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Venus rising: These female brokers are reshaping the industry in their own image
August 20, 2021, 8:05 am
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This year’s Faces of Change panel at the Broker Expo featured an all-female lineup sharing their unique industry insights.

By Emily Payne | August 18, 2021 at 10:18 AM

The benefits industry has been increasingly struggling with a diversity issue as other industries embrace it. Thus, it seemed apt that this year’s Faces of Change panel at the BenefitsPRO Broker Expo featured an all-female lineup. Moderated by WellNet Healthcare’s Megan Chiarello, brokers Jessica Beames of BOK Financial Insurance, Stephanie Berger of Centered Insurance Solutions, Colleen Blum, Combs & Co., and Robyn Tikia of Risk Strategies Company were able to have a candid conversation about what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated field and how they’re forging a new path for others.

“It’s our job as females in our industry to tell younger generations that even though it is hard, it’s not as hard as it seems,” Blum said. “If we can find females who are good at talking to people and having organic conversations, you’re going to win business. It’s not as scary as we make it seem to be, as long as you have the work ethic.”

Related: What’s the good news, ladies? 5 years of highlighting women

Between discussions of alternative-funding strategies and marketing tips, attendees learned how each advisor’s career path had been shaped by being a woman. “When I started out, there was a consultant that had amazing self-funded experience,” Beames said. “He had all of this knowledge, and I had the privilege of working with him, and I would just sit in his office and pepper him with questions. Hearing that information that seemed meaningless to him helped me in a meeting with a client or a prospect.

“That was not an easy mentorship to build,” Beames added, due to the hesitancy many older men have about the optics of spending too much time with a younger woman–even a colleague. “Feel comfortable meeting with your female colleagues regardless of their age. The simple fact is that there are many more men in this industry than women, and there is so much we can learn from you and we want to. Give us the opp and a safe place to do that.”

The panelists also had some tips for current female advisors shaping new recruits. “From a mentorship perspective, it’s important to teach assertiveness, persistence, resilience–and, truthfully, working harder than your male counterpart,” Tikia said. “Women really have to face a lot of isolation in this industry. But we’re also creative, out-of-the-box thinkers.”

Whether we want to admit it or not, there are some innate differences between the way men and women approach business–ones that female advisors can play to their advantage. “We’re more nurturing with those relationships,” Tikia said. “We’re also able to be more technical whereas men come across as more salesy.”

Berger stressed how important simply listening to a client is. “Sometimes it’s best to not even open the presentation and just ask, if we’re in the room, there’s a reason. What is it?”

Blum agreed that it’s important for female advisors to play to their strengths, rather than mimicking their predecessors. “If we can come to the table with a different perspective, we can change the dynamic of this industry,” she said. “It’s mostly HR that is talking to us. They can have a deeper conversation with us. Our clients know that at the end of the day we’re going to have their back.”

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