Insights From Martin Grant’s Women-Led Team on Gender in the Insurance & Recruiting Industries

Our organization is nestled in the elbow of two very interesting industries when it comes to gender equality. Of course, at our core we are a boutique recruitment agency–personal employment matchmakers if you will. But we work exclusively with employers and potential talent in the insurance industry and have thus had more than 25 years to gain a deep understanding of the insurance sector.

We’re also proud to be a team of entirely female recruiters, something that is perhaps rarer than it ought to be. We’ve spent the better part of two decades building a small, tightly knit and astonishingly talented group of women whose daily successes we can’t help but celebrate. Within the recruitment industry we’re known to be nimble, creative, and persuasive talent seekers who are capable of making long term placements for our clients time and time again. And that’s the power of women-led recruiting. But the same narrative does not always apply outside our bubble, and we must be constantly aware of how gender is often embedded into the challenges we (and other insurance recruitment professionals) face today.

We have the potential to be leaders in improving gender equality, creating better workplace environments, and fostering new leadership in not only the recruiting but also the insurance industries. But it takes deep reflection and help from others to understand and then tackle the adversity facing women in these two sectors. We know the lives of recruiting and insurance professionals are busy as it stands, but if you have the time to dive with us into this topic, we think building awareness is invaluable.

Trends in Insurance & Recruiting Employee Demographics

Let’s start by establishing who exactly makes up the insurance and recruiting industries and how gender plays a role in the experience of those employees and even their customers. In terms of employee demographics, these industries are fairly similar.

As of 2021, 1.6 million women were employed in the insurance industry, making up 58.9% of the total insurance workforce. In fact, women have comprised about 60% of the industry workforce each year since 2012. Likewise, staffing and talent acquisition workers are 60.2% female, with 850,000 women employed in the recruiting industry.

Why is there such a large volume of women in these industries? It’s difficult to pinpoint one particular reason why these two industries have higher proportions of female identifying employees. One theory is that before the turn of the century, HR was one of the few executive positions that women held. The modern and relationship-focused roles in both insurance and talent acquisition are a plausible evolution from the human resources departments where many women established leadership.

We’ve also found it to be true that women excel in many of the necessary and desirable skills for employees in these industries. From active listening and empathy to communication and agility, women have developed dexterity for the high touch roles of insurance and recruiting.

Even though women hold a majority in these industries, companies still have work to do to close gender disparities and ensure equitable workplaces.

The Gender Disparities in Insurance & Recruiting Organizations

On average, women in insurance make 97% of what their male counterparts earn. That’s better than the national average, where the pay disparity is still 84 cents to every dollar. Representation of women depends heavily on the individual occupation they hold within the industry. For example, only 50% of insurance sales agents are women, whereas women make up 78% of claims and policy processing clerks. The roles most common for women in this industry vary in average salary and could contribute to the overarching pay gap.

Understanding average pay in recruitment is a bit more difficult as it often depends on whether the recruiter is internal or a contracted agent. But just because we can’t pinpoint a wage gap doesn’t take gender out of the equation. A survey of more than a thousand hiring managers and recruiters found that most professionals have a bias towards male candidates. Even female recruiters tend to pick men over women for career opportunities. These culturally embedded biases can be difficult to break and certainly play a role in how women can move into leadership roles.

Organizations Should Prioritize Diverse Hiring

We’re solutions focused, so let’s talk about how individual recruiters and organizations as a whole can combat these gender disparities. Primarily, insurance and recruiting companies should focus more time and resources on DEI initiatives. Not only can DEI focused hiring goals better position women in the workplace, they also improve the company’s profits and retention. Organizations are 15% more likely to perform better if they are gender diverse.

A survey by Mckinsey also revealed that for every 10% improvement in gender diversity, there is a 2-4% increase in business profits.

But it seems that existing female employees are bearing the bulk of the burden to do this work. Just look at these insights from Elixabete Larrea Tomayo, a partner at McKinsey & Company specializing in P&C.

“Women leaders have taken on the lion’s share of work to support employees and invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion during COVID-19, and this effort is not being recognized. Compared with male senior leaders, women senior leaders do 26 percent more to help employees navigate work and life challenges, 24 percent more to help manage workloads, and 60 percent more to provide emotional support to employees. They also carry roughly double the sponsorship load.

This additional leadership from women has provided the connective tissue that companies have so badly needed during these past two years of pressure and strain. This important work, however, is not being recognized: 87 percent of companies say these duties are ‘very’ or ‘extremely important,’ but only 25 percent recognize them as a main objective rather than extracurricular work.”

To produce the best results for both employees and employers, DEI needs to be a central objective where all stakeholders contribute to expanding diversity on a team. If you’re ready to prioritize diversity in your insurance or recruiting organization but don’t know where to start, check out these four practical steps you can take.

Gender in Insurance Beyond Employment

We’d like to think that separation between work, personal life, and politics is achievable, but we can’t ignore that in recent years our country’s policy makers are making it increasingly difficult to maintain that line. The Supreme Court decision on Roe v Wade has been top of mind for our team and many of our clients. We are all wondering and waiting with bated breath to discover how coverage for reproductive healthcare will change in a post Roe landscape.

Since 2010, most private health plans guarantee coverage for 18 types of contraceptives and related counseling services without copayments or deductibles. Some states followed suit to guarantee even broader contraceptive coverage. But in 2017, the tide began to turn. The Trump administration passed a series of regulations that made it easier for certain employers to exclude contraceptive coverage from the plans they offered their employees, although courts have so far blocked enforcement of these regulations.

Abortion coverage is on even shakier ground. Only 7 states currently require Affordable Care Act plans to cover abortion services, while many others restrict or prohibit coverage. And this could continue to change as states across the country look to pass new regulations on abortion in light of the Supreme Court’s decision. What does this mean for women’s safe and affordable access to the reproductive healthcare they need?

It’s difficult to predict how insurance for sexual and reproductive healthcare will evolve, but the current political landscape heightens our resolve to bring more female representation and leadership into this industry. Women comprise more than 46% of the national labor force and protecting their bodily autonomy goes hand in hand with their career advancements.

Final Thoughts on Women in Insurance

Both insurance and recruiting are people-focused industries. It’s our job to form meaningful relationships, keep our customers’ interests at heart, and set them up for future well-being. So, the companies and organizations in those sectors should treat their employment strategies with the same set of values. We’ve seen a lot of progress in these two industries when it comes to gender representation and wages. And we’re lucky to count ourselves among the amazing female leaders who are constantly innovating and advocating in these sectors. But we also know that there is still a long road ahead.

We can’t promise that we have solutions to every challenge of gender in the workplace, but we are committed to working with like-minded hiring managers and organizations to continue growing women’s positions and voices in insurance companies. If you’re interested in DEI focused hiring and need the help of some mighty recruiters, get in touch with our team of impressive ladies!

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