In October, I attended a roundtable discussion at the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America’s headquarters in Manhattan to listen to a discussion about women in the financial services industry and why it is such a good fit for them. At the luncheon we were regaled with first hand accounts from women who run their own agencies about how great of job this is for women. They spoke about how the flexibility of their scheduling and how it allows them to make it to soccer games, pick up a sick kid from the nurses office and find that perfect ratio and lofty goal in America that is a work life balance.
They also mention how slow the industry and carriers themselves are changing. For some in the industry, it seems have rusty joints are not able to walk forward at the pace the rest of the business world and the world on a whole is towards gender equality. One agent talked about how, when she is at industry conferences with her husband, he is the one approached to talk business. One agent spoke about how some sales awards still have masculine connotations like golf clubs and football pins.
Why, if the financial services industry is such a good fit for women are they so underrepresented in rank and file positions across the board? Why are women who are successful in the industry paraded around in dog and pony show to illustrate the merits of the industry? And why, with a female sitting secretary of state and countless executives across the country does the industry feel that if they show a few examples of how females can “make it” they are on the cutting edge of an evasive male/female equilibrium?
These are questions that I have never been able to answer through all of my research on the topic. The only conclusion that I have been able to draw is that the life insurance industry is slow to evolve, and while they clumsily try to adapt to the world that we live in today there efforts seem more and more contrived.
The industry has to face a hard fact: they have done a miserable job incorporating women into the workforce. And when women have “made it,” they haven’t really, since so many are stymied by the very companies that hire them once they hit a glass ceiling of middle level management that leaves smart, capable and ambitious women frustrated and defeated.