The insurance industry has struggled with issues surrounding sexism for its entire existence. Insurance is a very male-dominated industry, with most leadership positions still held by men. Many agencies have operated with very traditional gender-specific roles within their organizations, while others have been more progressive.
Despite the significant improvement over recent years, there is still work to create better gender equality. Here are a few critical tips agencies can utilize to move the needle forward:
- Address Issues Within the Agency –
In some agencies, the discriminatory conversation is so typical that it has become normalized to most staff members. Women assume it is acceptable correspondence, and men in the agency feel it is okay to continue speaking the way they always have about colleagues of the opposite sex.
As common as this type of commentary may be in your agency, it is critical to address it once you notice it. Failure to tackle these types of conversations is ignoring harassing behavior. It is damaging to the agency’s women and harmful to your reputation with clients and future employees. Instead, making a concerted effort to address unacceptable communication is the best way to rid your agency of it. To do this, agencies should:
- Develop a written policy regarding sexual harassment and discrimination and make it part of the employee handbook and conduct.
- Address organizational issues and changes with the entire agency. Ensure employees understand expectations and consequences.
- Address specific problems directly with the individuals involved. Again, clarifying expectations for what needs to change and outlining consequences if the behavior does not improve.
- Review and Revise Agency Structure
While sexism issues are not exclusive to men versus women, it is more commonplace in arrangements where men and women work one on one. In other words, when one account manager handling all a producer’s book, it can lead to an unbalanced dynamic with the producer asserting an upper hand to the account manager.
To reduce issues the agency is currently experiencing and prevent future problems, shift accounts around. Have producers working with a variety of account managers. Also, ensure that reporting lines are clear. It is understandable for a producer to request and expect account managers to meet clients’ service needs, which gives the producer carte blanche. Any special requests outside of standard workflows or agency protocol should require a supervisor’s approval rather than the producer’s permission.
- Advocate for Women in Your Agency
Communication is first and foremost to shine a spotlight on gender inequality issues in your agency and the insurance industry. Create a platform that fosters open dialogue to discuss problems females in your agency are experiencing in their work.
To ensure efforts, maintain momentum, recruit, train, and promote females into your agency’s leadership positions. Provide opportunities for women in the agency to join the local community’s leadership council geared towards women in business.
Creating better gender equality in insurance requires support from both men and women. Starting with the tips above can help your agency make great strides and elevate the conversation across the entire industry.
For more on this topic, check out the full episode of The Independent Agent below.