Editor’s Note: Open up your eyes One of the reasons there continues to be a lack of women in top executive positions in insurance and elsewhere is because they are less visible than their male counterparts while on the rise.
Venture capital isn’t something I thought about much in my nearly 10 years covering insurance technology and innovation. But it’s top-of-mind now, as the insurtech movement brings the insurance and startup communities ever closer together, perhaps permanently. After the Dig | In: The Digital Future of Insurance conference earlier this year, I had a conversation with a woman who told me something remarkable: Less than 3% of venture-capital investment goes to women-owned firms. As I sat in my Uber to the airport later that day, I pondered the significance of that fact. That means that, on average, only three in 100 companies that get funding are women-owned. Yes, women are under-represented among company leaders overall — a fact that the Women in Insurance Leadership program has been working to rectify going back years before my appointment to this position — but certainly it wasn’t that low. My wife owns her own startup. Earlier this year, they were named to the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing companies in America. She was particularly proud of being one of only 12% of these firms that is women-owned. I was immensely proud of and humbled by her accomplishment. But it got me thinking: 12 is still more than three. The gulf became more apparent. So I did some research and reporting, which you can find on page 18 of this issue. I learned a lot from speaking to women founders, academics, venture and innovation experts, and it can’t be condensed to this space. However, there was one item in particular that stuck out to me: According to an EY study, more than 40% of men think the reason there aren’t more women at higher levels of business is because of a lack of candidates. Only 7% of women agree. The same study reported that women only make up about 10% of the high-level positions at insurance companies, despite being more than half the workforce. This speaks to a major component of the gulf: visibility. As long as men cluster around other men, and women are rare within business networks, it’s hard for the exemplary female candidates to be identified — whether its for a C-level position in the enterprise or when competing for precious startup funding. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with forming a network based on similar interests or experiences. It’s natural. But getting out of your comfort zone is the first step toward making an environment that’s more welcoming to a diverse group of leaders. Let’s all make an effort to reach out to someone different from us and see if they might have an idea that could really change how this business works. Studies show men don’t see as many qualified women for leadership as likely exist. It’s time to change that.