In the past week, I had the privilege of attending the annual Women in Insurance Conference, held by Insurance Business America. Due to COVID, it was my first in-person conference with Cowbell since I started about two years ago. It was also the first time I would meet some of my colleagues face to face, with whom I have worked for months, if not years. Needless to say, I was excited.
The opening keynote, given by the Board Director, C-Suite Executive, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Strategist Nzinga Shaw set the tone for the upcoming hours perfectly. She described the biases we have when making a decision about hiring, promotions, or project distribution, using an easy-to-understand metaphor: We tend to go apple picking when it comes to people. We might be open to slightly different variations of what we are looking for – Granny Smith instead of Fuji, red instead of green – but we all end up looking for apples. This results in a lack of diversity, points of view, and innovation. Instead, aim to create a fruit basket. With apples, cherries, melons, and berries, you have a variety of elements that, when translated into the real world, results in creativity, productivity, open-mindedness, and, more often than not, better results.
The first panel discussion, led by Safety National’s VP and Chief Human Resources Officer, Angela Schaefer, was about choosing resilience. Points of discussion were vulnerability, authenticity, and the infamous Imposter Syndrome with which so many of us grapple. The panelists taught the audience important lessons: One’s network is an important key to success. Don’t be afraid to expand it and let people advise you on their topics of expertise. Struggle is also an important tool; it encourages growth. Lastly, don’t be afraid to be authentic. Authenticity is the best way to connect to people, and the vulnerability associated with being authentic gets rewarded with newfound trust and a valuable connection that might help you immediately, or later in life.
The next topic of discussion was DEI initiatives. The panel, moderated by Safiya Reid, Director of DEI at Pure Insurance, focused on the importance of open communication within a company. Encouragement is an essential tool to get everybody involved and create a healthy and diverse company culture.
After a quick lunch and networking session, attendees learned about creativity and its radical impact on team cohesion, engagement, and leadership. Moderated by Tinsley English, SVP and Regional Business Insurance Operations Leader at Marsh McLennan, the panelists discussed the importance of creating a safe space for employees to have their voices heard and the importance of human connection. Vulnerability was underscored again, as it is a strength that can be used to nurture creativity and innovation. After all, we are all people, and what is insurance, if not a people business?
Then came the panel discussion I was looking forward to the most: Innovation: Evolving in a digital market. Not just because of the relevant topic, but also because Cowbell’s Director of Agency Marketing, Alexis Vaughn, participated in it. The panelists discussed a few of the biggest challenges when it comes to flourishing in this digital market: hiring and education.
Alexis took the opportunity to explain how Cowbell addresses both challenges. With several offices all over the US, as well as Canada, and the option to work remotely, our pool of potential hires expands across all of North America.
When discussing how Cowbell educates agents and brokers about the evolving cyber threat landscape, Alexis cited our Continuing Education (CE) courses, product training, and the Cowbell Factors podcast, all of which help bridge the gap between cybersecurity and cyber insurance.
Alexis also mentioned the importance of leadership when it comes to encouraging innovation. Nobody at Cowbell is “too unimportant” to have input. Some of our greatest ideas have come from interns, and we love it.
Lastly, the panel discussed the future of insurance, particularly the “rise of the consumer,” emphasizing personalization, ease of use, and customer service, as well as the pressure that established companies often face due to their legacy systems that often have the opposite effect.
The closing keynote, “A woman’s journey to authentic leadership” by Helaina Jolly, Sr. Broker Relationship Leader at Munich Reinsurance America, wrapped up the event beautifully.
She emphasized the importance of a fulfilling work-life integration, and aforementioned topics such as authenticity, stereotypes, and the importance of empowering each other.
Helaina even gave concrete steps on how to behave more authentically: increase your self-awareness, assess and evaluate how aligned your behaviors are with your values, take action, and don’t be afraid to seek support.
I learned a lot during the Women in Insurance Atlanta Convention, and I can’t wait to attend again next year. Thank you, Insurance Business America, for organizing it, and all the amazing panelists for sharing their wisdom with the audience.