A study by Liberty Mutual and Safeco found that men still outnumber women in leadership roles by two to one.
The insurance industry continues to be a great place for women to work, but the playing field remains uneven, according to the latest Liberty Mutual and Safeco Insurance study “2023 Outlook: The State of Women in Independent Insurance Agencies."
Between2018 and 2022, the percentage of agencies with at least one woman in aprincipal or senior leadership role increased by 12% to 47% of agencies,according to the 2022 Agency Universe Study. However, the gender disparity inleadership roles remains, according to the study.
Today, women make up more than half of all employees in insurance agencies. However, while more agencies have at least one woman in leadership, men still outnumber women in leadership roles by two to one.
The imbalance in leadership opportunities appears early on in a woman's career, when male employees are offered a pathway to leadership and female employees are often overlooked for development opportunities and promotions, the study found.
This is especially true for millennial and Generation Z women. As many as 80% of millennial and Gen Z men working in frontline roles say they are excited about their future at their agency compared to 56% of women, according to the study. Additionally, more than half of millennial and Gen Z men said their manager is actively developing them for leadership. In contrast, only 38% of women say the same.
And while 85% of women who work frontline roles can picture themselves as a leader at an agency, only 50% of millennial and Gen Z women are actively aspiring to be leaders. This suggests that current agency leaders are overlooking female employees in favor of their male counterparts, the study stated.
Many factors contribute to the leadership gender gap. One reason is that women are less inclined to self-promote, according to a Harvard Business Review report, meaning they may need someone to advocate for them and push them to take risks.
Additionally, women are less likely than men to have sponsors to help them reach the top levels of leadership. Implementing these types of programs can help pave the way for more women leaders in the insurance industry.
Yet, while leadership is a key issue for women in insurance, it is not the only key to recruiting and retaining women. “According to our research, women in insurance value flexibility, stability, parental leave and continuing education opportunities," the report noted. “They also want to work for agencies that are involved in the community."
Additionally, research from Harvard Business Review found that women outscored men on leadership skills. Meanwhile, research from McKinsey & Co. revealed that women in management positions are better at consistently checking in on employees' overall well-being and creating more human-centered workplaces.
“Women are uniquely positioned to connect with customers and drive transformation in agencies," according to Liberty Mutual and Safeco's study. “Many women in independent insurance agencies are ready for leadership, and it's time for agencies to pave better pathways to leadership to help them get there."
Olivia Overman is IA content editor.