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May 22, 2024

What Can Women Do to Impact Female Representation in Leadership Roles?

Post By:
Ciara Gravier
In-House Contributor
Founder & CEO
The Bunker Insurance & Risk Management
Guest Contributor:

The insurance industry is known to be a very mature, very male dominated space- especially in leadership and ownership positions. In fact a study done by Liberty Mutual shows that women makeup 55% of employees in agencies, but only 26% of principal or ownership positions. 

But the tides are changing. 

In the same study, they found that 85% of women that work in frontline roles can see themselves being leaders of an agency one day. Reading this statistic rejoiced my heart, because that means change is in motion. 

I know that many industries are challenged with the same issues that the insurance industry has when it comes to female representation at the top. Tech, construction, law, finance, consulting - they all face it. But as women, what can we do to help effect change in our respective industries? 

Today I find myself the Founder & CEO of The Bunker Insurance and Risk Management, a cutting edge independent insurance agency I have built over the last five years. In recent years, I have had the opportunity to participate in numerous panel discussions, deliver presentations at industry events and conferences around the country, and speak on several podcasts- including my own, The Bunker Talk.

As it turns out, many are curious about my journey as a Latina woman, business owner, seasoned insurance professional, and more recently, industry thought leader & speaker.

How did I get here? What decisions did I make? What challenges did I face? How did it feel each step along the way? And how can we support more women on the journey?

Here are three things I’ve done that have effectively changed the course of my career trajectory and have had a halo effect on the industry for my female peers. 

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1. I Said YES to Opportunities. 

Think about the last opportunity that you turned down- not because you didn’t want to do it, but because you felt unprepared or uncomfortable. Now imagine if you would’ve said yes. What's the worst that would've happened? You fail? You learn? You thrive? Why do we opt in for the number two position when we have the opportunity to take the number one position? Why don’t we sit at the head of the table when the seat is open? We fear the risk of failure. But chances are the majority of us would thrive if we just said YES. It has been our own insecurities that keep us from saying yes. However, nowadays, more and more women are willing to take the risk and are open to the opportunity of “more”. 
The decisions women make about work and life are deeply personal and many women long held a belief that we had to choose between a career or motherhood. This played a role in how we seized opportunities, or lack thereof. But we are seeing that is no longer the case. Today, women are choosing to do both. So how can we show the world, and the men in our industries, that we are ready for “more”? Say yes to opportunities that cross your path and believe they crossed your path for a reason! Because you ARE ready, because you ARE prepared, and because you ARE worthy of this challenge. We owe it to our own growth to say yes. I particularly feel an immense sense of responsibility to say yes so that it not only opens doors for more women in the future, but it empowers these women to believe in their own potential. I recently heard this saying and it has made such an impact on me:“ She cannot be you, if she cannot see you.” Every decision I make for my career is now run through this filter. When I say yes to an opportunity in business, my hope is that it inspires other women and helps them to envision themselves doing something more. Because, the truth is, I too get scared, or feel unprepared, or lack confidence when challenged with something new. I just decide to do it anyway and it has made all the difference.

2. Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable. 

COMFORT KILLS AMBITION. We all have valid circumstances that will force us to say no to some opportunities from time to time. But more often than not, we say no in an effort to remain in the familiar and avoid discomfort associated with challenge, change, and opportunity. When an opportunity arises that makes you uncomfortable ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. Why does this opportunity make me uncomfortable? 
  2. What’s the worst that can happen if I said yes? 
  3. How will my decision impact my career? What will the implications be, if any?

I encourage you to start small and push your boundaries. Celebrate your small victories. Prove to yourself that you can do new things and you will be more confident when the big opportunities arise! 

3. Get a MENtor. 

Emphasis on the MEN-tor. Many of my fellow female insurance professionals have adopted a sort of men vs women approach, seeking out the successful women within the industry for mentorship and guidance. I did the opposite. Since my industry is male dominated, I've decided to leverage the men at the top who want to support women and mentor future industry leaders. I seek out male leaders that are married to strong women, raising strong daughters, or who were raised by strong mothers- those men are invested in women’s success. They have helped me navigate industry challenges, understand nuances, open doors and create opportunities, build strategic relationships, and shift perspectives. Whether you choose a male or female mentor, here are a few things to consider before making the ask: 

  • Are you ready to be a good mentee? A mentor is going to invest their time, energy, and in some cases will leverage their influence to say your name in rooms that you are not in. Are you ready for the responsibility that comes with that? A good mentor will help create the opportunities to get out of your comfort zone- will you say YES?  
  • Do you know what you’re looking for in a mentor? You need to find a mentor that aligns with your goals. In my case, I was looking for someone to teach me to generate more leads with mid-market businesses, how to lead conversations with them, and how to close more of them. I found a mentor that not only owns an insurance agency, but also has a coaching program centered on sales and marketing for mid-market businesses. He aligns 100% with my goals. He’s been where I've been and is where I want to be. He’s also actively coaching so he is experienced and passionate about guiding others.
  • Are you ready for constructive criticism? If you want a mentor that tells you what you want to hear, you are wasting your time. A good mentor will give you the harsh truth about you, your business, your choices etc. A good mentee will be hungry for that feedback and prepared to act on the guidance because he or she has a strong desire to reach the next level in career, business, or personal life. Although it can be painful to hear at times, you have to be committed to the process of identifying your gaps and blindspots, as well as being committed to changing habits, mindsets, or strategies so that you can grow and reach your goals.

We are in an exciting season in which women hold many of the keys to their own destiny. Representation starts with us deciding to use them.