A Seat at the Table

There is a Chinese proverb which states, “Women hold up half the sky,” and it certainly resonates in 2019. We account for almost 85 percent of financial decisions. It is expected that $30 trillion of wealth will be transferred to women in the next three to four decades. Also, women are a major driving force of the $2 trillion insurance industry. We comprise over 60 percent of the workforce. However, in the leadership ranks, and specifically the boardroom, women occupy only 19 percent of board seats, the lowest of any industry.

In August 2015, I was appointed as the first woman, and first African American director, of a major insurance company. I earned my seat, having advised over $5 billion of insurance acquisition and capital raising transactions. It was a Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner moment.

The boardroom is a vital leadership frontier, where the seats at the table have long been reserved largely for white men. As the financial services industry undergoes a most dramatic technology transformation, progress toward gender parity and diversity remains painfully slow. Even if we doubled the rate of women on the boards at this pace, it would take 40 years to reach parity.

Therefore, the business imperatives for diversity are compelling. Studies consistently demonstrate that diversity significantly improves innovation, decision making, and financial results. Diverse boards perform better because they mirror their customer and client bases. In a world where companies are working to enhance employee engagement, a diverse board sends a signal to women employees that company diversity programs are meaningful and have advanced beyond public relations platitudes.

I am honored to sit on two insurance company boards. It is my deep belief and conviction that I should continue to use my voice and vote to appoint women to board seats, whenever the opportunity arises. As Maya Angelou stated, “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000 to the 10th power.” Every time I step into the boardroom, I bring the goals and aspirations of the many qualified, talented women leaders with diverse expertise. I sit on the advisory board of Diverst, which provides the software and tools to enable corporations to further their diversity goals. Now is the time to expand the depth and breadth of expertise of our boards to better reflect the driving force in the insurance industry and beyond.