At RISKWORLD 2023: How the Power of Women in Insurance Leadership Is Evolving
The insurance industry is changing. Technology is driving innovation and new global startups compete and partner with incumbent insurers. Macroeconomic factors like inflation, supply chain challenges and labor shortages have forced the world — and the risk and insurance industry — to adapt.
But perhaps one of the biggest changes is the evolving power of women in leadership.
In a traditionally male-dominated field, people who do not fit the traditional mold sometimes struggle to find roles and opportunities for advancement.
This is exacerbated by a lack of female role models and mentors. Future leaders suffer when representation is lacking — being able to see yourself in a future role is often a critical development step and without female leaders in visible C-suite positions, that becomes discouraging.
A panel at RISKWORLD 2023 addressed these changes and challenges through the session, “The Power of Women in Leadership.”
Part of the DEI track at RIMS, this discussion focused on leadership in the modern era. Attendees were encouraged to consider how they could pursue their own career leadership goals in the risk and insurance industry.
Courtney Cooke, vice president of sales at Bees360, moderated the panel. She was joined on stage by three dynamic female leaders: Carla Ramos, president, TheBest Claims Solutions; Amber Banister, vice president of compliance, TheBest Claims Solutions; and Aneisha Goldsmith, vice president of business development, Atrium.
Leaders Inspire Others and Find Inspiration in Different Ways
A key part of being a leader is the ability to inspire others to take action toward a shared vision. Without believing in each other and the mission, it can be difficult to succeed. But finding inspiration comes in various ways.
Ramos described how watching her team grow and develop has inspired her: “I’m most inspired by people. The people on our team, seeing them grow and giving them opportunities. Seeing how our people can have a positive impact with the ideas they put forth inspires me.”
Another way to look at inspiration is by focusing on the impact leaders have on their teams.
“I can ensure everyone has a voice. Everyone has a place if they want it. There are resources we can utilize to make sure people feel comfortable, it’s a safe space, and we give our all every day,” Goldsmith said of her philosophy.
The discussion then shifted to how women might view their careers and opportunities for advancement differently.
Goldsmith talked about her philosophy around career advancement and how to look for that next right role: “It’s not about looking for a title but for the role that fits you best. It’s not just an elevation but a culmination [of skills, talents, and experiences].”
She continued by talking about the distinctions between innate talents and learned skills — and how attendees can discern between the two.
“Know the difference between your skills and your talents. Anyone can get your skills. Those are things you learn on the job, experiences and expertise you gain. Your talents are things you bring to the table no one else can. That creates value for you. As women, we need to discern for ourselves first what are our skills and talents.”
Banister commented on the critical ability to change as a required skill in this industry, saying, “Knowing this is a really fast-paced industry and at times it’s stressful, you have to be up for the challenge and willing to take risks. It doesn’t mean you have to say yes to everything. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. Everywhere we turn there is change. If you’re not willing to accept change, you’ll never grow.”
DEI Conversation Has Evolved Over Time
The conversation about diversity and the power of women in leadership has evolved over time. One panelist made the salient point that when she began her career 27 years ago, panels discussing the power of women in leadership did not exist. Simply having the space and time for these discussions is an important evolution in the risk and insurance industry.
Ramos spoke about barriers to advancement in the industry women may face, and she had an interesting take on the topic of obstacles when she said, “Barriers are often things we put on ourselves.” She encouraged attendees to think about their careers and challenge their usual thought patterns. Sometimes we think a barrier exists, but it is self-created.
The panel also tackled the topic of people who don’t want to pursue formal leadership opportunities. “We have to get out of the competitive mindset and want to help each other and stand beside each other,” explained Banister.
Cooke described the power of amplifying other people in your network. Sometimes people who don’t hold leadership roles struggle to find recognition and make a name for themselves. By shouting out the accomplishments of others, you highlight and promote your team.
The panel also spoke about finding mentors and sponsors who mention your name in meetings you’re not yet included in. Finally, they spoke of the importance of being visible at work and allowing others to see your accomplishments, work product and the way you manage failures.
The Future Is Female
The session ended with a piece of advice from each panelist.
Banister said: “Don’t be afraid to start. Go full force. Don’t let age or being new to the industry affect you. Don’t be afraid to say no. Find your tribe, those people who will guide you and be behind you through your career.”
“Use your voice and stand up for what you want. Ask questions, listen, try that new thing,” Ramos advised.
“Network, network, network! Go and meet some new friends, people who do things differently from you. Get perspectives. Your work and ethics become your brand and it sticks with you. Be kind to people,” Goldsmith said.
Cooke ended the session with this succinct advice: “Be authentically you.” &