two business men one woman leaders executives womenPerceptions may remain that the insurance industry is still overwhelmingly male, but a new survey shows that some insiders see progress.

Approximately 87 percent of respondents said that their company in particular is actively working to promote gender diversity, up from 68 percent in 2015.

The survey attracted more than 400 responses from women attending the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF) 2016 Women in Insurance Conference Series at various locations across the country in June.

“While barriers still exist for women who seek to advance within their careers, we have seen a shift in thought among women in the industry – where lack of opportunities for upward mobility is no longer the primary obstacle,” Erin Calvey, executive vice president at Ironshore Insurance and a Conference Series speaker, said in prepared remarks. “We now see more than ever the importance of women uplifting and supporting each other in order to collectively inspire progress.”

Interestingly, 32 percent of respondents ranked insurance as the most supportive financial services industry in terms of advancement of women into senior leadership roles. Only the accounting industry is higher. In 2015, insurance ranked 12 percent, or last place.

Also, 35 percent of respondents said that the biggest challenge women face in advancing in leadership roles is not promoting themselves either enough or effectively. Last year, more than 1/3 of respondents said that their biggest obstacles to moving up the corporate ladder were limited opportunities.

Interestingly, 44 percent said that active recruitment of a gender-diverse workforce has helped improve gender equality, while 22 percent said mentoring programs for women have made a difference. About 20 percent said sponsorship of executive network opportunities carried a lot of weight.

Source: IICF