By Nor Izmawati Mostapar, Vice President of e-Learning & Corporate Communications at MII
To honour the many achievements of women through history, one does not have to look far to see the influence women have had in nearly every industry or aspect of society including insurance.
According to research, since 2007, women have comprised about 60% of the insurance workforce, with 1.7 million women employed in the insurance sector in 2016. In a historically male-dominated business, insurance industry today is making important strides towards gender diversity and inclusion. However, research also shows that women occupy only 19% of board seats and 11% of named executive officer positions; and only 35% of independent agencies are led by a woman agency principal or senior manager. Like any other industry, equity in leadership at the executive level is critical as reports indicate that companies with female decision makers achieve higher market returns and profits.
Leaders possess different traits and are successful in using these traits to accomplish intended outcomes. However, specific traits like being organized, decisive and honest are key in determining what makes a capable leader. Female leaders possess distinctive skills required to guide a workforce, that not many men leaders possess. Regardless of the type of business or industry, strong women leaders are essential, not only for providing perspective on the business direction, but also in terms of the types of qualities that they bring and ultimately impart.
At a management level, mentorship is known to be the most effective strategy in increasing upward mobility for women leaders in insurance. This enablement strategy is critical for insurance companies to support and promote their female employees.
To ensure the right talents are nurtured, there are several essential characteristics of women leaders to look out for:
Resilience and Confidence
A leader is measured by her ability to push through challenges, with confidence. Resilience, together with persistence and confidence creates the ability to not take “no” for an answer. This characteristic, or some might label as attitude is what earns respect and inspire others that they too, can take on any challenge. Commonly a male-dominated trait, resilience and confidence have become a defining
trait in all successful women.
Empathy and Compassion
Empathy is traditionally seen as a feminine characteristic. However, according to a study by a global leadership consulting firm, it is the single most important leadership trait that helps guarantee overall success. While it’s considered an interpersonal skill, empathy in a leader promotes both cooperation and commitment in the workplace. Empathy makes a great leadership quality because it offers employees and customers alike to feel heard. When they feel heard by a leader, people are more open to options and more willing to meet others halfway. That creates a collaborative and open environment where even better work can be done.