Women have more opportunities to get ahead in the captive insurance industry than elsewhere in insurance, or in many other industries, according to Mary Ellen Moriarty, a risk manager at College Insurance Company.
Speaking on an Amplify Women webinar, hosted and organised by the Captive Insurance Companies Association (CICA), Moriarty attributed the success of women in captive insurance to the importance of accounting within the industry, and the dominant position women have in accountancy.
“Women dominate the accounting industry, both among undergraduates and practitioners,” she explained. Women’s success in accounting has led to their success in captives, she said.
Moriarty said she had been amazed by the number of women working in the captives industry when she first visited Vermont in 2002. “There were many women in leadership roles,” she noted.
Meanwhile, Leane Rafalko, chief captive analyst at the North Carolina Department of Insurance, noted that the clearer guidance and regulation around gender equality provided in the public sector has fostered greater gender equality.
Having transparency around pay, and a clear pay scale, has made the public sector very meritocratic, where hard work is recognised for both men and women, she added.
The panellists agreed the #metoo movement has helped raise awareness of the issues women face in the workplace, although they acknowledged it has created challenges for men.
Only around 10 percent of men in workplaces create the kind of uncomfortable environment that has been exposed by the #metoo movement, estimated Moriarty. But she called for more men from the other 90 percent to call out problematic behaviour, such as inappropriate jokes, rather than ignoring such comments.
She noted that Millennials are more likely to call out sexist or bullying behaviour at work than older people who have grown up in an environment where it has been accepted.
Amy Evans, executive vice president at Intercare Insurance Services, agreed. “Millennials get a bad rap but there is a lot that this generation gets right,” she said. “They see everyone as equals and are not intimidated by positions of authority.” She argued that the more egalitarian ethos that dominated the education system they came through, in which everyone got a medal just for taking part, has taught them that everyone has their place on a team.
“People on college campuses today seek out international students, to learn more about their backgrounds. When they start working they expect the same kind of diversity they experienced in college,” added Moriarty.
Nancy Gray, regional managing director at Aon, said women have to overcome biases in perception, including that strong men are seen as effective leaders, while women with the same qualities are often seen as unreasonable or demanding.
However, Gray admitted women can be their own worst enemies when it comes to advancing their careers.
Women tend to wait for recognition and are less likely to speak up and advocate for themselves, she said, and are less likely to apply for roles if they do not meet every criteria mentioned in the job spec. Conversely, men will apply for jobs even if they meet under half of the stated prerequisites, she said.
Women also network very differently to men, added Evans, tending to be less inclined to network informally outside of working hours. This has traditionally given men an advantage, who gain more insight into their colleagues from socialising with them in an informal setting, she said.
Evans said women have traditionally felt compelled to act more like men, to be aggressive, or to give up, if they felt their gender was blocking advancement in their careers. Instead, women should be themselves and let their natural leadership qualities shine through, she said.
She advised women to turn negative biases into a positive. “I’ve been criticised for overthinking things and being too much in my own head, which is a classic female trait,” she said. “We have to speak up and point out those are great strengths, great indicators for leaders. Women do think things through, we do pay attention to the detail.”
Other traits often associated with women, such as compassion and empathy, are also great qualities for leaders, added Moriarty. “Traits like compassion and empathy lead to greater longevity among employees. They will invest more in their work when they feel they are being recognised,” she said.
Moriarty stressed that men have recognised gender inequality in workplaces, as well as women, and have worked to redress the balance. “A lot of men helped me advance myself and my career,” she said - especially earlier in her career, when there were few female leaders to provide advice and mentorship.
Gray advised women to not be afraid of failing, stressing doing so is not a sign of weakness. “If you never fail it means you aren’t stretching yourself,” she said.
Rafalko agreed, calling for women to have more confidence in themselves and to take more risks in their careers, and in life generally. “You can always fix things when you make a mistake, and doing so actually gives you more confidence,” she said.
Mary Ellen Moriarty, College Insurance Company, Leane Rafalko, Amy Evans, Nancy Gray, Intercare Insurance Services, Aon, CICA