Women’s History Month 2023 Spotlight
Director, Client Service – South Central Region at Liberty Mutual Insurance
AVP, Litigation at AmTrust Financial Services, Inc.
Sr. Consultant at Aon
How would you describe your leadership style? Do you see it as different from your male counterparts?
Carolyn: I think my team would tell you that I lead with collaboration, influence and accountability. Through much of my career, I have been placed in roles where my success was based on driving results through others by influence and thought leadership vs. direct oversight. I found those roles to be incredibly rewarding by helping me become a better leader by appreciating people’s differences in thought and motivation and learning how to bring people together through their differences for a common purpose and goal. Holding myself accountable was also key in my leadership development – being able to admit you can improve also inspires others not to fear humility and the benefit of continuous learning and self-improvement. As a woman, I do see that I bring a different leadership tone than my male counterparts. I tend to lean into listening first in order to understand cues including verbal and non-verbal communication from those around me prior to voicing my opinion or giving direction. Although I hesitate to generalize, I think many of my male counterparts equate a louder, quicker voice with more input and control.
Devina: My current leadership style is servant leadership and I focus on creating relationships with my colleagues, senior leadership, and my teams. In my role, I am tasked to grow and scale my teams, so servant leadership is a style that meets my objectives. I concentrate on the collective, and “atmosphere,” promoting engagement, process improvement, development and closing skill gaps. Perhaps due to historical or traditional socialization of leaders as all-knowing or command-control; however, it is hard to say because every person has a unique leadership style.
Jonelle: I take a collaborative approach to leadership. Whatever the mission, we cannot get there alone. When team members have a voice in the process, the results are simply better in my experience. According to the research, men and women do lead differently. Women have inherent leadership qualities and tend to lead from a relationship building perspective more often than men.
How do you bring your authentic self to the workplace? How has that changed throughout your career?
Caroyln: I bring my authentic self to work by smiling through what I can’t impact or change. My younger self would have tirelessly thought about why something couldn’t be changed or why something was the way it was. I learned throughout the years to relish in what I can impact and work around or thru the rest. The mental energy I freed up by focusing on making an impact and keeping a constructive list of things that could be changed made me a happier, more fulfilled person but also positively influenced the attitudes of my team and those around me.
Devina: I practice “thought work” to insure I am extracting and considering only the “#facts” from a situation or interaction and not create my own boundaries by internalizing communications. Precise introspection and acceptance of yourself is the key to being authentic. Authenticity is a journey because our identity and our capacity for expression evolves over time (i.e., Instagram!). When my motivation changes, I redefine my authentic self. Over the years, I have a realized that absolute conformity will not permit me to practice authenticity.
Jonelle: Trying to figure out who we are as a young adult is challenging enough but also trying to find your identity in this industry can be challenging. Honestly, it took me some time to learn to trust myself and to trust that my experience and perspective is valid. As I’ve grown in my career, my confidence to show up as myself grew and that has led to more opportunities that align with my skills and interests.
What advice would you give to women who are just starting their careers in the insurance industry?
Carolyn: There are no stupid questions. You will never stop learning new things. Insurance was not a career I was looking for when I graduated from college. I intended on going to law school and ultimately turned down an opportunity to attend law school because I found my career, the insurance industry and the company I worked for to be dynamic and offer an abundance of opportunity for personal and career growth. Invest in yourself – both in education as well as personal wellness. Determine what you want, where you want to go but leave room to develop yourself in your personal life too. Many of us get lost in our jobs or getting to the next level – establishing boundaries and self-enrichment will give you a balance that will ultimately take your further in your career. Lastly, trust in your career journey. I had a path in my head when I first started that thankfully did not materialize. I am happier because of the jobs I didn’t get as it led to me to where I am now.
Devina: My advice is to seek advice! My goals and successes have been a result of my network. Second, relative to insurance, be nimble and explore because “insurance” has so many facets. Therefore, a network is important; create relationships across the enterprise and seek opportunity.
Jonelle: Do not be intimidated by the industry. There are organizations that are actively seeking your talent and want to invest in your growth. The industry is not just one thing, there are many paths and areas to focus on. Make connections and stay in contact with those connections, share what you know and always find ways to add value.
We know that many people have no idea how dynamic and interesting the insurance industry can be. What would you say to a young woman to “sell” them on a pursuing a career in the insurance industry?
Carolyn: A career in insurance means you get a look into the world around you that is broader and more interesting. Insurance has given me the ability to interact with people, companies, and industries I never thought possible. I have learned more about how interconnected we are and the why’s behind many things we encounter every day. I also think that being able to say that you help others lead safer, more secure and successful companies is an incredible thing. We’re not just pricing and selling a product, we’re building partnerships and relationships.
Devina: The insurance industry allows you to transition and transcend and “re-invent” yourself many times over. It is a suitable career for those with almost any experience or educational background. I practiced law and shifted my career to insurance claims where I have navigated roles as a leader and individual contributor. Insurance is an industry where upskilling is fostered. As a defense attorney, I never imagined consulting anyone regarding personal lines insurance and risk management and then return to litigation. The insurance industry provides for growth and mobility.
Jonelle: When I graduated college and accepted my first job in claims, I had no idea that this journey would take me so many places. I’ve had opportunities to learn, travel and build relationships with clients and colleagues across the country. This industry is dynamic and ever changing. With change, there is always opportunity, you just have to prepare for it.
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