Diversity and gender equality issues have been big stories of late, reflecting the desire for women and minorities to be treated as equals among their professional peers. For women in the insurance industry, in particular, the last few years have seen both some impressive gains and some frustrating hurdles that have yet to be overcome. If the trends regarding women in the insurance industry continue, however, 2016 will be another year where women continue to make the insurance industry their own.
How Are Women Faring in the Insurance Industry?
Like many industries, the insurance industry was for a long time seen as a man’s world. As women found more professional opportunities in the latter half of the 20th century, many women made careers for themselves working as insurance agents or in other industry-related positions. In the 21st century, female professionals have carved out a significant chunk of the industry for themselves:
- Nearly 65% of insurance underwriters were women in 2015.
- Whereas women made up a fraction of the industry workforce in the 80s, 17% of advisors at MetLife Premier Client Group of New York City are currently women.
- At Penn Mutual, the CEO and 40% of the board and senior leadership are female.
What Challenges Do Women in the Insurance Industry Face?
Unfortunately, these promising numbers don’t mean that there aren’t plenty of obstacles to gender equality in the insurance industry that need to be overcome. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average income of a woman working in the insurance services industry is only 62.2% of what their male counterparts make. In all other industries, the average discrepancy is 82.2%.
Likewise, the female-heavy leadership at firms like Penn Mutual is an exception compared to the rest of the insurance industry. Though there are roughly an equal number of women and men working in the insurance industry, only 12.6% of board seats at insurance companies are held by women, and only 6% have women in top executive positions. In a recent survey, 82% of women working in the insurance industry said that gender inequality is still an issue in the American insurance industry.
How Can Women Earn More in the Insurance Industry?
According to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the pay disparity between men and women can in part be traced to the hiring process. Because women are less likely to negotiate their starting salary than their male counterparts are, women start the job earning less. By taking the initiative and negotiating their starting salaries with their new employers, women can at least in part offset the existing disparity by doing the same thing the men they work with do: demanding more for the value of their work.
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