Having it All

By Andrea Wells | June 24, 2013

One question often asked of women but not of men in the business world is: Can you have it “all”?

Is it possible to have both a successful career as an insurance professional and a family? That’s something men never get asked, according to a panel of women insurance industry executives who were also asked their views on what women and the insurance industry can do to improve gender diversity in the executive ranks.

Four successful insurance executives discussed the critical factors for success for women in the insurance industry in a podcast jointly produced by the event’s sponsor, the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF), and Wells Media Group’s Insurance Journal.

During the hour-long podcast, IICF Women Executive Roundtable: Gender Diversity in the P/C Insurance Industry, IICF CEO Bill Ross interviewed Pina Albo, president of the reinsurance division at Munich Re-America; Trish Henry, executive vice president, government and industry affairs, ACE Group; Joan Woodward, executive vice president for public policy at Travelers and president of the Travelers Institute; and Seraina Maag, chief executive for XL Insurance North America Property & Casualty.

Is it possible to have a career and family?

Having it all depends on many things, according to the panelists.

“[I]t depends on what your definition of ‘all’ is,” said Albo. “Apart from that, I don’t even know if aspiring to have it all is the right thing.”

Henry has no doubt that women can have it all. “I think you certainly can have a good marriage and be a good parent and also have a significant career. You can do those two things at once, absolutely,” she said.

Having it all – or trying to – is a choice for some. The idea of someone choosing not to have it all is fine with Albo.

“[W]hether you are male or female… you should not get too consumed with the notion of getting ahead. You are more likely to be successful if you do something you enjoy and you are good at it rather than doing what you think you should do in order to get to that next level in your career,” she said.

But Woodward of Travelers said she is concerned about the number of young women who leave their careers because they believe they can’t have it all.

“I think it’s the responsibility of senior women, even those without children, to absolutely tell young women they can have both, a family life and a career at the same time,” Woodward said.

She said statistics have shown recently that many younger women are dropping out of the work force in the financial services sector when they hit their ’30s. This worries her.

“It’s very troubling to me, actually. I’m a firm believer in telling people. Then they may choose not to have it all. They may not really want to work. They really might decide they are going to stay at home and that they would be happy doing that. But I think to tell people you can’t when they haven’t even tried is not the right way to go about that,” Woodward said.

To listen to the IICF Women Executive Roundtable in its entirety, or in segments, visit: https://www.insurancejournal.tv.

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