Is it harder to be a woman in the insurance industry?

Gender: [00:00:21] Hello everyone and welcome to the latest edition of Insurance Business TV as we shine the spotlight on one of our elite women of 2022. Yes, every year Insurance Business releases a special report on some of these glass ceiling breaking women, who act as an inspiration to up-and-comers in the sector, either through their own achievements or through the support they offer to others. But despite these incredible success stories, do women really now have the same opportunities to succeed as men in the industry? And what more can insurers do to improve women’s careers? Today, I’m pleased to say we’re welcoming one of our Elite Women of 2020 to answer all these questions and more. That elite woman is Sarah Gavlik, Chief Territorial Officer East at Markel. Sarah, many congratulations on being named an Elite Woman. Let’s give everyone an idea of ​​your past. A brief overview of your career, if you will. What got you to the position you are in now?

Sarah: [00:01:27] Sure. So I actually started my insurance career on the reinsurance side, the facultative reinsurance side. I was there for almost 15 years, starting as an underwriter and then leading various teams and business development efforts for the company during that time. And Markle was actually a client of mine at the time. So I got to know the company pretty well and moved on. It was a great opportunity to see what life is like on the carrier side with one of my clients. So I came again. I went into actually X is an umbrella insurance side there and then during that time again held various positions in business management and development. And until my recent role as chief territory officer, I was the regional president for the Northeast region, and I was really responsible for overseeing production and underwriting, working closely with the development of our associates and the development of our customers. And if you look at my career throughout, those were the parts of it that I really loved. Developing people has really been my passion, along with seeing our clients thrive. So all parts of my career are kind of focused on that.

Gender: [00:02:39] Yes, you talk about developing people and kind of seeing customer success stories. Are there any specific highlights you would point to in your career so far?

Sarah: [00:02:50] yeah You know, I’ve been thinking about it and I can’t think of anything specific because I think the biggest moments for me along the way have really been watching my team. Everyone on my team that I work with, I see them succeed, whether it’s being promoted to a different role or being given a wider opportunity or winning a big deal that they’ve worked so hard for. true So really my highlights, that’s what I love about my job. So every time I see success for one of my own, my collaborators, or one of my peers, you know, it would be unfair to highlight anybody, because that’s really what keeps me going, right? That’s what drives me to work every day, to really make my people on my team more successful. So overall I’d say I’ve seen a few of these highlights over the time period I’ve been doing this.

Gender: [00:03:44] Well, if you don’t mind, I’ll also turn the question from highlights to challenges. Anything in particular that you would highlight along the way and maybe specifically related to being a woman in the industry? Are there any challenges?

Sarah: [00:03:57] yes yes Me too and I get this question all the time and sometimes I feel like I avoid it a bit. And I don’t want to do it, but I’ve never been, you know, a lot of times I’ve been the only woman at a table. I have a lot of time, many times I have been the youngest person or the youngest woman at a table. So, you know, I prepare the same way I’ve always prepared, over-prepared. You know, I come on dates. Nine times out of ten over prepared. I always raise my hands for opportunities. I always know if there is something that needs to be done, I will step in and get it done. So, were there any challenges? Sure. But I looked at these challenges the same whether I was working among a group of women or when I was working among a group of men. I’ve always worked the same way, and it’s really just preparation and communication, collaboration, collaboration and really putting yourself out there. When an opportunity arises, I take it. Sure, there were challenges, and maybe it had to do with being a woman, but I always looked at the landscape the same no matter who was in the room.

Gender: [00:05:10] Yes, I think it’s great. Obviously, if you can’t think of any obvious challenges specific to your gender, but you know, maybe you stand out as an exception somehow. I do not know. But do you think women maybe really have equal opportunities as men in the industry now?

Sarah: [00:05:28] yes You know we’ve come a long way, haven’t we? I mean, I think we can all agree that if you look at the landscape five, ten, 15, 20 years ago, it looks a lot different demographically as far as women in the workforce in general. You know, I can tell you that I’ve been very lucky, and I think that’s probably why, Paul, I haven’t had those challenges that I’m always asked about. I’ve worked for companies that have really put women first. They’ve done a really great job with it. But having said that, from where I’ve sat for the last many years, I’ve seen what we’re doing. You know, I sit at the table when we talk about equal pay. I sit at the table when we review salary ranges, and I’ve seen changes being made to benefit women. So I know we’re making strides as an organization, as an industry. There are certainly more women coming into the industry. If you look at the training programs around the world, I will talk specifically about Markel’s. If you look at these demographics over the last three years, five years, you can see that there are more women coming into the industry and I can see it when we work with our training programs, with our clients and our colleagues, there are more women. So more women are coming for sure. Of course, I have seen more women being put into leadership positions. So I think there is a change. I think there are absolutely pockets that need to be done, but she’s at the forefront. You know, there’s not a meeting I don’t attend or an industry event where we don’t talk about women in the workforce or diversity in the workforce. true So it’s definitely at the forefront of the industry’s mind. And, you know, yes, there are still challenges in some pockets. Absolutely. But I think as an industry, we’re really working together to hold all of ourselves accountable to really bring this to the forefront. And I think we’re doing a good job.

