Through the Glass
Ceiling? Now What?
THIRTY YEARS AGO, IT WAS ESTIMATED THAT
women comprised only 1.5% of insurance sen-ior-level position appointments. By 1990, that
figure had doubled to 3%, signifying a new
focus on the ways women could help each
other break through the glass ceiling.
So at this year at INN’s Women in Insurance
Leadership Forum event, it was not surprising
to see the growing throngs of women who
already have done just that—a great feat in the
insurance industry that did not go unnoticed.
But now that women have broken through the
glass ceiling, they are entering new territory.
More often, they are coming face to face
with a host of challenges—without regard to
gender—when making important business
decisions. This is where collaboration needs to
INN’s Women in Insurance Leadership
Forum, held in partnership with SMA, touched
on that collaboration—not just between men
and women, but among all areas of the organization. Female executives from a number of
insurance companies, including The Hartford,
XL Re, Chubb and Nationwide, shared the
depth and breadth of their experiences—from
admin positions to the executive suite—with
some shattering the ceiling on their way. The
women executive attendees quickly agreed: To
be a leader, you must understand all areas of the
business and you must possess the ability to
We obtained a hint of these leadership tenets
before the forum, when we presented a couple
questions on the conference Web site to determine what INN readers believe to be true characteristics of female leaders (see charts).
We’re getting there. Today, INN’s readership
demographics match that of the industry at
large: Of INN’s 23,000-plus insurance executives, 4,000 of them are women.
As a leader, what talents or strengths
do you rely on most?
Leading by example 7%
Other (not specified) 11%
Setting goals 7%
What has been the most effective resource
available to you in your journey to become a
successful business leader?
tions for women 13%
Academic programs 13%
outside the industry/
Mentoring programs 10%
Other (not specified) 7%
As witnessed at the forum, women continue
to receive cross-gender support and, in turn,
encourage each other to enter this new territory of collaboration and communication. Many
of them have positively affected their organizations’ top and bottom lines, and have improved
the environment in which they work. But,
again, collaboration is key; at the forum I heard
these women say they couldn’t have been successful had other leaders—male, female, young,
old—not been there to help. It just goes to
show that it takes an industry to raise a leader.
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BOARD OF ADVISERS:
Eric Bulis, SVP and CIO, SBLI USA Mutual Life
Ursuline Foley, SVP and CIO, XLRe at XL Capital
Dick Mucci, Chairman and CEO of International, New York Life
Dennis Mehmen, CIO, VP, Business Information Services,
Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co.
Mike Murray, VP of Finance, OneBeacon Insurance Co.
Michael Romano, SVP, Risk & Administrative Services, Highmark Inc.
Anthony Sisti, Information Systems Director, Travelers
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