WHAT'S OLD IS NEW AGAIN
When American soldiers marched off to World War II, something radical happened in the insurance industry: Women. The National Association of Insurance Women was created back in 1940 as a source of education and networking to help those women perform their new jobs.
More than 60 years later, NAIW's mission statement hasn't changed, says association president Candice Robinson, who is commercial lines manager for Iler Wall Shonter in St. Petersburg, Fla. “We're still dedicated to providing professional development for people who work in the insurance or risk management industry,” she says. One difference: NAIW now welcomes men — they number about 1,000 of the organization's total 11,000 members, and two-thirds of the 375 local affiliate associations have changed their name to the National Association of Insurance Professionals.
Nevertheless, many of NAIW's educational offerings seem particularly useful for women. “Today we're seeing more and more women in management positions in the insurance industry, and we're working on advanced programs like leadership seminars for upper-level professionals to support that,” says Robinson.
Which begs the question: Is this a society helpful to insurance conference planners? Anyone who works for an insurance or risk management company can join, but these days a meeting planner won't find many of her peers to network with. “During the 1970s and 1980s, we had thousands of members involved in meeting planning, marketing communications, and incentive programs at insurance companies, but we've lost most of these because industry mergers and downsizing have led totravel and meetings,” says NAIW executive vice president Lea King. The overall breakdown is 44 percent insurance agencies, 32 percent companies, 6 percent brokers, 2 percent adjusters, and 16 percent “other” — which would include meeting planners.
Perhaps NAIW's biggest benefit to meeting planners is the chance to learn about the insurance industry. “I don't come from the insurance side, but I have to understand it,” says NAIW member Margaret Wildi, assistant vice president and manager of employee relations at Grange Insurance in Columbus, Ohio. “Very few of my peers belong to the association,” she explains, “but I find it helpful to learn about trends in the insurance business and what agents in other companies are facing.”
Wildi also cites NAIW programs that help her to develop organizational and communication skills. The most popular program is a public speaking course called “Communicate with Confidence,” says Robinson. She also points to the annual conference, which takes place this year from June 6 to June 9 in Greensboro, N.C. Among the topics: “Running Dynamic Meetings.”