Gender: [00:07:15] yes And it looks like you had some good experiences. You mentioned you’ve worked for some very supportive companies, but maybe you can offer some advice there. I mean, what more do you think insurance companies in general could do to advance women’s careers and make them feel like they have a path to follow your success?

Sarah: [00:07:34] Yeah, you know, I think it’s all about communication, and I think it’s all about engaging leaders with women and all associates for that matter. But obviously it’s respecting women, but I think it’s really leadership that’s engaged with women in the organization and ongoing career development and careers and conversations, making sure that women have the tools, making sure that they’re given the tools to succeed . And it’s about visibility. Let’s put these women in front of management, get them involved in projects where they can showcase their skills, expose them to different leaders, expose them to different parts of the company. So I think that’s a big part of it, it’s really making sure that leaders are engaged with these women and making sure that conversation about career development continues to happen. I’m a big advocate of mentoring, and you know in some areas it’s informal, in others it’s formal. But I think leaders can do everything to ensure that women have and understand what mentoring means and to have those mentors in place and sometimes maybe a corporate sponsor. true It’s great if a leader can step up and be a corporate sponsor for women. But to me, mentorship is really critical for women. And so I would encourage organizations to make sure that they at least talk about it so that it happens organically or formally.

Sarah: [00:08:58] I also think one of the things we need to keep talking about is work-life balance. And if you look at what happened during COVID, you know, a large amount of a large population of women left the workforce. true And I think this can be a little controversial depending on the household, certainly for my husband. But I really think that a lot of childcare responsibilities and responsibilities at home tend to fall on women. Generally speaking. And I think whether it’s the man or the woman, I think we’re talking about work-life balance, especially in the environment that we live in today, where everything is just fast and the market is really tough. true I think it’s important to talk about that and not be afraid to talk about tools that we can provide to our associates to make sure that’s balanced because it’s an incredible, incredible additional burden or additional responsibility to the women. And so we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it, whether it’s a woman or a leader or whatever, just bring it out and talk about it. This is what comes to mind when I think about what organizations could do to continue to promote women in their companies.

Gender: [00:10:09] And I think that’s fantastic advice. And without a doubt, of course, the onus is on companies to provide opportunities for women. But I guess the onus is on women themselves to take advantage of these opportunities when they arise. So if you don’t mind one last question, I mean, what advice would you give to your fellow professionals who want to make it to the top? How can they do it?

Sarah: [00:10:32] Yeah, you know, you just said it. You took my words right out of my mouth. I mean, you know, be bold, you know, look for the opportunities. If you see an opportunity, grab it. You know, I always tell my associates, you know, your career is part of your responsibility and part of your managers and leaders. It’s a collaboration. So you really think what, if you see, if you see something, a project or an opportunity, talk to your manager, you know, ask for it. I really think it’s that simple, you know, and then make sure as you think about where you want to go in your career that you are, that you work with your manager to make sure that you have the right skill set. So the ongoing dialogue, don’t be afraid to have it. And but I mean, you said it the same way. I would say if there is an opportunity, ask for it, because I mean others, there are people who want opportunities. So if you see something, give it. You know, and the worst thing that can happen is they say you’re not right for it or you don’t have the right skill set. And if you don’t, then the conversation begins. Okay, what do I need to go over there and help me do that? So I think, again, it’s really important for women to communicate with your managers and with your leaders and hold yourself accountable for that. true I think it’s all about holding yourself accountable for your career as well as holding your management or manager accountable. So just keep the lines of communication open and act and have the confidence to do it, you know?

Gender: [00:12:00] yes So I think this is fantastic advice. My huge thanks to you and huge congratulations, of course, on your success with women. We will have more elite guests soon. So see you next time here on Insurance Business TV.

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