Entering an industry that’s long been dominated by men may not be an easy path to take but four women from opposite sides of the globe tell Claims World that it can be worthwhile.
From a global standpoint, Crawford’s EMEA AP Marketing and Communications Director, Lynn Cufley, and Sydney-based Key Account Manager, Angela Fitzpatrick, share some tales of how defying the odds and entering the insurance industry has led to very successful careers. U.S.-based Phyllis Austin, EVP, Global Human Resource Management and Danielle Lisenbey, EVP and CEO, Broadspire®, discuss how being a woman provides a unique perspective and offer advice to young women entering the job market today.
Angela Fitzpatrick, Key Account Manager
Angela is based in Australia and has worked within the general insurance industry both for underwriters and service providers to the industry for 25 years, managing people, process, projects, accounts and budgets.
Lynn Cufley, EMEA AP Marketing and Communications Director
Lynn is based in London and has worked within claims for more than 20 years. She has supported numerous well known brands with their communications and PR efforts and is a much loved name both here at Crawford and within the media.
Phyllis Austin, EVP, Global Human Resource Management
Phyllis is based in Atlanta and began her career with Crawford in 2006. She is responsible for all aspects of human resources on a global scale, including talent management, employee relations, benefit and compensation design and administration.
Danielle Lisenbey, EVP and CEO, Broadspire
Danielle is based in Atlanta and has worked within the industry for more than 20 years. As head of Broadspire, her goal is for this leading TPA to be the number one choice for companies seeking claim and medical management services to help increase their employee productivity and contain costs.
What has your general opinion of the insurance industry been with regards to women? Do you think it is a better or worse place to work than other sectors?
Angela: “One of the reasons why I have remained loyal to the sector is because it has continually thrown me interesting challenges. I have performed a variety of different roles and learned many aspects of risk management and business management, gaining both professional skills and life skills.”
Lynn: “For me, it’s a great sector to work in and we have a lot of really strong women across the Crawford business. Vice President, Global TPA Services and Managing Director, Broadspire U.K., Margaret Clubley, Nordic Regional Manager, Charlotte von Krogh and Operations Director, Broadspire Continental Europe, Middle East and Africa, Ann Hovbratt, among many others, show that it’s not completely a man’s world. We do our best to maintain and develop the profile of women in management and I’m glad to be a part of that process.”
What things do you think need to change in order to make it more attractive to women?
Angela: “In recent years I believe we have seen a shift within the industry to offer greater flexibility in the workplace for both women and men. Such flexibility around work, from home options, working hours, tools to facilitate working while on the move, are all great initiatives that allow families to better manage the balance between work and home life and encouraging women to join the industry or return post-children. Two other very key issues are balancing remuneration across the sexes and promoting women to management roles. An organization that focuses on these things will, I believe, attract women and inspire other women to achieve.”
Lynn: “We all saw Patricia Arquette’s speech at the Oscars and it goes without saying that the glass ceiling will only really break when there’s parity in earnings. This is a challenge for all of society and I can see it slowly beginning to change.”
What, if any, are the unique characteristics that women should develop in order to succeed in business today?
Phyllis: “A woman’s ability to succeed in business today hinges on many things. Here are a few characteristics which I think are important:
- Confidence – ability to play their A-game confidently and courageously
- Communication – ability to focus not just on what they say but how they say it
- Commitment – ability to deliver on their promise without making excuses
- Connection – ability to create a strong trusting relationship and to build and expand a wide professional network”
Danielle: “I’m not sure it’s unique, but I think it’s more important to have a good balance between being viewed as too tough or too soft. Many women get caught up in trying too hard to fit in with a predominantly male environment by going overboard with portraying themselves as tough. Or they swing the pendulum the other way and try to be viewed as the ‘nice’ one, everyone’s friend. You can have strong interpersonal skills, foster a collaborative team environment and still make the difficult decisions without having to be one extreme or the other. The key is being true to yourself, deliver on results and demonstrate your skills and knowledge relative to the business, and most importantly, to be a leader that you would want to follow.”
Has being a woman influenced your career? Have you had to take time off to start a family – should there be more support/acknowledgement for mothers returning to the workplace?
Angela: “I have two girls aged 11 and 9. I was fortunate enough to work for a company who valued the contribution women make to the industry. I enjoyed paid parental leave, work from home and my roles were altered by agreement to suit my changing circumstances allowing me to balance work and the demands of two small children yet continue to acquire new skills. So, yes, being a woman has undoubtedly influenced my choices at certain times throughout my career through the necessity to maintain the balance! Crawford fully supports my role as a parent (which right now is pretty busy with two kids in a local musical!) and I am fortunate enough to work for a boss who gets it.”
Lynn: “I have a grown up son, so it was a challenge to build my career when he was young, but I have been afforded a lot of great opportunities. The working landscape is changing and I can see that as a business Crawford is adapting to an environment in which flexibility is important. As Angela says, we need managers who understand the importance of family life; this encourages loyalty and a sense of support from an employer.”
Phyllis: “In my position as EVP Global Human Resources, I have to build strong relationships and trust at all levels, inspire and develop talent, drive meaningful results and make tough decisions. I believe most women are naturally wired for these attributes. Also, as Human Resource leaders, we need to be more empathetic and supportive to the diverse workforce needs and women may have a slight edge in these areas.”
Danielle: “As far as does being a woman offer any unique perspectives to my position at Crawford, I think it creates diversity and inclusion. Each leader has his or her own unique skills and attributes that he or she brings to the organization. Many organizations get caught up in bringing in talent that is similar to them, which can create a stale environment. Bringing diversity and inclusion to the table fosters a creative and innovative environment.”
How important is networking with other professionals, both women and men in helping you advance your career?
Angela: “Networking is vital and perhaps more so for women who are perhaps often less inclined to self-promote. I have made a conscious effort to reach out to colleagues past and present by maintaining one to one contact, contact through industry groups and via professional social media platforms. If you stay current and up to date with what’s going on around you professionally, it is more likely you’ll be front of mind when new and interesting opportunities arise. I have had a couple of mentors who have guided me throughout my career (one a female and the other a male) and willingly offered advice and honest feedback. Without these individuals, the path may have been rockier.”
Lynn: “My networks are a little different to most people at Crawford because I deal with the media. Ironically, that’s probably put me in contact with a sector where women are a relatively strong voice. Many of the insurance industry trade magazines have plenty of women editors and journalists, while their commercial operations with whom we organize things like advertising are also very well balanced from a gender perspective.”
On International Women’s Day, the globe will be celebrating the achievements of women. How will you be doing that at Crawford?
Angela: “We have decided to cascade this idea and profile four-five inspirational women within the Crawford Australia business to demonstrate their achievements and inspire others. We will circulate this internally.”
Lynn: “We will be sharing the views of senior leaders in Crawford throughout the business and we started this week a series that pays tribute to the accomplishments of the many women on our global team whose contributions make us a stronger company.”
What advice would you offer young women entering the job market today?
Phyllis: “At the end of the day, we have to be passionate about what we do; think big and make it happen.”
Danielle: “Despite the obstacles and challenges you may face, always demonstrate strong values and commitment. Also, knowledge and a strong work ethic are powerful tools to continuously arm yourself with and something no one can ever take away from you. Last but not least, be passionate about what you are doing and aspire to accomplish.”