As workplace barriers for minority groups have been challenged, diversity has improved in traditionally male-dominated professions. While it's encouraging to see the work being done to attract and promote women in the construction profession, there is still a very long way to go.
A recent report from the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission says, "Women and people of color are underrepresented in the construction industry and especially in the higher-paid, higher-skilled trades." The report found that while female employment in construction has significantly increased in the last 10 years, women still make up only about 11% of the construction workforce. That figure includes office and clerical positions, with only 4% of women construction professionals actually in the construction trade.
Sadly, these findings do not surprise us as female professionals in construction insurance. Like the construction industry itself, our construction insurance colleagues are predominantly male.
Overall, women make up 60% of the insurance industry, but they hold only 19% of insurance board seats, 11% of named insider officer positions and 12% of top officer positions, reports a 2022 study by the Million Women Mentors Women in Insurance Initiative (WII).
From our perspective, no other insurance segment has a more noticeable gender disparity than construction insurance, particularly when it comes to leadership positions.
Women offer a unique and fresh perspective that is needed in the construction insurance space. So, why have they been left out or failed to consider a career in it?
A few reasons:
- Women are not typically recruited into the construction industry and not enough is done to expand the talent pool. Women have found ways to adapt, but the barriers to entry remain in spaces where men often conduct business, including country clubs, golf courses, sporting events and steakhouses, many of which have historically excluded women and minorities.
- Female insurance professionals without construction experience don't believe they are qualified or may be intimidated.
Here are some steps to help break down barriers for women to learn about and be successful in construction insurance:
- Foster a company culture, starting with company leadership, that gives women a seat at the table and promotes them to leadership positions in this segment.
- Provide women insurance professionals in other segments of the business with exposure to construction-related lines of business, or construction risks, and offer training and opportunities to learn the business.
- Understand the different ways to be an ally and support women starting off in construction insurance or who may be struggling to have their voices heard. There are many different types of allyship, including listening, mentoring, answering questions, and calling out inappropriate behavior. It is comforting for women colleagues to know there is someone in their corner.
- Offer women and other minorities safe channels to anonymously express feedback, or report issues or concerns.
- Make sure women are made aware of new opportunities or special projects that showcase their skillset or will be recognized by senior leadership.
- Consider expanding employee benefits to include things that support women's ability to remain in the workforce long-term.
- Evaluate the tasks assigned to women or other minorities on their team and if they provide a path towards career growth.
There is strong comradery among women in construction insurance, even among competitors. We support each other, exchange ideas and work together to create change for the better.
As diversity improves across the insurance industry, we look forward to seeing more opportunities for women in construction insurance.
Editor’s Note: The remarks in this piece are Taylor’s and Desai’s and do not necessarily represent the views of Berkley Construction Professional or W. R. Berkley Corporation
WRITTEN BY Lauren Taylor and Vaishali Desai Taylor is a senior underwriter and Desai is an underwriter for Berkley Construction Professional, a Berkley Company.