March is women’s history month, which makes it a great time to acknowledge all the contributions women make in insurance agencies and look at how agencies can better support women.

The new Agent for the Future research report, The State of Women in Independent Insurance Agencies: Representation, Compensation and Recognition, explores some of the challenges and opportunities women face in insurance agencies. The report draws on a survey of more than 350 women in independent insurance agencies and shows how empowering women will help agencies thrive far into the future.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the report:

Women are underrepresented in agency leadership

Women outnumber men in insurance agencies, but are still underrepresented in leadership positions. According to Liberty Mutual data, women make up 96% of customer service representatives and 68% of producers (with some crossover between the roles), but only 31% of agency owners and principals.

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Read our new research report to learn more about empowering women in insurance

More than one in three female agency principals told us they are often the only woman in the room.

This is not due to a lack of interest in leadership. More than half of women under 50 who work as frontline staff are interested in becoming a partner in their agency, and more than one in four wanted to learn about steps to buy or start an agency.

To hire and retain talented women, agencies need to show that there are paths for career growth and provide career development opportunities. This may include investing in continuing training and education, encouraging mentorship and sponsorship and having ongoing conversations about career goals.

Women in leadership is good for business

A study from McKinsey showed that companies with more gender diversity on their executive teams are more profitable than companies with less diverse leadership.

Female leaders also contribute to creating more human-centered workplaces. In McKinsey’s study, employees with female managers said their managers were better at consistently providing emotional support and checking in on their overall well-being – actions that improve employee satisfaction and help prevent burnout.

There are tremendous opportunities for agencies to tap into the potential of female employees, develop their talents and consider them for perpetuation plans.

The pay gap in insurance is real

The financial services industry has one of the widest gender pay gaps. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, female insurance sales agents make 67.6% of what men make in the same role. Data from the Insurance Journal’s 2022 Agency Salary Survey found that female agency owners and principals make 61.5% of what their male counterparts make.

Our research found that women in insurance agencies are aware of the gap. 64% of female frontline staff feel they are paid less than their male peers.

While reasons for the gap are complex, the reality – or even the perception – of unequal pay for equal work hurts employee satisfaction and retention. It’s important for agency leaders to be transparent about compensation models and to ensure fair compensation for all employees.

Women want to be recognized for the things they do behind the scenes

Nearly 90% of female owners and principals say they receive the credibility from peers and staff that they feel they deserve. And 70% of frontline staff feel that leadership recognizes them for their contributions.

However, many of the women we surveyed feel they have to work harder than their male peers to prove themselves. And frontline staff sometimes felt that leadership didn’t recognize the behind-the-scenes work they do in agencies.

“I think sometimes our work goes unnoticed because it is the bottom-of-the-line things that everyone takes for granted,” wrote one survey respondent.

Overall, insurance is a great career path for women

Women who had been in agencies for a while said they had seen things improve for women in the industry and recommended insurance as a great career path.

“This has been a wonderful career path for me as a woman, a mother and a business owner,” said a previous agency owner, “I would recommend agency leadership to anyone of either gender for its flexibility and ability for advancement and recognition based on good sales and management styles.”

Want to learn more about empowering women in insurance? Read the full report, The State of Women in Independent Insurance Agencies.