March is Women’s History Month and Applied is joining in the celebration to honor the exceptional women in our company and industry.
To execute Women’s History Month, our newly formed Women in Technology at Applied (WTA) Community of Interest co-chairs, along with their leadership team, created a host of activities and events for our employees to highlight women’s achievements, recognize progress toward gender parity, and get energized about the future of women in technology – and everywhere.
Empowered Women, Empower Women
WTA increases Applied employee awareness and understanding of gender equality and provides a forum for members to expand their interpersonal and professional skills. It promotes and enhances the career potential and retention of employees through mentoring, networking, educational programs, information sharing and member support.
As part of these efforts, WTA is launching our new mentorship program, Elevate. The goal of the program is to create mentoring relationships within the WTA community of interest that build trust, support self-reflection and promote skill, professional and personal development so that each participant finds new and exciting ways to uncover talents and potential.
With membership at over 400 employees since it started, WTA is a force essential to this organization.
Women Paving the Way at Applied
We want to recognize two influential women at Applied who are reshaping the insurance industry and working to inspire the next-generation of female leaders.
Teresa Cronin, Sr. Manager of Product Operations, Applied Systems
Teresa began her Applied career in 2008 as a Design Analyst in Product Management. She joined the Education Services Content Development team in 2014, later leading that team before moving to full time project management as the Applied Epic Project Manager in 2016, where she worked with others to build out the Epic Readiness process. Now, as Sr. Manager of Product Operations, Teresa continues to lead Epic Readiness while also rolling out an overhaul of the current Readiness process across much of the organization.
Sandy Oliver, Director of Product Management, Applied Systems
Sandy has been driving the Applied data story with Applied Analytics since joining Applied in 2016. In recent years, she led Applied Analytics through several critical product and architectural transformations while expanding her focus to manage additional data-related products. As Director of Product Management, Sandy collaborates across the portfolio to utilize our collective data and Data Science team to develop additional industry-leading solutions like benchmarking and advanced insights for agencies.
How did you get your start in the insurance industry?
Teresa Cronin: Unlike most people who seem to “fall into” insurance, I actually chose an undergraduate major in Finance with a concentration in Risk Management & Insurance. My first position upon graduation was as a field claims adjustor which really let me get my feet wet in the industry and helped me develop some thick skin in the process.
Sandy Oliver: I was offered a hybrid position working as both the Project Manager for a new consulting firm that specialized in the IT needs of independent insurance agencies and as the Chief Technology Officer for the agency that was part of the original ownership team of the consulting firm. I later went on to take over as majority owner in the consulting firm where I focused on management and automation consulting and became a regular presenter for the Applied Client Network (then known as ASCnet).
What changes have you seen in the industry since you started in insurance?
Teresa: Technology and coolness! As a field adjustor 18 years ago, I had a bulky cell phone to text me claimant contact information if I was in the field when a new claim came in. I also had to take recorded statements from insureds and claimants on cassette tape, no joke. Our software was buggy and not well integrated with our agents’ systems. Today, adjustors and other insurance professionals have access to cutting-edge technology and can do much more while being in the field or remote. I would feel much less uncool joining the insurance profession today than I did coming out of college back then!
Sandy: “Nothing happens fast in insurance.” That was a phrase you would hear quite regularly at insurance events. Insurance was a “conservative” industry, taking pride in letting other industries test out the newest technologies and “work out the kinks.” I think that is the biggest change to the industry, agents and brokers have realized how technology is key to streamlining workflows, enhancing customer relationships and driving down the cost of doing business. Not adopting technologies is costing their businesses money, so they are moving quickly to catch up to other industries like finance.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that women face in the insurance industry today?
Teresa: The insurance industry is historically one where women advance slower and earn less than men. I am hopeful that with the more recent societal focus on gender, race, and ethnicity bias that we will see a day in the near future when it would not only be just as likely for a woman of any color or cultural background to get hired into the industry but also just as likely that she be considered for advancement opportunities.
Sandy: There is a huge disparity between the number of women working in the insurance industry and those leading the insurance industry. In 2018, Million Women Mentors’ Women in Insurance Initiative published a paper with some powerful data points. It revealed that 1.6 million women work in the insurance industry – that is 60% of the workforce. However, women occupy only 19% of board seats, 11% of named inside officer positions and 12% of top officer positions such as CEO, COO and CFO. Furthermore, the Big I found that only 35% of independent agencies are led by woman. Women continue to fill roles in the in lower levels of the industry that only scratch the surface of their full potential.
What is one important thing that you’ve learned from your professional experience?
Teresa: Do what you say you’re going to do. When doing so, work hard, do the right thing, and above all, be kind. Be proud of what you do while these habits help you to earn respect along the way. Wait, that’s one thing, right?
Sandy: That you must take the position you want, no one is just going to hand it to you. You must show up, speak up and step up to get where you want to be – whatever that looks like for you. Make your goals known and ask for the support of leaders and mentors, then work toward making your goals your reality.
What do you believe the future of the insurance industry will look like?
Teresa: The insurance industry is one that has a massive workforce, offers multiple options for career paths, and is resilient, reliable, and stable in times of economic uncertainty. I think over the coming years we will continue to see opportunities for technological advancement and automation, as well as a new norm of a remote workforce in positions where this was not previously a consideration. As a byproduct of those things, I think we will find that the talent pool expands, and it becomes easier to attract new talent.
Sandy: While parts of the industry will look very different, I think insurance will continue to be about relationships. I believe that the need of the insurance consumer changes over their lifetime. Younger consumers with more simple insurance needs want their experience to be easy. They will be the ones driving the industry to provide products and technology that make it easy to have and keep insurance – think getting insurance on your phone while you are sitting on your couch. But as the consumer ages and has more treasures to insure – property, lives, businesses – they still want insurance to be easy, but they will build a relationship with a trusted partner that understands their world and works with them to protect it appropriately. So, while the technology of insurance is going to continue to evolve rapidly to allow the consumers to interact with their insurance information more directly, I believe the agent model will continue to thrive.
What do you think? Share your thoughts on how women are shaping the insurance industry of the future.