Women are now a large part of the insurance industry workforce in general, but they remain a sparse presence among board seats and top executives, according to a new industry group white paper that calls for focused recruitment and mentoring to help close the gap.

At 1.6 million workers, women encompass more than 60 percent of the current industry employment roster, the Million Women Mentors Women in Insurance Initiative white paper states. But they fill just 19 percent of the board seats, and 11 percent of named inside officer positions. In terms of CEO, COO and CFO roles, just 12 percent of them are filled by women.

Underscoring the challenge, only 8 percent of insurance companies have formal programs to develop strong career programs for women, the white paper said, with a call for this to change.

“Women are critical to the growth and survival of the insurance industry and we must do more to move the needles at all levels, advancing women and especially women of color, where the pay disparity is most severe, Edie Frazer, Chairman & Founder of STEMconnector and Million Women Mentors, said in prepared remarks.

Million Women Mentors (MWM) is a global movement that supports the increase of male and female mentor partnerships focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in order to boost interest and confidence of girls and women in these areas. MWM’s Women in Insurance Initiative partners include Accenture, ACORD, Aetna, Erie Insurance, The MEMIC Group, Prudential, QBE and State Farm.

ACORD President and CEO Bill Pieroni said that the looming talent shortage in insurance shows the industry must do more to advance women into key industry roles.

“The insurance industry, even more than most sectors, is facing an incoming talent shortage,” Pieroni said in prepared remarks. “Studies show that millennials, especially young women, do not find insurance an attractive career option. By 2025, more than 60 percent of all college graduates will be women. It is imperative that we focus, as an industry, on increasing our collective ability to attract, develop and retain young talent.”

Along those lines, Pieroni announced the launch of ACORD’s “Millennial Women’s Choice Award.” Plans call for presenting this at the 2018 ACORD Connect conference to recognize organizations that have made big strides in attracting and retaining millennial insurance employees.

The white paper – “Women in Insurance: Leading to Action” reports that:

  • 46.5 percent of insurance sales agents were women as of 2016, but ranged as high as 85 percent of claims and policy processing clerks.
  • The average women working full time in the U.S. earned 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, up from 64 cents in 1951. For insurance, women currently earn 62 cents per dollar earned by men, a number worse than the 1951 figure.
  • For the insurance industry to meet its staffing needs, it must include women, including women of color, in its talent, recruitment and employee advancement plans.
  • The higher women advance up the corporate ladder, they have less access then men to their senior leaders.
  • The increase in chief data officer and chief information officer positions gives women a “unique” opportunity to advance up the corporate ladder and shape their companies’ future. With that in mind, more data scientist positions in insurance are opening up.

Some efforts are already underway to close the gender/talent gap, according to the white paper.

“Promisingly, female survey respondents report their leadership teams increasingly acknowledging the shortfalls in gender parity, and voicing a desire to improve work environments and opportunities for female employees,” the white paper said. “However, it will likely require a dedicated and sustained effort to effect substantial change in our industry.”

The white paper’s conclusions and data are based, in part, on various surveys and reports from Saint Joseph’s University, EY, PwC, McKinsey & Company, ACORD, U.S. government data and other sources.

Source: Million Women Mentors, ACORD