Women in C-suite positions are in a strong position to help ensure more women will be ready to take executive roles in the future, an executive told Insurance Business.
“I don’t think the barriers are all down yet. How do we pave the way and make sure we continue to break down barriers for women?” said Shareen Minor (pictured), chief revenue office at Ontellus, an insurtech specializing in records retrieval and claims intelligence.
Minor has more than two decades’ experience in the insurance industry, including senior positions at Engle Martin & Associates, NatGen Premier, and Fireman’s Fund.
Through these high-level roles, she reckoned with male-dominated spaces and gained leadership experience while becoming a passionate advocate for women mentoring women.
Despite significant progress over the past few decades to carve out more opportunities for women and minorities, Minor believes there is still work to be done, beginning with mentorship.
Without empathetic mentors, she said women may struggle to find their footing in the industry and rise to their full potentials.
“You can have strong male mentors in great positions in the company, but they won’t understand some of the areas that you’re facing, or the difficulties that you experience as a woman in the industry, so you don’t get to talk about those issues,” Minor said.
“There are lots of times when I thought, ‘why didn’t somebody tell me this?’ I do think we can change that as women in industry.”
Overcoming imposter syndrome
For Minor, one factor that sets a good mentor apart from others is emotional support. As a mentor, she strives to be intentional and to form meaningful, two-way relationships with her mentees.
She recalled one heart-to-heart talk with a woman who didn’t feel ready to go through a job interview.
“I picked up the phone and I said, ‘You don’t have to have the interview. But let’s talk about why you don’t think you’re ready.’ If the mentor had been male, they might have just moved on with the schedule,” Minor said.
“I don’t think men understand that women have this piece in them that feels like they’re not ready or able take on certain situations, because most men feel like they can take on any situation.”
Minor wants other insurance leaders to know that investing in young people is not just about giving advice and direction.
Getting to know each person as an individual, learning their unique strengths and weakness and guiding from a place of empathy, will create truly enriching mentorship experiences for both parties.
“I’m learning so much from the individuals that I have mentored,” said Minor, who now works with and coaches a team of junior female leaders at Ontellus.
“I continue to learn from them. I feel that mentoring is more of a conversation. I know a lot of people take the time [to mentor]. But you also need to be invested in people and get to know them on their journey.”
Bridging the generational divide
For insurance leaders to invest in and develop the next cohort of female leaders, they need to understand how the next generation is driven.
Gen Z comprises about 20% of the US working population now, while millennials account for 50%. Insurance companies need to revamp their business models to accommodate the changing employment needs and motivations of these groups.
“Investing in the younger generations and in what’s important to them is going to be huge as we move forward and look at perpetuation into areas where [the older workforce] are going to be exiting,” Minor said..
“I think that’s a huge part of the mentorships that we look at. At Ontellus, we sit down and talk with individuals about how we can them to the next level. How do create those strategic conversations with the C-suite?
“We know that they want to be part of it. We just need to get them to the table so they can start to make an impact.”
Do you have any thoughts on mentorship and developing the next generation of insurance leaders? Leave them in the comments.