It has been a journey for women to move into and up in their careers. Despite gains in representation, women remain underrepresented across the corporate ladder, according to a McKinsey report.

The story holds true for the insurance industry. The Million Women Mentors Women in Insurance Initiative notes that women comprise more than 60% of the insurance industry. Surprisingly, women hold only 19% of board seats, 11% of named insider officer positions, and 12% of top officer positions.

The gap between men and women in leadership roles was certainly a topic of conversation during International Women’s Month in March.

For International Women’s Day (IWD), Guidewire hosted a panel titled “Breaking the Bias Against Women” that tackled the difficult topic of being a working mother and the gender bias that takes place on that front.

 

When Life Calls

During the Guidewire IWD panel, many of the panelists discussed the challenges and triumphs of having children during their career. Jenna Anderson, Senior Director of Solution Sales, said, “The first 10 years of my career, I latched on to every opportunity, even if it was out of reach.” After 10 years of climbing the ladder, Jenna started her family and vowed that it would not get in the way of her upward trajectory. Life had other plans. “When Quinn [my first child] came into the picture, it was a hard 90-degree pivot and one that I didn’t expect.” Jenna began to examine what was truly bringing her joy in her career. “What I fundamentally want is to solve hard problems with people who are super talented and I consider my friends,” she noted. In reflecting on what was meaningful to her career, she experienced the same endorphins she got when she moved up the ladder, by taking a few pivots.

 

Jenna Anderson
Senior Director of Solution Sales
Guidewire
Colleen Bashar
SVP of Solution Sales
Guidewire

It’s Not Just About Women

Having a family is not a challenge just for women. In fact, a big part of breaking the bias against working women is to normalize parental roles across both genders. Colleen Bashar, SVP of Solution Sales, said she is still stereotyped when she travels for work. “When someone finds out I have young kids, they ask, ‘Who’s watching your children?’” She noted that her husband doesn’t get the same questions when he travels. “There’s a different reaction when men step away from a meeting for parental duties like picking up [their] kid from school or taking care of [a] sick kid.” Colleen went on to say that the conversation is normalized when personal chaos is accepted and there’s a safe environment to talk about it.

Supporting Working Moms

Having open discussions like this are key to breaking the bias; however, action must be taken. Kyle Abel, Director of Field Enablement, who manages a team at Guidewire, was also a panelist. He said, “If we want to hire the right people, we must protect their wholeness. … We cannot put our staff in positions where they are burning out and having to make unfair choices between family and work.” He noted that creating a supportive environment is key, and that starts with your manager. Kyle had some advice for management: “Establishing a mutually trusting relationship is the perfect starting place to break the bias.”

Kyle Abel
Director of Field Enablement
Guidewire

Investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is an ethical win, but it also improves profitability. A McKinsey study notes that companies with a gender-diverse executive team outperform male-dominated ones by 21%. Small actions lead to big results. Breaking the bias is a continuous process, as mentioned in this Forbes article from 2021. Encourage your employees to embrace diversity. Host discussions like the one mentioned above that allow employees to share ideas and experiences. Last, create a safe environment at the company, department, manager, and individual levels. Normalizing vulnerability creates psychological safety at work. Share your company’s DEI best practices on Guidewire’s LinkedIn or Facebook channels.

Nicole Bruns is Sales Messaging Strategist for Guidewire. Connect with her via email or on LinkedIn.