I have long thought that the Million Dollar Round Table is a remarkable organization in many ways. But the recent milestone in the 77-year-old MDRT’s history should make everyone in the industry proud of the group.
I’m referring, of course, to Adelia Chung’s ascendancy to the presidency of the organization in September. This is the first time that a woman has been at the head of the MDRT, and once again it shows how that organization is clearing a path that others will most certainly follow (hopefully, sooner than later).
It is little short of scandalous that we should have had to wait until the 21st century for a woman to head one of the industry’s major organizations. Yet that fact simply and I might add, unflatteringly reflects the picture of the industry as a whole.
Can you think of a woman who is the chief executive officer of a large life insurance company, one of the “brand names” in the business? No, neither can I.
The only woman I can think of who headed a life insurance company is the wonderful Virginia Sheehey, who as I remember also was elected to the board of the American Council of Life Insurers. Not chair(wo)man of the board, however.
I know the expression “glass ceiling” has gotten a lot of mileage, particularly as it refers to limits on how high women can go in business. While the image may be somewhat tired, I think those who feel it is overused are probably men who have never especially had to worry about bumping into it.
In the life insurance business, it seems that the glass of which the ceiling is made is the equivalent of auto safety glass shatterproof except in the most extreme of circumstances.
This is also true of the banking and securities industries. Offhand, I can’t think of any woman heading a major organization in either.
In fact, the situation is not much better in American industry as a whole. If you pore through the Fortune 500, you will come up with five (five out of 500!) women who are CEOs Carly Fiorina at Hewlett-Packard; Patricia Russo at Lucent; Andrea Jung at Avon (surprise!); Mary Sammons at Rite-Aid; and Anne Mulcahy at Xerox.