March 9, 2023
Women Insurance Pros on Balance, Community, & the Future
by Mary Newgard
For March’s column I wanted to celebrate Women’s History Month, but beyond that I didn’t know what the message would be. Thankfully, I know amazing women. Their answers to “What’s happening for women in the insurance industry?” revealed consistent themes on gender equality and everyone’s role in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives.
Emphasizing Work/Life Balance
2022 was a good year for Elizabeth (Biz) Fineman, executive recruiting manager at Sterling Seacrest Pritchard. She leads talent acquisition at a Top 50 Insurance Broker, her Tennessee Volunteers had a great football season, and she’s a new mom.
“It’s a crazy time for me and, frankly, a lot of women. We want to do everything — family + career — but finding balance is hard. That’s why I appreciate what SSP does to care for me and others.” Citing the agency’s Unlimited PTO, she’s grateful not to worry about PTO like other friends, men and women, who are caregivers without the same support from their employer.
“Covid made it even harder to connect with colleagues,” which is why SSP’s Mom’s Group is important for women from all partner groups, in different stages of the “mom career track”, to come together. Fineman said, “It’s comforting to know I’m not alone. I ask others for personal and professional advice who have been down the same road.”
Investing in Future Generations
Ann-Marie Rollo, senior vice president of the Private Client Division at Eastern Insurance Group, and Joanne Szymaszek, president of Johnson Insurance Services, say change happens when people (over processes) genuinely commit to career advancement initiatives for women.
Rollo and Szymaszek share similar career tracks. Both joined the industry straight out of school, benefited from early career mentors, and today, in leadership roles, make an intentional effort to do the same for the next generation.
“I was fortunate to have someone recognize my potential and give me an opportunity to grow,” said Rollo. Combined with Eastern Insurance Group’s “concerted and conscious effort to advance women and diverse professionals into leadership,” she strives to recreate success for other women including college grads, converts from other business sectors, and tenured insurance professionals. “We have leaders who first joined Eastern in temporary roles,” she said. “It’s about creating positions for people to fit their strengths and diverse points of view.”
Szymaszek sees a shift in the number of women in leadership, but she also acknowledged, “There’s more work to be done. Women in insurance thins as we get into executive ranks.”
That’s why she serves as the leader of the agency’s Women’s Executive Resource Group. Szymaszek’s involvement beyond her job responsibilities energizes and connects her to the needs and challenges of women throughout the company. “Diversity and inclusion can start small. It doesn’t have to be a grand plan or based on metrics. For me, the goal is simple. To be my authentic self, go ‘all-in’, and connect one person to another.”
How do you connect women and raise up their voices when everyone’s running in a thousand directions? For Michelle Trueblood, chief human resources officer and Sarah Michels-Newell, director of talent acquisition and employee engagement at The Horton Group, the answer came in the formation of HER HORTON.
“Over the past couple of years, post-Covid, the women at Horton juggled a lot and asked, ‘What’s my future?’ We wanted them to find a group, a safe space to talk about things, and most importantly, solutions for what they needed,” Trueblood said. “HER HORTON cracked the code. Now women have a greater opportunity to be seen and heard as well as to advocate for themselves.”
The program has grown to 80-plus members, of all ages and tenure, who regularly meet to discuss women’s issues. Last year’s theme, Health and Wellness, spurred an in-house conference and enhancements to the company’s benefits for female specific health needs. HER HORTON’s success has gained attention from carriers who want to participate in future events.
Trueblood said, “We are excited about the movement. We are learning about the strengths everyone brings to the table. We are reestablishing the care the company has for its people and its people have for one another. Most importantly, we’re finding common points of light that often have nothing to do with work.”