Only eight percent of females in insurance have named officer seats; 10 percent have top executive positions and 17 percent have board seats.

These numbers are improving – the Saint Joseph’s University Study on Insurance Industry Demographics shows a 35 percent increase in female board representation and a 66 percent increase in women holding top executive jobs since 2013.

But progress has been slow. The problem, known as an “opportunity gap,” is that too many women in insurance are in entry levels and don’t move up the corporate leadership ladder.

“All the studies show companies with women participating in leadership are better off – even stock prices are higher with women leaders and board members.”

Action plan

A new report by STEMconnector®, “Women in Insurance: Leading to Action,” provides a “women’s scorecard” showing the current overview of females in the industry and looking at the field’s future.

Here’s what they say needs to be done: secure executive sponsorship to advocate for women advancement to leadership roles; focus on diversity; and create, develop and support mentoring of women. STEMconnector®’s recently launched Million Women Mentors movement already has over two million mentor pledges.

“The need for female STEM talent within the insurance industry is critical to the advancement of their workforces and, yes, market share,” says Edie Fraser, the CEO of STEMconnector® & Million Women Mentors, in the report. “All the studies show companies with women participating in leadership are better off – even stock prices are higher with women leaders and board members.”

Overcoming barriers

Women face barriers to leadership roles, including an unsupportive culture, organizational bias, conflicts with raising a family and shortage of female candidates for managerial jobs.

The pay gap is a concern too. According to 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in insurance earn 62 cents for every dollar earned by men in the industry.  This is two cents lower than the 1951 average for women working full-time.

STEM skills

The insurance industry is being transformed by information technologies and disruptive innovations. STEM-savvy employees in data and analytics, artificial intelligence and digitization can become insurance leaders.  For example, the industry has seen a 50 percent increase in Chief Data Officer appointments in the past five years.