Episode 11 Transcription – Women In Insurance Tech

Misha: Hello, GSD Factor podcast listeners. I’m your host Misha Bleymaier-Farrish, and today I am honored to have Theresa, Jennifer, and Vinita from around the world. I hope you have a chance to listen to our earlier podcast that we dropped. 

Misha: And today we’re gonna talk about women in tech. We’ll talk a little bit about women in insurance as well, but we’re really gonna talk about the landscape of women in the tech space. What we’ve seen, the progress that we’re making, but also the future. 

Misha: We are gonna quickly go around the table and I’m gonna have Jennifer, Theresa and Vinita share a little bit about their experience and the amazing ways that they are GSDing in the tech space. Vinita to you, and then I’ll have you kinda share with everybody your global view of where are women in technology around the world.

Vinita : Oh, Misha. You are far too kind. And it’s always lovely to be in the company of you lovely ladies, especially considering that women in insurance from the tech standpoint is really what brought us all together to begin with. I started in the loss control engineering and claims management, traditional facets and insurance, which has been revolutionized by technology and I’m very thrilled to share more about how insurance tech is actually disrupting the more traditional facets of the industry.

Vinita : But, with that to lay the foundation for our discussion. We often hear within the insurance industry, a fair bit of discussion on the gender parity aspect of where our industry must go. The understanding that insurance traditionally has been a heavily male dominated sphere. And although there’s been remarkable change in the last decade and beyond, and especially now in the short duration of time, post pandemic, we seeing women advance from

Vinita : more entry level positions to mid-management on to the executive in corporate governance capacity. When we consider where the tech world has gone, it’s really been in many instances as a new revelation, far more, heavily male dominated than ever before. But for women within the insured tech space, they’ve often found themselves in a very unique sweet spot where barring the traditional perception of the tech industry being, you know, “Tech grows”and very oriented around male dominated STEM careers, featuring engineering and programming. 

Vinita : We can consider the reality that for women who have side stepped in fact found themselves a niche within the insurers tech space. They’ve parlayed it into significant opportunity to bring diversity, equity and inclusion into that fold in perspective. I know Theresa and Jennifer will share much more about that.

Vinita : Jennifer, on the more traditional standpoint of the cyber insurance facet of the industry, and of course Theresa leading the Asia Insure Tech podcast and all the fantastic innovations coming out of the insure tech space and the wonderful women that are in leadership and executive roles that are really moving? this forward.

Misha: Vinita, thank you for your perspective and kind of the global take on where things are at at this time. I think it’s really important and I think it’s really important for our female listeners to hear that there is much progress being made, but there is much more progress to be made. There are many more glass ceilings to be broken through.

Misha: So Theresa, can we go over to you? And can you share with us what you’re doing and what you’re spearheading and what you’re seeing in your spaces there between Australia and Asia and around the world?

Theresa: Sure. Misha and first I would like to just highlight how important gender diversity or in general, diversity is when we are talking about tech, right? We are seeing more and more the uptake of artificial intelligence, data analytics, and it is so important to have a diverse lens on, you know, these issues because bias that a programmer has, is going into these data models. That’s why it is absolutely crucial that we have enough diversity, if it is gender or race, or, you know, just have these different perspectives when these algorithms are programmed in order to minimize the bias in the data and in the algorithms that are making the decisions in our lives, in our businesses.

Theresa: So just wanted to stress that. And the reality is that there are not that many women in these tech jobs. And I have worked with a number of amazing female entrepreneurs and just hearing their stories, hearing their struggles is amazing. We talked to with the Asia InsurTech podcast to a female founder in Korea, Julie, who has started the first InsurTech out of Korea.  And when she was starting her business she was actually pregnant and you can listen to this story on the Asia InsurTech podcast, and she was out raising money and raising money is such a difficult job for, for everyone.

Theresa: And when she was out there trying to raise money all, you know,  heavily pregnant, investors told her, like You are the CEO, you are the founder, you are pregnant, that’s a high risk. We cannot invest into your business. And, against all odds, apparently she made it. She finally found an investor and started the first InsureTech in Korea and very successful, right. 

Theresa: These stories, I hear them over and over again. How difficult it is for women to raise capital. And I think another aspect of that, and we talked about this in our previous podcast episode, women are not comfortable going out advocating for themselves. And if you are starting a startup and you have to raise money and you have to, pitch to investors, pitch to clients, right? That is a skill that you need. You have to be able to go out to have the confidence and to convince investors, potential clients about your capabilities. And that is something that I think we all have to work on to show women that, they can do it and they have the skills.

