Create a personal board of directors: Amplify Women panel at CICA
A panel of female executives advocated the idea of finding – and being – good mentors, and even putting together a personal board of directors to help navigate a successful career.
That was one of the themes that came out of a panel discussion called ‘Amplify Women – There is no Limit!’ held at the Captive Insurance Companies Association (CICA), taking place in Tucson this week (March 6-8).
The panel showcased the work of CICA’s Amplify Women committee. The panellists were: Mary Ellen Moriarty, Vice President for Property & Casualty and Student Insurance Programs, EIIA; Sandy Bigglestone, Director of Captive Insurance, Captive Insurance Division, State of Vermont; Kristen Peed, Director of Corporate Risk Management, CBIZ; and W. Rae Brown, Director – Captive Operations, GPW and Associates.
They recounted some of their experiences in the industry and how hard it can be to break into a male-dominated industry. Moriarty said it is increasingly hard for women to juggle the commitments of childcare and a career and she said she looks to support her colleagues in every way she can on this front.
She admitted that she did not manage her career well. She for a long time tried to outwork others, while keeping her head down and keeping going. “I did not comment on things I should have,” she said. “But there is much that was unacceptable and should always been unacceptable. Teach others to move forward and be a mentor. But you cannot outwork everyone.”
Moriarty also endorsed the idea of creating a personal board of directors – a panel of individuals with different skillsets to lean on through a career.
Peed said she had done just this – in a very intentional way. “I created my own board of directors and I consider how I can help them and how they can help me. I am in an amazing position now in my career now – it happened slowly and over time. But now I like to help others. I help people and I also believe in reverse mentoring – I also learn from young people.”
She also advocated the idea of building your own board of directors – people who will help you and enhance your career and help you long term. “I want to model my career on those I look up to,” she said. She added that she is now also keen to help other women, mentoring young people. “It is pay back for some of the amazing people that helped me,” she said.
She added that without previous trailblazers in the industry, she could not have had the experiences she has had. “I feel I need to now pay it forward,” she said.
Bigglestone said that the number of women in the financial services and accounting industry has increased greatly since she first entered the industry. She has also seen more women achieve leadership positions within the sector.
She said when she first started in the industry, she didn’t consider gender very much, she just wanted to do a good job. “People would mention breaking glass ceilings and I was confused by that,” she said. “So I did face some adversity in my career. But some of that was about breaking down barriers with other regulators, some of whom despised captives. I wanted to tell the story about captives and what good regulation looks like. I am very passionate about that. I think some of those barriers are softened and I hope I played a role in that.”
She added that one of the biggest pieces of advice she gives too women looking to advance is: “You do not need to know everything now. There are people willing to share their wisdom and knowledge. And that is how you grow and learn. I created relationships and fostered support from peers and colleagues at all levels, both at work and within the industry.”
She added: “If there is not enough space at the table, we need to create space. Women are going to feel threatened by ither women if there is only one seat at the table. We need to raise awareness that we need noy be threatened by each other – we need a bigger table.”
Brown said she got into the captives industry some 15 years ago during the economic downturn. “I took a backwards step in my career but got lucky to work with some really strong women in leadership roles,” she said. “There has been a lot of progress in the industry around diversity since then.”
How much spot is a two-way street? This is an amazing industry and I am keen to help people find I and fit it into a career path. My offerings are that I support those around me in the best way I possibly can. But also understand that some people do not want to advance. It is important to understand and respect that too.”