Women Agents Say They Are Breaking The Glass Ceiling
Hard work and opportunity have helped women establish themselves in the upper levels of the independent agency world and, female agency principals say, those who have made it are individuals who don’t believe they should be treated any differently than men.
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“It’s no longer unusual and it’s no longer the exception to have women in top positions within the insurance agency ranks,” says Louise Canter, senior vice president at Patterson-Smith Associates in Falls Church, Va., who is the incoming vice president of the Alexandria, Va.-based Independent Insurance Agents of America.
Women, she said, are much more dominant in the industry today. “More women are in sales and many women own agencies, either their own or with a group.
“There is no magic to it,” Canter says. “It’s just a lot of hard work over many years and sticking with it.”
Canter, who has been with Patterson-Smith for 21 years, says she started out 29 years ago as “one of the very few women in sales.” Although agencies have always been female-oriented “in the sense that many of the people who worked in the agencies were women,” she notes, “I would say there have been incredible changes for women over those 29 years.”
IIAA’s Future One “Agency Universe Study for 2000″ found that 33% of agencies employ women as principals (26% have both men and women principals and 7% have women only). The study also found that 58% of agencies with more than one producer have one or more women in that position–an increase of 13 percentage points, up from 45% in 1996.
“It has not been a quick or easy process,” Canter says, adding that the proverbial “work twice as hard” refrain is often the case.
One development that has helped women is the opportunities for jobs and training in the industry, which “women recognize and want,” she adds.
Women are willing to take advantage of those opportunities now because “there is not the sense of anything holding them back,” explains Canter. If anything discourages them from moving up in an agency, “it’s their own perception more than anything else,” she adds.
In the agency ranks, Canter notes, “if you can sell and bring in commission dollars, the sky is the limit. From an agency principal’s viewpoint it gets down to the bottom line and that’s how women will succeed more and more.”
At the same time, women have much to offer. “They’re more detail-oriented, more relationship-oriented and they relate well to clients,” Canter says.