Theresa: They have, what it takes. Something, I always try with the Asia InsurTech podcast is to get a gender balanced speaker list. Which is super difficult because first of all, there are not as many women in that space. Plus, what I just mentioned, not many women are comfortable speaking. But, I think it is important to show that diversity and also to show other women in that position, that there are amazing female leaders out there and that they have something to say. Because, seeing is believing and if I can see it, I can be it. So, that is something yeah I’m working really hard on. And my other role with the Digital Insurer, we have started a community that is free to join, open to all it’s a global platform for women working in digital insurance and insure tech.

Theresa: So this is a community we have started to bring women together in the insure tech space to get a global network, but also to tell these success stories. And we will definitely share this podcast there as well, to normalize female speakers and female thought leaders in the industry. Again, if I can see it I can be it.

Theresa: And that is something we are quite passionate about. And I know talking probably way too much about this looking forward to handing over to Jennifer here. Just one more comment, we have also launched a scholarship program for women with limited resources or access to you know, education on digital insurance and insure tech that is also run by the digital insurer, the TDI Academy.

Theresa: So if you are interested to get into this space, you don’t have the resources, make sure to apply for this scholarship to be granted a great digital online business school for all things digital insurance. Yeah, that’s for me. Looking forward to hear what Jennifer has to share.

Misha: Yes. Thank you, Theresa. And I wanna show everybody be sure to get your TDI Connect. Go out to the App store.  Be sure to download it and follow Theresa and myself and Jennifer and Vinita. We’re all on there. It’s a great way to connect with us. And yes all these links and all these resources that you ladies have been sharing with us we’ll definitely include within the podcast also within our social media.

Misha: So, be sure to go check us out at gsdfactor.com and click on the podcast where you’ll be able to see this, but then also you can connect with us across all the socials. Thank you, Theresa. Jennifer, talk to us a little bit about some of what you’re seeing from a tech space and women in that space.

Jennifer: Great. Thank you, Misha. And before I get into that, I just wanna kind of highlight talk a little bit about what Vinita and Theresa touched upon. We talked about this in our earlier podcast, so I’m not gonna take a deep dive, but I just wanna talk about just the fact that the insurance industry as a whole has made huge strides in equity and diversity and inclusion.

Jennifer: And I think a lot of it is thanks to the Me Too movement and Black Lives Matter. And I think that it’s forced employers to focus and invest in women in leadership and diversity in leadership. I feel like we’ve done a lot in a very short amount of time and we’re headed in the right direction.

Jennifer: So I just wanted to just double down on that. And then just I wanna talk about opportunity, cause I think that while, you know, we’ve made some great strides. We’ve got some growth to make. But I still think we need to really be looking at the opportunity in the tech space right now following the pandemic, which forced the remote work, which invited, vulnerabilities and huge ransomware opportunities for threat actors out there.

Jennifer: I think that which was a negative, has forced a positive. It’s created huge opportunity in our industry. And I think like right now, the tech space is really enjoying an employee standpoint right now. It’s the employee’s world right now. People are getting poached left and right people with an expertise in the tech E&O and cyberspace, they’re getting poached.

Jennifer: They’re jumping ship make salary increases for career growth for career change. And now is, the time to get into the tech space. 

Jennifer: I can say that, I was the National Cyber Claims lead for HUB and when the pandemic hit and the ransomware claims were happening, I recognized an opportunity and a need that Hub New England had. We didn’t have boots on the ground, so to speak with respect to cyber claims. And I saw that our clients needed somebody to help them walk through the process and help them in the midst of the crisis of a ransomware event.

Jennifer: And I raised my hand. I said, I’ll take it on, bring it in house. I brought it in house. I hired some claims experts to help me out here. And it’s been enormously valuable to Hub to offer our clients this expertise. So, when the clients are hit with the ransomware attack, we’re right there on the phone, walking them through exactly what to do and get them into the right hands with respect to breach council.

Jennifer: But, something I’ve seen is that it didn’t just create an opportunity for me within the insurance broker space. I’m dealing with insurance companies who can’t keep up with the workload. So they’re plucking adjusters from the GL space to fill in the need.

Jennifer: So, there’s huge opportunity with, underwriting to claims, to brokers, to breach firms, to IT forensics, to IT restoration. I mean, across the board, in this space, there is huge demand for talent. So, if you are out there looking for either a career change or advancement, now’s the time to do it.

Jennifer: And if you hadn’t thought of tech or cyber, look into it because there’s huge need and great opportunity. And we need more women in this space. 

