Learning to become a leader is essential in the career development of women in the insurance industry, says Pauline Morley, founder of a new initiative from the Professional Liability Underwriting Society’s (PLUS) Foundation.
Morley, who is senior vice president of professional liability for HCC Specialty (formerly Professional Indemnity Agency) and a member of the board for the PLUS Foundation, started the PLUS Women’s Leadership Network to help encourage companies to diversify, as well as provide opportunities for women to get together and expand their network of professional contacts.
“When you interview female executives, the number one thing they say that held them back or was a challenge for them was a lack of networks or a lack of opportunities,” says Morley. “There aren’t as many senior executives who are females in the insurance industry and we are hoping to build that up.”
Morley says women account for at least half of the workforce in the insurance industry, but they are a minority when it comes to holding senior positions. Part of the reason for that, she says, is women are not always as focused on their career development because they are multitasking with so many other aspects of their lives.
The Women’s Leadership Network is hosting events around the country that feature different women speakers who discuss topics like balancing their career and life, as well as how to overcome personal and professional challenges.
At the recent PLUS Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas, LoriAnn Lowery-Biggers, president of Field Operations for Navigators Management Co., spoke about how women can get involved in different humanitarian causes and make a difference, and why these activities can help build skills that benefit their professional life as well.
“We are looking for women leaders to share what they did to become successful,” says Morley. “Sort of roadmaps to success, as well as to show support and mentor other women.”
In the professional liability world, the Women’s Leadership Network is the first group to focus on women.
“People do build each other up in their careers, people hire people they know,” says Morley. “We thought it would give women the opportunity to help each other out, and to basically raise corporate awareness of the value and develop corporate diversity as well.”
Morley says since the network was started, the group has gained interest and support from men as well. There were only a few men in attendance at the first session held at the PLUS Conference in Chicago two years ago, but that number has gradually increased since then. She estimates about 15 to 20 percent of the attendance at Lowery-Biggers talk in San Antonio were men.
The Women’s Leadership Network has had held events, in addition to the PLUS Conferences, on the West Coast, East Coast and in the South so far, and plans to add an event to Chicago next year.
In addition to panels, luncheons, and cocktail receptions, the network will eventually reach out to the professional liability industry through other platforms, including entering into the social networking realm.
Morley says the sessions could expand into more specific insurance education, but for now, the focus of the sessions is on general skill sets in leadership, mentoring and balancing life and work.
“We grow busier all the time. Women need networking, they need to meet mentors,” she says. “[Women] need people to share these skill sets because we don’t have time in our daily life to reach out and find these ourselves. If we create the opportunities for people to get these [skills], they can pay attention to their own development, not only personally but professionally.”
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