ED: On June 5, the Globe and Mail published a story titled "Do Women Make Better Employees?" — and it got us thinking. Their findings, based on a survey conductd by Goldbeck Recruiting, were staggering: More than half of the women surveyed worked nine-plus hours per day; roughly 40 per cent of their male counterparts could say the same. 11 per cent of women worked six or seven day weeks; men, on the other hand, stood at a modest 7 per cent. One in seven women, says the report, lied to call in sick. The corresponding figure for men? One in five.
Of course, it's reductive to divide working characteristics along strict gender lines. What isn't reductive, however, is the indisputable wage disparity between women and men—according to Stats Can, in the two years after graduation, women earned 7 per cent less than men. This, despite the fact that wages for women increased by 11 per cent in aggregate between 1998 and 2008.
If Goldbeck's finding are true, pay raises for women aren't only defendable—they're bottom-line justifiable. Which leads us to the next round of questions: Why, if women are solid work-citizens, are they missing from some fields, such as engineering? Are more women occupying leadership roles in 2012's workplace? And what industries are seeing a boom in female workers?
Such questions don't have simple answers. But the insurance industry is undergoing radical changes—and it's ditching its old-white-guy rep. Read on. -Mark Teo
When Karen Foster began her career in the insurance industry in 1978, she was hired on as a dicta typer, and was one of a handful of female employees at her company. Now, Foster works in management for the Capital District Health Authorityin Halifax, and as much as the technology has changed over the years, so has the demographic landscape of the insurance industry.
The number of women in insurance has ballooned over the past few decades, with the ratio of females to males shifting. Women now make up 61 percent of employed staff, with an increasing number of leadership roles being acquired by women.
“When I started out, my role was secretarial work mostly,” explains Foster. “There weren’t many women in senior roles, or even on the road, or in supervisory roles at that time. It just wasn’t done. Over the years we have seen quite a shift.”
The shift Foster mentions is a step in the right direction, but for a large number of female insurance workers surveyed, it isn’t enough.
According to the Women in Insurance Leadership Insight Report, a new research study released this past September at the Insurance Networking News’ Women in Insurance Leadership Forum in National Harbor, Md., female respondents in the insurance industry generally agree they still have a long way to go before their representation begins reflecting their percentage of the general population. However, they also acknowledge things are progressing the right way.
The study highlighted 41% of respondents reporting that 5% or less of senior leadership roles in their organizations are filled by women. In Canada, of all senior management positions in the insurance industry, women hold 23 percent of those titles.
There's still a lot of work to do.
“In comparison to other similar industries, we’re doing okay,” says Trevor Buttrum, Career Connections Program Coordinator at the Insurance Institute of Canada. “If you look at the financial sector, or if you were to do a comprehensive labour market survey, it seems like women are doing okay in the insurance industry in terms of management roles, but there’s still work to do. At our senior echelons, we are not where we’d like to be, but we are certainly moving in the right direction.”
Margaret Parent, Director of the Professionals Division at the Insurance Institute of Canada says the increasing number of women drawn to the field of insurance makes complete sense, and she expects even further growth in numbers.
“Insurance is sort of the best kept secret, employment wise,” explains Parent. “Insurance jobs are pretty much everywhere, so chances are that there will be a good job available wherever you live. The companies are generally good to work for; you can have a good work-life balance in a lot of roles, and good benefits. It’s a flexible work environment with loads of opportunities which is what women want. It’s what anyone wants.”
As for the leadership roles, Buttrumsays it is just a matter of time before the number of women has equaled or even surpassed that of men in this field.
“We recognize that our talent crisis is looming,” he explains. “The insurance industry has been good to a lot of people which means that they have had long, healthy careers.”
In addition, around 49 percent of workers in the insurance industry are baby boomers, and it is expected that they will be retiring within the next decade or so.
More women will rise into leadership roles within the insurance industry.
“We have been looking at a few different options in terms of managing this transition, including phased retirement planning and a new talent acquisition schedule,” Buttram details. “We have always had this in the back of our minds, but now we are putting pen to paper and coming up with a more formalized strategy.”
With numbers of women in the industry on the up and up, Buttrumexpects that the same effect will carry over to the upper management positions. He can already see that any history in division of roles by sex has been put aside so that skill and ability are the criteria for advancement.
“People think of the insurance industry as an old boys club filled with balding white men. It’s not that anymore,” Buttram says. “What you need for a leadership position are qualifications, experience and a desire to move into that role. That gives us a really good pool of applicants and a good shot at seeing women move into those roles. It’s a really exciting time for the industry.”