Theresa: No, absolutely. And if I can, yeah, just jump in. I had actually a interesting conversation around women applying for these jobs and yeah, absolutely apply, it’s the right time, but also an advice for companies hiring. So what we have found is that if women don’t 100% match a job profile. They are, not as likely to apply where men, they are more bold, more risk taking I guess. And if they don’t tick every box, they will still apply.

Theresa: If you are a company and you are hiring really review your job applications. And if, there are things you can take out because that is increasing the amount of women applying for a job, because yeah, it is just the reality that women are not as bold and are really going after these detailed job descriptions. And if they don’t match, you know, one of the skills they are not as likely as apply compared to my counterparts. 

Jennifer: Theresa, I wanna take that and just jump from it. I completely agree with you. And I’m gonna say, rather than employers look at your job descriptions, I’m gonna say women out there. Stop looking to match every single responsibility in the job descriptions.

Jennifer: The best advice I ever got was “take a job that’s going to challenge you.” So women, stop looking to check every box in that job description. Take a job that you can do 60% of, and the rest is a great opportunity for you to learn and grow. So don’t be afraid. Take that job, apply for those jobs. Cause as Theresa said, the men are doing it. Why are we holding ourselves back? Stop holding yourself back. Go for it! 

Vinita : To piggyback off both of you in your perspective. I’ll take the employer position and Theresa hit the nail on the head. Not only from the, you know, artificial intelligence point, you brought up very early on in our discussion today. But, when it comes to job descriptions in the spirit of this DEI month with Lloyd’s Diversity Inclusion Festival.

Vinita : We really consider the gendered language that’s often used inadvertently in job descriptions, whether within the insured tech space STEM careers and beyond. And, it’s actually fascinating to see in the HR tech side of things, how this is all being pivoted to ensure that language is much more neutral to be able to reach from a communication standpoint the broadest audience possible, and to discourage that there are certain words in terminology that might be more triggering towards one gender versus the other.

Vinita : So, we have completely neutral positioning on even the wording of the posting, so that it’s open to the interpretation of all applicants, not withstanding the very obvious issue you both pointed out, which is that typically women look to check every box instead of, you know, that 60% role that might turn into a reach opportunity and be the best decision you’ve ever made professionally. 

Jennifer: Vinita, I have to just piggyback on that. This is so unscripted. So this is just an anecdote, but just like talking about the gendered language.

Jennifer: So it was like 1998 and I was, fresh outta college working at my first job. And I was working in the insurance world on the claims side. And I like had it up to here of receiving letters from attorneys that opened with “Dear, Sir.”So I started replying, “Dear Ladies.” And every letter I sent out was “Dear Ladies.”

Jennifer: And I was like, you know what, stop assuming it’s a man that’s going to read your letter. So yeah, that, that’s my little anecdote to the gender language. 

Vinita : Oh, Jennifer, we know how often I’ve been called “Sir” in construction sites lately. So I, I hear you completely. That’s still a reality in this day in age.

Misha: As always love where our conversations go. And, thank you all for sharing. And I think in our final moments here, what I think is really important to highlight is we’re talking about the women that are in the insurance space today, and they’re breaking those glass ceilings and we need to support one another and stand on each other’s shoulders.

Misha: I think we’re talking to the women that are interested in coming into tech or insurance. I don’t know that any of us ever said when we were graduating from high school or college, Oh, hey, I’m gonna go into the insurance space or I’m gonna go into the tech space, right. This is just how our lives have evolved. And our destinies have taken us based on, those decisions that we’ve made.

Misha: But, I do wanna talk to the younger generation. And I wanna challenge our GSD factor podcast, listeners to say. We can all do more to mentor the next generation in the insurance space, mentor that next generation in the tech space.

Misha: As a mom of a daughter and a son, I can see that both will be given opportunities, but my daughter may have to work a little harder because of where she wants to go, which is STEM. And so what I would say to you all is support those STEM organizations, support those STEM community outreaches, work with your local schools and your local organizations to really bring about the exposure to STEM at an early age for our elementary school kids and our middle school and high schoolers.

Misha: What we’re seeing is that if we expose them a little earlier, right? They start to get a passion for it and they start to get a drive for it. You know, there’s an amazing Netflix children’s show called the Ada Twist, Scientist that my children love. And it’s all about really showcasing STEM in all the different areas.

Misha: And really saying, Hey, this can be a really fun area to be in. And I think there’s so much growth and opportunity. And so, I would just encourage all of us to do that. But ladies, in the final comments here, you know,  just briefly talk about, you know, what are you seeing? Is it a trend? Is it an organization or is there something that we can be looking for.

Misha: Jennifer, I’ll give it to you first. 

