Women in Leadership Roles: Opportunities in Insurance

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Expert analysis on specialty insurance and an inside look at Argo.

Women in Insurance: How to Increase Representation

Susan Comparato shares her ideas for how insurance companies can become employers of choice for women in leadership roles.

Susan Comparato

Being a litigator was never Susan Comparato’s dream.

“I liked the idea of being in a business and helping a business run day to day and deliver results,” she says. “That’s what brought me to law school.”

Comparato dove deep into transactional law in finance and securitization before working as in-house counsel for the company she would go on to lead as CEO. Now Argo’s Senior Vice President of U.S. Operations, she leads the Argo Programs business, Argo Transportation and Alternative Risk Solutions.

Combining a talent for business and the law

Comparato started out as a transactional lawyer before moving into a general, in-house counsel position with financial guarantee insurer Syncora Holdings Ltd., where she rose to CEO halfway through her 16-year tenure. Comparato joined Argo in 2018 as Senior Vice President and U.S. General Counsel, and took on her current role in June 2020.

She calls her tenure as general counsel “a great steppingstone to a business operations role.”

“I touched so many different areas of the company, and it gave me such a broad view of what is going on in the organization,” she says. “Some days you are speaking with a business unit that has an issue with a counterparty, and then you may be talking with internal audit about something that came up there, or you have an employee matter and need to address that.”

As part of Argo’s new leadership team, Comparato is enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead.

“I think we have a solid foundation for growth and a great team of people,” she says. “I am looking forward to helping the business get to the next level, to be more profitable, improve our results and grow.”

New to insurance? Ask questions and read – a lot

Comparato recalls being overwhelmed early in her career by how much there was to learn in the insurance industry, from products and distribution to relationships and back-office functions. Her recipe for facing the challenge? Reading extensively and asking a lot of questions.

Susan’s Recommended Reading

“Questions at all levels are appropriate,” she says. “Even as you get more senior, you don’t know everything. It’s OK to ask the questions.”

Insurance offered another twist on her legal background, one that has convinced her of the appeal of job candidates with a variety of experience.

“There are so many jobs you can do in this industry, whether you are an underwriter, a claims professional, a regulatory analyst or a technology person,” she says. “That was surprising for me.”

How to be an employer of choice for women in leadership roles

“The role of women continues to grow, but I think we need to take some bigger steps to get us to the next level.”

With a large number of insurance professionals expected to retire in the next few years, Comparato sees an opportunity to expand the representation of women in the industry.

“We definitely see more women at entry-level positions,” she says. “And I think we have a lot of good representation in some of the functional areas as well, but we don’t see as many women at the executive level.”

Comparato sees a three-pronged strategy for how Argo and other insurance companies can distinguish themselves as employers of choice for women in leadership roles.

  1. Make the case for insurance as an industry that welcomes people from other fields to attract a wider range of candidates, especially at the senior level.
  2. Take an open view of talent by considering candidates who have a lot to offer, even if they don’t check every box in the job description. “If you have someone who is smart, bright and motivated, if you bring them into the organization at a senior level, I think they could be fantastic,” she says.
  3. Create a company culture that attracts a diverse pool of people. Comparato, who is the executive sponsor of Argo’s diversity and inclusion initiative, points to the strides Argo has made with flexible work arrangement and caregiver policies.

“We’re not in 1970,” she says. “There have been a lot of advancements. The role of women continues to grow, but I think we need to take some bigger steps to get us to the next level.”

For inspiration and encouragement, Comparato turns to the long-term friendships she’s formed with a group of women who have built careers in a variety of professions.

“Sometimes you may feel you alone are experiencing a problem, but when you open yourself up and talk to the group, you’d be shocked how many people have a similar issue or problem. I think that’s key,” she says. “You may struggle with finding that right group at first, but I think it’s essential.”

As for her own professional future, Comparato is excited about her new role and the opportunities it offers to dig in.

“With anything I do, I want to be able to learn and grow, and that’s exactly what Argo has provided to me so far,” she says. “It’s not so much about the position – it’s the opportunity to see that growth.” 

Learn more about Women in Insurance at Argo.

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