For Stephanie Lynch (pictured), head of reinsurance at At-Bay, the journey to identifying her personal brand took her back to her childhood.
“The biggest thing I can look back on is my confidence and my ability to speak up,” Lynch shared with Insurance Business. Lynch is speaking at a panel discussion titled “Standing out from the crowd with your personal brand” at the Women in Insurance event in New York this fall. A self-confessed shy child, Lynch said having a strong role model while growing up helped her to break out of her shell.
“My mom worked in a fast-paced IT project management career that men dominated at the time. I watched her work, the number of people that seemed to need her, and the late nights she put in. I learned perseverance and sticking up for myself through her. I learned you can be a great mom and an asset to your company,” said Lynch.
“At some point along my teen years, my personality completely flipped. Since then, I’ve been a lot less shy. I found that I could speak up in moments that completely changed my career trajectory.”
This self-confidence and ability to speak up was instrumental to propelling Lynch to new heights in her insurance career. She recalled a pivotal moment in her first internship when she was told the firm was cutting the number of interns it would call back next summer.
“When I found out that I might not return, I pushed back hard. I think if I were still the shy person I was, I would have just accepted that for the way the world was and moved on. Instead, I called my boss and set up a meeting,” Lynch recalled.
“I was 19-years-old. I talked about why this internship was important to me, my career, and my education. I asked to be given the opportunity to at least interview for the job. In the end, they made an exception. They hired all of us, and I ended up managing the interns for the whole summer.”
Before joining At-Bay, Lynch served as VP at Safety National Re, focusing on underwriting its professional liability portfolio. She also honed her underwriting skills for several years at Arch Reinsurance. At all stages of her career, whether landing the next job or negotiating salary, Lynch said she leveraged her boldness to get ahead. But she admits this trait may be harder to embrace for other women as part of their personal brand.
“A woman is judged a lot more harshly for having that type of quality than men. For men, it would be considered charismatic, but for women, it might be considered pushy,” Lynch observed.
“What’s funny is if men are warm and compassionate, they’re stereotyped as weak. If women are charismatic and bold, then they’re bossy and pushy. But we need all those traits in the insurance industry and in leadership positions. We need both men and women with all these traits at the top.”
Rather than placing the onus on women to negotiate these conflicting gender biases, Lynch believes the industry should change the conversation around leadership traits.
“I think that’s how we bring more quality to the leadership of insurance companies,” said Lynch. “There’s a need for that wide gamut of traits at the top to motivate, encourage and educate but also nurture our employees to rise equally. Let’s shift the conversation away from ‘how do you fit into these three categories that we’ve historically seen as necessary to be at the top of an insurance company?’“
Join Stephanie Lynch and fellow top women insurance leaders at the Women in Insurance summit in New York. The live conference, set for September 7 at Westin New York Times Square, is dedicated to building bonds, exploring leadership strategies, and drawing inspiration from strong, talented individuals shaping the industry.
Join us in celebrating the insurance industry’s resilience and uniting as a community once again.
Find out more about the summit and how to register on newyork.ibwomenininsurance.com.