Section 1

Representation: Fostering Women’s Career Development

The State of Women in Independent Insurance Agencies 4

In the insurance industry overall, women outnumber men, making up more than half of agency employees.

However, women are still underrepresented in the highest positions. There is an opportunity for agencies to better tap into the full potential of all employees to bridge the talent gap and create perpetuation plans.

Women have made gains in leadership roles. According to the 2020 Agency Universe Study, the percentage of agencies with at least one woman in a principal or senior leadership role increased by 7 percentage points between 2018 and 2020. Smaller agencies and new agencies were more likely to have women in leadership.

However, according to data from Liberty Mutual, women make up 96% of CSRs and 68% of producers (with some crossover between the roles) but only 31% of agency principals and owners.

More than one-third of female agency principals say they are often the only woman in the room.

This mirrors the picture of women in the wider workforce. McKinsey found that for every 100 men promoted to manager positions, only 86 women are promoted. This results in fewer women in higher leadership positions, with women making up only 24% of C-suite executives (and women of color making up just 4%).

Women's representation in insurance

women are promoted to manager for every 100 men across industries(Source: McKinsey)
of female agency principals say they are often the only woman in the room (Source: Liberty Mutual)
of women younger than 50 who work as frontline staff are interested in becoming a partner in their agency (Source: Liberty Mutual)
of female agency principals would like to learn how to recruit more women into leadership positions (Source: Liberty Mutual)

The Benefits of Women in Leadership

Studies have shown that having women in leadership is beneficial to a company’s profits and culture.

McKinsey found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the lowest quartile.

Another study by Credit Suisse Research Institute found that “companies with higher female participation at board level or in top management exhibit higher returns, higher valuations and higher payout ratios.”

McKinsey also found that female managers were better at consistently providing emotional support and checking in on employees’ overall well-being. These actions are proven to increase employee satisfaction and help prevent burnout, which are especially important aspects of creating more human-centered workplaces.

Other studies have shown that women outscore men on key leadership capabilities and that women in sales roles outperform men.

Employees with female managers say their manager more consistently:

  • Helps take actions to prevent or manage burnout
  • Works to ensure workload is manageable
  • Helps them navigate work/life challenges
  • Checks in on overall well-being
  • Provides emotional support
  • (Source: McKinsey)

Stepping up

More than half of female agency principals said they want to learn about ways to recruit more women into leadership positions.

Our research found that many women are ready and eager for those growth opportunities. 43% of women in frontline staff roles said they would be interested in resources to help them make the case to be considered for perpetuation planning, and 36% said they were interested in becoming a partner in their agency. That percentage was higher among women ages 23-49 – with more than half saying they were interested in becoming a partner and 27% saying they wanted to learn about steps to buy or start an agency. Across all ages, only 15% of women we surveyed said they could not picture themselves as a leader at an agency.

For agency owners looking toward retirement, this suggests that there may be an opportunity to create a perpetuation plan to have a current employee take over the agency rather than selling to an outside party.

Experiences of women’s representation in agencies varied widely. Some women expressed frustration at continuing “old boys’ club” attitudes. When asked what she would change about working in insurance, one 33-year-old CSR said she wanted to see more women empowered and trained for sales and leadership positions. “Stereotypically, we are in support functions and men come and go only in sales,” she wrote. “We don’t get invited to the same events [and] often feel left out.”

Others expressed optimism about how they’ve seen gender equality advance. “I just turned 50 and have been working in insurance since I was 18,” wrote another CSR. “I have seen a lot of changes in the industry …  However, I was hired by a female vice president and have had at least 50% of my managers and leaders be female. I have always felt that this is an industry where women stand a greater opportunity for equality. More so now than ever before.”

The State of Women in Independent Insurance Agencies

Action steps for Agency Executives

As an agency leader, you’re in a great position to mentor women who are trying to grow their careers in insurance. If you’re part of a larger agency or a member of industry associations, look for opportunities to mentor and sponsor talented women, and encourage male leaders you know to also consider stepping up as mentors and sponsors for female employees.

The State of Women in Independent Insurance Agencies 1

Action steps for Aspiring Leaders

Finding a mentor is one of the best things you can do to grow your career. A female mentor can help you navigate career challenges, point out opportunities for growth and encourage you along the way. Read AFTF Award winner Kristin Garlow’s advice for what to look for in a mentor.

The State of Women in Independent Insurance Agencies 2

Action steps for Engaged Team Members

Growing your career doesn’t have to look like climbing the ladder. Look for creative ways to bring more meaning into your work. For example, work with agency leaders to start a community giving program in your agency. Learn how Liberty Mutual and Safeco’s Independent Agent Giving program can amplify your agency’s impact in your community.

The State of Women in Independent Insurance Agencies 3

Action steps for Allies

If you’re an industry veteran or leader, look for opportunities to mentor and sponsor women and recommend women for promotions. Talk with your leadership team about setting targets for recruiting and promoting women.

If you’re newer to the industry, look for opportunities to amplify women’s voices and practice the guidelines for inclusion to make your agency a welcoming place for everyone.

Click to the next section to learn about recognition and attitudes about women in insurance agencies.