% said they face limited opportunities to climb the corporate ladder, 21% cited a lack of C-suite sponsorship and 13% pointed to inflexible workplace standards.

But when asked to what extent they agreed with the statement “Your company is actively working to promote gender diversity,” 40% said they strongly agreed and 47% said they somewhat agreed.

In naming the financial services sector most supportive of the advancement of women, accounting edged insurance 35% to 32%, with banking at 23% and investment services at 9%.

When asked to identify the trend that has promoted gender equality in the industry the past five years: 44% percent cited a “more active” recruitment of a gender-diverse workforce, and 22% cited the establishment of mentorship programs for women. Another 20% named the sponsorship of executive networking opportunities, and 14% credited more women pursuing advanced degrees.

“While barriers still exist for women who seek to advance within their careers, we have seen a shift in thought among women in the industry — where lack of opportunities for upward mobility is no longer the primary obstacle,” Erin Calvey, executive vice president at Ironshore Insurance Co., said in a statement.

“We see now more than ever the importance of women uplifting and supporting each other in order to collectively inspire progress,” said Ms. Calvey, a conference series speaker. “Beyond the impact this has for women who are already veterans of the industry, this is a vital trend to cultivate as the industry aligns itself to hire the next generation of insurance professionals.”

The Women in Insurance Conference Series event was held in four cities: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York.