INN’s "Women in Insurance Leadership Insight Report," issued in May, brings us up to date on a variety of topics and issues that women in our industry care about. I happen to care about professional development as an indicator of an employee’s professional health—and potential to deliver value to his/her organization.

The 2012 report reveals that more than a third of the companies in the insurance industry still do not offer any professional development programs, a number unchanged from INN’s 2011 WIL Insight Report, yet the number of companies offering non-gender-based leadership development programs rose slightly.

More notably, the number of insurers that do offer development programs specifically targeting women rose almost 10 percent from 2011. In other words, those insurers that understand the value of such programming for both their organization and the female professionals within it are stepping up. Those that don’t get it still don’t get it. Too bad for them. Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women board directors attained significantly higher financial performance, on average, than those with the lowest representation of women board directors, according to a recent report from Catalyst.

Or, maybe it’s too bad for those of us who continue to choose to work for those companies. Granted, not every woman in the insurance industry is pursuing the executive suite, so for those women whether or not employers offer any sort of professional development or support may be moot. And maybe it’s a question of whether women really understand what it means when a company doesn’t support their professional development. Simply put, the company may not believe that an investment in you is an investment in the company’s success.

Finally, it could mean that no one has shared the immediate and long-term benefits of such programming with the employer. Why would a traditional insurance company — held accountable for the highest risk management principles possible — invest in something no one is asking for?

Here’s where the “why can’t it begin with me” mantra comes in handy. Ask yourself: Do I want to for work a boss who doesn’t support me? Do I want to work for an organization that doesn’t support its employees’ growth?

Back in May at a Women’s Insurance Networking Group (WING) lunch held by the Jacobson Group and DLA Piper in Chicago attendees reviewed the results of INN’s research report. Some familiar axioms were shared, and one in particular resonated with the entire group: “We can control ourselves, not our environment. We need to decide whether to stay and try to blaze a trail for change, or we can get out and find a more suitable environment.” I would take that a step further and say that we must at least try to control our environment, and make an effort to ask for the necessary changes that play forward to a mutually beneficial situation for all stakeholders. If we can’t blaze that trail, then by all means, it’s time to move on.

Pat Speer is an analyst in Aite Group’s insurance practice. She is also an advisory board member for and speaker at INN’s Women in Insurance Leadership Forum.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Pat using the “Add Your Comments” box below. She also can be reached at

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