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Just as there’s no single path into the insurance and risk management sector there’s no one path to the top. The profiles of this year’s Women to Watch highlight the accomplishments of women leaders who joined the industry from many different entry points.
There are a fair number who joined straight from high school, eager to make a living and curious enough to give insurance a try. Some came into the industry via internships and rotational programs, learning on the job. One of this year’s honorees even discovered a new career path in database administration after organizing the office supply closet at an insurer. Some followed their family or friends into insurance, which is a common route for millennials, according to Business Insurance’s survey of insurance professionals on page 16. Still others started out on graduate training programs, after completing their degrees in everything from accounting and law to Egyptology and the classics.
The breadth of starting points is only surpassed by the diversity of careers and specialties in which this year’s honorees are continuing to hone their craft. What struck me as I read through the profiles was how many are working in leadership roles in areas that did not exist even a few years ago. While people outside the industry may still think of rising auto premiums and a certain well-known gecko when they hear the word “insurance,” these women are pushing the boundaries of what traditionally has been considered insurable. Innovation can be an overused term, but brokers and insurers are among those companies that now have chief innovation officers, a role that is held by at least one of the honorees. Many roles focus on technology and increased risk from digital sources and the interconnected world in which we live. This includes risk around cyber, privacy and storing data in the cloud.
Climate change, not surprisingly given recent catastrophic weather events and heightened regulatory activity, is another path where many are pursuing innovative work. Some honorees are focused on renewable energy, sustainability and developing new coverages such as mass timber builders risk and construction weather parametric insurance. Environmental, social and governance-related risks — the topic du jour, not necessarily clearly defined or understood yet — are drawing a lot of attention as insurers factor companies’ efforts to better manage such risks into underwriting.
The cannabis sector continues to be an evolving area of exposure where coverage solutions and risk management strategies are in demand. COVID-19 amplified the lack of mental health resources, and this is another critical area where honorees are developing insurance services to enable businesses to provide viable support.
Women leaders don’t appear to choose easy career options, either. Complex risks have been the chosen path and specialty of many of this year’s winners. As one succinctly said: “You aren’t necessarily the broker whom anyone wants to talk to, because no one wants to necessarily underwrite the risks you’ve got.” Yet it’s these complex risks that are going to continue to propel the industry forward and allow it to move through many more cycles of innovation. We celebrate this year’s winners and their adventurous choices.