As we celebrate International Women’s Day this month, I always reflect on women’s progress in the business world. When it comes to supporting and advancing women, there is still a long way to go. I take stock by looking at those closest to me, like my daughter, to determine if their lives have improved.
When my daughter was young, I always used to give her advice to mitigate the financial risks in her life: When she started dating, I taught her to be self-reliant and to always be prepared to pay for herself. When she entered the workforce, I told her to plan for the future and put money in her retirement plan first and then budget the rest for day-to-day expenses. And when she bought her first home, I told her to ask questions and make sure she got answers about her mortgage contract, investments and details about where her money was going before signing anything. As I look at many women in the workforce today, I believe that there is more we must do to support and educate women them to ensure they are financially secure and independent no matter what their age or the support they need to get there.
Until we do, women will not progress at the rate necessary to achieve parity in the corporate world.
At a recent Insurance Supper Club event, I learned about women in our industry that researched the roadblocks women face when working toward financial security. The result was a manifesto called Insuring Women’s Futures (IWF), highlighting not only the problems but potential solutions for women’s success. Spearheaded by the Chartered Insurance Institute, the Insurance Supper Club and others, the group set out to look at the systemic impediments that impact a woman’s chance of financial success and professional achievement broadly, the risks women face and potential insurance and financial solutions to minimize women’s financial risks overtime. While it is focused on the UK, the manifesto’s message resonates with much of what we see in the US.
IWF identified 12 significant hurdles, like the gender pay and retirement gaps, where the path a woman takes can impact many women and place them at financial risk. Women need good financial footing in order to mitigate the risk and succeed in other aspects of their lives like business. The group is working together to improve women’s lifelong financial resilience and to address some of the root causes of women’s financial insecurity by navigating the pitfalls and raising awareness and engagement of women’s risks throughout society.
As one of the leaders in the insurance industry, it is my responsibility to recognize that women in our own community face these same challenges and that as an industry we must commit to overcoming them. Within the insurance and financial services industry, we have many of the tools and knowledge that women need to create that foundation to build success upon and eliminate unforeseen risks like disability.
As Madeline Albright said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”. All women in a leadership role need to provide the same support that I did for my daughter and make sure that we are pulling one another up to the highest level. That starts with financial security.
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