Of all the areas in which Distinguished Programs excels, our deep bench of female leadership is one that makes us particularly proud. In an industry that lags behind others in gender-inclusiveness, our fantastic track record sets us apart from many of our competitors.Now that we are at the end of Women’s History Month, it seemed a good time to take stock of this achievement. Some stats worth lauding:
- As a member of the founding team in 1995, President and COO Carla Vel has provided Distinguished with strong female leadership for more than 20 years.
- One-third of our executive leadership team is female.
- More than half our programs are managed by women.
“Leadership at Distinguished takes the form of respect for others, the appreciation of multi-faceted teams, serious listening, good humor, and drive,” Carla says. “We embrace those characteristics, all of which are gender-neutral, and that has enabled us to build a broad and hugely talented team, providing opportunity for all.”
Our support for talent advancement includes opportunities for professional development. Earlier this month, two of our employees attended the 2016 Women’s Leadership Forum at The Roosevelt Hotel. Sponsored by Insurance Brokers Association of New York (IBANY), Association of Professional Insurance Women (APIW) and New York City Association of Insurance Women (NYCAIW), the event focused on the professional advancement of women in the insurance industry.
The forum’s keynote speaker was Mariela Dabbah, founder of The Red Shoe Movement. Mariela’s mission is to provide resources and coaching to align women’s careers with their organization’s goals. In a room of approximately 50 professional women, she led a workshop on “executive presence,” the intersection of merit and success.
“We broke out in groups to define and discuss executive presence. Specifically we discussed what executive presence is, and what it is not, as well as the three pillars of executive presence: how we impress, how we share information, and how we look,” reports Sandy Ryder, an associate vice president and senior underwriter with Distinguished who has been with the company for more than 10 years. “We also discussed why nonverbal communication is just as important—if not more important— than verbal communication, as well as the difference between being aggressive and being assertive, and the power of leading from behind.”
The forum also supported PowerPlay NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and empowering girls through one-of-a-kind sports and academic enrichment activities.
“Historic data shows that young women who are involved in academic enrichment and sports programs are more likely to matriculate to college,” says Renee McFadden, a vice president with Distinguished and the Professional Insurance Agents of New York State’s Industry Professional of the Year.
In a city like New York, where less than 60 percent of young women are expected to graduate high school on time and less than 40 percent make it to college, organizations like these do extraordinary work to provide women with a path to success. Extraordinarily, 100 percent of the young women who are enrolled in the PowerPlay NYC program are expected to graduate from high school on time, and 90 percent to go on to college.
“We were extremely honored to be involved in an effort to host, support & promote PowerPlay NYC,” says Renee, a member of IBANY’s board of directors. “We applaud the organization for its efforts!”
Being able to send employees to an event that both advances their own professional development and supports young women in our community—that’s about as good as it gets.
“Our participation is one of the many reasons why it is a privilege to be a part of the Distinguished Programs team,” Sandy says. “It’s truly a team that is passionate and fosters and supports personal and professional growth.”