By Loretta L. Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Insurance Information Institute
When Barbara Bufkin started in the insurance industry nearly four decades ago, she didn’t think about women’s roles. She started her career as a commercial underwriter, then a casualty facultative underwriter to a reinsurance intermediary. In fact, in the first five years of her career she had four job changes – unheard of at that time.
Today, many would say she has exceeded her goals. She is Chair of the International Board of Governors of the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF), directly engaged in the global and national Women in Insurance Conference series, and President of the Association of Professional Insurance Women (APIW). Concurrently, she advocates for the value of the insurance industry as a career of choice in her role as Co-President and Board of Trustee of Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS) and as a keynote speaker on The Power of Purpose in various insurance industry forums. In these initiatives, she has been driving the Big Tent of culture, inclusion, innovation, sponsorship, mentoring talent and the power of networks.
In addition to her Board responsibilities, Bufkin is on the advisory board of ODN, an early round InsurTech. She is Ambassador of The Insurance Supper Club, and member of the Dallas Host Committee for 2020 Women on Corporate Boards. In June 2019, she completed the EY Course: Board Readiness in a Transformative Age and has now taken on a new role as senior advisor to AmWINS Access.
But this success didn’t come easy. Bufkin recognized that there were corporate barriers which she had to learn to navigate. But through that navigation she learned how to negotiate, a skill greatly needed in the business world. She had the courage to build the career she envisioned for herself by seeking out mentors whom she trusted.
One area Bufkin could identify with was not only having a successful career but balancing that career with children as well as being a caregiver for aging parents; being responsible for a family. “It was a very… productive time,” she grinned.
Bufkin said it was important now to help build up the industry during a time of rapid replacement of talent. “For young woman who choose a career in insurance, it’s a great business to be in. It’s much more secure during cyclical changes and economic downturns.”
Bufkin noted that there is a great need for women’s training. “We need to make sure that women’s voices when they are not in the room are being heard,” she said, adding that “we need to prepare women for executive roles. Giving women strong coaching to be more conscious of their own capabilities and confidence, to overcome ‘imposter syndrome’ and consider themselves for a position when they may not have felt ready for it.”
“When I transitioned over to the capital side of the business, I really didn’t know what a glass ceiling was. When I confronted it, it had to be shattered; I didn’t think of it any other way.”
Bufkin said that the statistics and studies that are being conducted now are creating a true awareness around the importance of gender equality and pay equality. “There’s an intentional and committed focus around this,” she said.
“We as women need to be fearless; to accept the challenges and sometimes to understand defeat. And by doing so, can we stand back up and do it better, bigger, greater and stronger.”