Jennifer: Great. Thank you, Misha. Great question. I’m seeing a huge interest in women supporting women right now. And I just wanna see this continue to evolve and grow. Everywhere you turn and look is another women’s networking group. And I know eight years ago I started a regional women’s networking group at Hub, and we now have a national network and with, you know, little small pockets of regional groups. And it’s been extremely helpful to bring women in executive leadership with, some of our new hires and just it’s not so much, the executives, mentoring and training the new hires.

Jennifer: It’s a complete collaboration. And, as one of the, older groups of women at Hub, I’m learning a tremendous amount from our younger staff. And, so I guess to the more senior women out there be open to learn and be mentored by the younger staff, because there’s a lot we can learn from them.

Misha: Great points. Thanks Jennifer. Theresa 

Theresa: Yeah, really, really two things first. I want to comment on what Jennifer said, all these like women networks and yeah, the response I sometimes get from male counterparts, right? When we started the women in tech community, I got the comment like, Oh, there’s no ‘men in tech’ community. Why, you know why we need a ‘women in tech’ community? And, actually there are a lot of these “boys clubs.” Just, men after work, going for drinks. Having these like “men time,” I was just at a conference with my husband actually. And we went to a networking session after, and it was full of men, you know, having their good time.

Theresa: And this is where. Important relationships are created and that’s the advantage a lot of them have, right? So they go out have a couple of beers, go golfing, whatever it might be. And this is where they form these powerful relationships, which later helps them in business.

Theresa: Getting new business deals done, getting a heads up in a new role. Women often don’t participate in that. Just, so many reasons. Often women are caregivers, moms they don’t have the time to participate in that, or, to go out at night drinking because the next morning they have to get up early and take the kids to school, or it’s just not seen as appropriate if women are joining this.

Theresa: And this is why I believe it is so important to have these women networks and also to have it in a different format, like a digital form, what we build with women in tech. Because women often have a very different schedule compared to, to, our male culture parts. And yeah, so this is something I really wanted to stress.

Theresa: The other thing, what you said, Misha, the importance of STEM. And yeah, regardless if you are looking at a job in insurance technology or whatever it is, the future will look like that we have an augmented way of working. We will all work with technologies with, algorithms with AI that help us in our decision making.

Theresa: And I think it is so important to understand, you know, at least the basics of how this works in order to, be in control and take advantage of these tools that exist, but also understand the risks and the potential biases. I believe it is so important that children growing up today, regardless of the gender, that they get a basic understanding of, these technologies and how they work and how they, come to decision making.

Theresa: So that, that would be my final words for this podcast. 

Misha: No, I absolutely love that because my, you know, my children are three and seven. And they very quickly have maneuvered computers and laptops and touch screens. And so, that’s just a part of their world, right? So they’re going to have that additional exposure. 

Misha: Theresa, to your point about the golfing and having those networking opportunities.My late father saw that very early on in his business career.  Right. And so, as I was coming up, he said you’ve gotta learn golf. Because that’s where the business is happening. 

Misha: And so, our agreement, because I was a dancer, was that for every ballet camp, I had to do a golf camp. Because my dad was like, you gotta be ready for your business conversations because business will be what you fall back on if dancing doesn’t work out and he was right. And it turned out that’s actually where my husband and I met was the company golf tournament. And you know, that was one of those really fun things. You’re absolutely right. We have to find those creative ways to do that and find those alternative times. 

Misha: To all those co-parents out there, right? Support your spouse, support your partners in allowing them to take that time that they need. Whether it’s a breakfast or a lunch or coffee or happy hour, find those opportunities for them to be able to do their networking.  

Misha: At a former company of mine, there was the boys club that always golfed, right? Like every Friday afternoon. And so there were four of us ladies who we were golfers and so we started our own. So, when they were all leaving the office, we were all leaving the office and they’re like Well, where are you going? And we would say to them, We’re gonna go the golf course too. And they’re like, You golf? We’re like, Of course we golf! And so it’s finding those ways to match where they’re at, but also do it in our own way. 

Misha: Vinita, any final comments? 

Vinita : Oh, several . What I will say, Theresa is, being president of a 62 year old women’s association, you’d be surprised in how many of my travels have I heard it ‘to here’….Oh, another girl club!

Vinita : Why did, why does that need to exist? It’s it is baffling when you consider that the demographics of the traditional parts of these industries are heavily dominated by the opposite gender. So, just very intriguing to hear that even if something as nuanced as tech you’re hearing that feedback.

