Why Getting More Women into Agency Leadership Is an Urgent Priority

Leadership, Personal Lines, Small Commercial Lines, Talent and Culture

Each year, Women’s History Month takes me on a rollercoaster ride of feelings. There’s pride, hope, some frustration and ultimately — a feeling of unity with all people regardless of gender. This one is no exception.

Building on three years of research about women in the independent agency system, we just published the 2024 report, How Women in Agencies Are Meeting Customer Needs. The results show we have a growing disconnect between the benefits women offer in agency leadership roles and their actual representation in those roles compared to their male counterparts.

Read the new research report to learn more about the strengths of women in agencies.

It is well established that insurance is a male-led industry. It has also been found that, across industries, women tend to fill more customer service roles. For independent insurance agencies, this dynamic has a multiplier effect — frontline staff tend to be primarily women, and men typically fill more leadership roles.

Research from McKinsey already shows that having more women in upper levels of management is good for business outcomes. Now, our latest research brings in the customer point of view to reveal that women agents and agency leaders are also uniquely positioned to meet the needs of today’s dynamic insurance customer.

Let’s go deeper.

Key research findings

The research shows women’s representation in agency leadership has gone down since last year, with only 26% of women surveyed saying they are an agency principal or owner, compared to 29% in 2022.

When we asked insurance customers about the traits they value most in an agent, they cited “responsiveness,” “ability to help them understand their insurance options” and “being proactive in knowing client needs” among the top five — all traits that women in agencies were more likely to say are among their top strengths.

These strengths remained consistent when we looked at women principals and owners, who were more likely than male principals and owners to say “making it easy for clients to understand insurance options” and “being proactive in knowing their clients’ needs” were among their top strengths.

What this is telling us, very clearly, is that a vast potential remains to make space for — and encourage — the unique strengths of women in agency leadership.

Women want to lead  

Nine in ten women under the age of 30 want to be promoted to the next level, according to McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2023 report. Three in four aspire to become senior leaders.

The Liberty Mutual 2023 Agency Growth Study validates this — finding that while women in agencies have high aspirations, they’re less likely than men to say their manager is developing them for leadership. Here are some ways that agency leaders, allies and women can work together to close this gap.

Five ways agency leaders can support women’s growth into leadership roles

  • Consistently talk to women in your agency about their career aspirations and where they’d like to go within the agency.
  • Remember that the qualities that make an impactful frontline service employee also make an impactful leader. Train yourself to see the potential of women at your agency regardless of their current role.
  • Create conditions where women can thrive by offering benefits packages, parental leave and training opportunities. Make sure you are building a culture where people feel like being their authentic self is valued.
  • Flexibility remains a top priority for women in the workplace. Being open to when, where and how women work ensures they don’t have to choose between their career ambitions and their priorities at home.
  • And finally, prioritize pay equity. It’s the right thing to do.

Five tips for women aspiring to leadership

  • Be brave and engage! You might not think you’re 100% qualified to even consider leadership, but if you have a desire, ask your manager about it anyway. You might be surprised how much they’ll appreciate that you want to grow.
  • Get curious. You already know more than you think about leading an agency. Ask questions to find out more about what’s involved.
  • Network. Network. Women who are in agency leadership roles are incredibly gracious about sharing their expertise and supporting other women.
  • Bring your authentic self to work. Customers want what you naturally have to offer. Your colleagues appreciate it as well. It can be uncomfortable at first, but it will make your success that much more meaningful.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for support. It’s out there waiting for you.

In the insurance world, the leadership potential of women in agencies is one of the biggest and brightest opportunities. This Women’s History Month, let’s all do our part to close the leadership gap and give our customers more of the qualities they say they want. The independent agency channel will be better for it.

Crista Walker

Vice President, Agent Engagement & Programs, Liberty Mutual Insurance

Crista Walker is vice president of agent engagement and programs at Liberty Mutual and an executive sponsor of the RISE program, which strives to create community for women in independent insurance agencies.

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Nina
23 days ago

Crista, thank you for sponsoring such an important research and a great summary!

Angelique Justice Joiner
18 days ago

Hello,

I own my own agency and have since 2016

Agent for the Future™

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