I take a yoga class on Wednesdays. My family has a history of arthritis, my back is ready for retirement and the doctor said this was the best exercise for me. So, here I am, every Wednesday, sweating to the strings of a sitar.
I have to admit I can see the difference. I’m no longer the Tin Man before Dorothy and Scarecrow loosen him up with the oil can. But I find it a humbling and sometimes awkward experience. As my bare feet pad across the hardwood floor, it doesn’t take a guru to figure out that I’m not like the others. My teacher and the other eleven students are all women.
Every week, I have to remind myself of the opening words of our teacher: “Leave your ego at the door.” Generally, it works, for a while. Today, as we worked through sun salutations and balancing poses I kept up with the ladies, but then as I prepared for a backbend, the teacher called me out: “Daniel, why don’t you take a child’s pose.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, a septuagenarian, who’d had a double knee replacement, was allowed to proceed.
Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with strong women. I come from a long line of them. My grandmother received a law degree before 1925. My mother earned her PhD in the 70s and went on to run a college department. Not to mention that my older sister could beat me up until I was 13.
In fact, I’d been around powerful women for so long that it was a little odd for me when I stepped into the insurance field in 2008 and found such a male-dominated world. According to our research, men make up roughly 85 percent of the advisors who we try to reach through our various brands.
We ran a “women in insurance” special section last year in the October issue of Senior Market Advisor with the hopes of shining a spotlight on how women were making huge strides. You can imagine our horror when the research revealed that the number of women in the industry had remained stagnant over the last decade.
Maybe we were ahead of our time. Just in the last week, we learned that Augusta National Golf Club, which plays host to the annual Masters tournament, named former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and business executive Darla Moore as their first two female members. Progress! And, within our own ranks, I had the opportunity to speak with Micki Hoesly, who has been named the incoming president of MDRT in 2013. More progress. In fact, Micki told me that the MDRT board is now comprised of three women and two men. That’s the first time in the organization’s history that women have held a majority position.
But Micki told me another interesting tidbit. While women in the U.S. do not make up a large number of advisors (only 10.8 percent of those in MDRT), that’s not the case throughout the world. In fact, overall, MDRT has 37,805 members and 15,535 are women (41.1 percent).
And, Micki believes the numbers could move up in the U.S. as well. “Historically our industry has been biased towards new sales, but women tend to be gatherers and nurturers,” she says. “So, sometimes this hard sales approach is not as much a woman’s way.” She adds that as clients increasingly look more towards long-term, educational-based relationships, it’s a great opening for women. “The service aspect is very, very important in planning. It’s an ongoing thing. Not just a one-time sales things.”
As progress is taking place in the insurance world, my own world of yoga continued with conflict. We end each class with something called corpse pose. We lie on our backs, close our eyes and try to shut out the outside world. Today, I couldn’t do it. I had what is called “monkey mind,” the ideas ping-ponging inside my thick skull. Forgoing my teacher’s advice, I let my ego enter the room. Trying to heal my wounded pride, I doubted that any of these women had stared down a blitzing linebacker and completed a pass or taken an elbow in the face, breaking my nose, but refusing to come out of the game.
But my fantasy was short-lived as the teacher asked us to think of something we’re proud of, something that makes our faces shine. My monkey mind immediately went back to a specific place and time: to my living room, eight years ago from today, as my wife entered the twenty-fifth hour of labor and gave birth to our daughter. A home birth and she never even asked for as much as a baby aspirin.
Now that’s one powerful woman and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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