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Women Leaders in Insurance: Jana Foster

“The second we stop working on [gender equality] is the second we become stagnant," says independent agent Jana Foster. "I don’t think we’ll ever get to a place where we can stop progressing for the positive.”
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Jana FosterJana Foster

Owner/ Producer
Nevada Insurance Agency Company
Carson City, Nevada

How did you get started in the insurance industry?

I always say I was born into insurance. The current office I work in was my family’s home when I was born, it’s now our agency. The agency has been around since 1935. My dad bought into the agency in the 90’s and my two older brothers and I bought my dad out a few years back. Being family-owned and independent has always been a priority for us.

What’s your favorite thing about working as an independent insurance agent?

Absolutely the freedom of choice. I’m able to provide so many different services and options for consumers. With that comes the competence to be able to place risks in the right market. Also, the ease of doing business to get the right premium and make sure the client has everything that they need.

What song motivates you?

“Thunder” by Imagine Dragons. The song is about not focusing on others tearing you down; instead building yourself up until you can feel the pride when you accomplish your goals.

As a woman, what are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome or are overcoming in the industry?

I want to be chosen for the right reasons. I want to be recognized because I’m the most qualified and the best for the job, not that I’ll check that “inclusive box” because of my gender and my age. Confidence is key. If I know that I’m the best person for the job I have no problem proving that. I don’t want to be picked because I’m a woman, I want to be picked because I’m the best.

If you could change one thing for women in the insurance industry, what would it be?

More women in decision-making roles. We’re getting there, but it’s a slow process. But again, it has to be the right woman for the job. We need more young, strong, educated, professional women who want to seize the opportunity to work in this industry.

We have outstanding programs at the Big “I” like Invest that are encouraging just that. We need more women to continue to facilitate these programs to show young people just how great this industry is. We can’t continue to tell them, we need to show them.

Have you seen progress in gender equality?

Absolutely. Is there more work to be done? Absolutely. I think we’re on the right track. I just sat in on a Big “I” carrier panel at the first-ever Level Up Summit in New Orleans. I listened to the top carrier executives talk about their current diversity and inclusion initiatives, and was very impressed at their push to bring more diversity to the top.  A rising tide lifts all boats. They’re really taking the time to laser focus on these initiatives.

The second we stop working on this is the second we become stagnant. I don’t think we’ll ever get to a place where we can stop progressing for the positive.

Why is insurance specifically a great industry for women?

Women have a unique ability to care for people. That’s what clients need. They need to know they can trust us and they need to know they’re protected. We need women as owners, producers and customer service representatives— it doesn’t matter what your title is, the customer and community need to know you care. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most.

What advice do you have for other women in the industry?

Work-life balance is a constant struggle. But the flexible schedule that insurance offers kind of makes for a perfect fit for a mother. The flexibility that insurance offers is a unique opportunity. I’m a mom and I can drop my kids off at school every day.

To someone who’s in the business now, I would say be practical but never waver and never give up. Be confident enough to know that if you are the best for the job you need to fight for that, regardless of other things that are happening around you.

What’s your favorite success story?

I just heard a great success story about Tricia Griffith, CEO of Progressive. She started as a claims representative over 30 years ago and continued to climb the ladder. She launched Progressive’s first diversity and inclusion program and is the first woman CEO of Progressive. She’s amazing. She’s listed 99th on the list of Fortune 500 CEOs. There are only 33 women on that list, and four in insurance-based services. Impressive is an understatement!

It’s people like her who take the time to come back to tell their story and pay it forward who continue to inspire the next generation of agents like myself.

Was there a woman mentor or role model who helped shape your career?

My mom. She continues to encourage me to stay hungry and humble. Many women in the industry that continue to blaze that trail in front of me inspire me daily. I just hope I’m doing enough to keep that path visible for young, educated, talented women who are coming up behind me.

This is the first in a series of three interviews featuring women leaders in insurance, in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8. Stay tuned to News & Views next week for a Q&A with two sisters from Rhode Island.

Additionally, the Big “I" Diversity Council is excited to host a special “encore" presentation of the Women Who Lead Remarkably webinar on Wednesday, March 11 at 1 p.m. ET. Reserve your spot today!

AnneMarie McPherson is IA news editor.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Recruiting, Hiring & Training