Vinita : But, you’re not alone sister, cause it’s just par for the course of what I hear on a routine basis, even running an association, that’s this old. But even speaking to the golf analogy…. you all three of you mentioned and nodded along. To considering this as DEI month, then we often think of that from a gender point of view.

Vinita : We often forget the socioeconomic basis that is rooted in and the privilege this sport is rooted in. And the fact that for many people, when we consider the cultural diversity aspect of this, soccer being one of the world’s sports. Think about the flip side of that, how do we create that sense of inclusion in a diverse workplace and industry?

Vinita : If we’re still very focused on sports that require significant financial investment in order to close those deals, but that’s part of the elusive or exclusive nature of it is part of what funds or fuels the perception around the network. And so just interesting to think in the spirit of DEI, should we be doing things that broaden the inclusion reach? And Theresa to your point, meeting people where they are, and especially women who are often wearing multiple hats, having a digital platform to do this. but also Misha as you suggested

Vinita : But also Misha as you suggested, when you’re fortunate enough to have a partner to share the load so that you can have the blend of those traditional aspects. Both resonate home. But it’s just so funny to think that in 2022, we’re still describing some of the most traditional ways to do things cuz they’re still quite prevalent today.

Jennifer: Yeah. Misha, can I just jump in for a sec? 

Misha: Of course. 

Jennifer: So you know, just listening to Theresa, talk about, the men network or groups going out. That’s how I originally started the women’s network at Hub New England. I sat right next to the President of Hub, New England.

Jennifer: And I was listening to him invite every male sales guy that passes his office. Like, Hey, let’s go to invitation night. Let’s go to invitation. Let’s go out. We’re going. So I’m listening to this all day. And he was making plans with all of the male sales guys at our company to go to my town for, you know, dinner and drinks.

Jennifer: And I went in, I said, Oh, what are you guys doing? He said, Oh, we’re going to invitation night in your town actually. And I was like, Yeah. So who’s going? And he rattled off the names and it was all men. And I…. that’s interesting….Okay. I’m gonna go invite the women of Hub to come to my town for invitation night and that’s what I did.

Jennifer: And we all collided of course, naturally, but that’s how it started. It never even occurred to our President Hey, why am I only inviting the men? It just was a thing that they’ve done historically for decades. And I wasn’t upset about it. Nothing. I just I was like, Okay, we need a woman to take, control here and bring the women together.

Jennifer: No one else is gonna do it. So once again, advocate for yourself, bring the women together. And that’s why we need these women networking groups, because it just doesn’t occur to the men that we’re not invited to the table. 

Misha: And I think to what we have talked about throughout this podcast, in our earlier podcast, too. We’re still talking about this in 2022, right. That we have made great advancements. But there’s still much work to be done, that we are still works in progress. As industries, as leaders, as organizations as humans in the world.  Right? 

Misha: And so, in these final moments of this podcast I hope what you hear as stories of resignation and saying, Hey, you’re not alone if you’ve experienced this yourself, there are others that have had this experiences with you. I hope you hear stories of hope that there is change. There is ways to turn some of those negatives and turn them into positives. 

Misha: And then to our male counterparts, we need you, right? We need you to stand up. We need you to encourage, we need you to come alongside us and be our wing man in a way to really encourage and uplift, right. And we will reciprocate certainly. But I think this is definitely us coming together and saying, this is no longer a male driven or male dominated industry, either the tech or the insurance or the both, if your world’s collide like many of ours do, but it’s really saying, it’s a human industry, right? It is. And we are casting that wide net. 

Misha: And so, as you are managing or recruiting or leading, be sure that you are keeping everybody in mind, make sure that you are really embracing everyone. You know, my kids, don’t like certain colors…they love rainbows. You know, that’s the world that we live in, is saying, Hey, let’s be sure that we’re being really respectful of everyone where they’re at and respecting that everybody is different. Right. 

Misha: We’re all unicorns. We don’t wanna all look the same.We want to be our unique selves. And let’s just be respectful of that because with that diversity. We bring an amazing, amazing tapestry together. If we’re all able to bring and contribute the way that we’re intended to.

Misha: So ladies, Jennifer, Theresa, Vinita, thank you so much. Be sure to check out our earlier podcast with these lovely ladies. We hope you’ve enjoyed the content. Thank you so much for being with us. Be sure to check out our social media. Connect with us on LinkedIn. Be sure to go to www.gsdfactor.com, where you can hear all the episodes. Connect with these ladies on LinkedIn. They are highly connected. They have great content and we’ll be sure to share all of their wonderful links. 

Misha: But thank you all so much. And don’t forget to GSD and get shit done. Bye, bye now.

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