I don’t like calling this the “women’s issue” even if it includes stories and columns on the female persuasion’s future in this industry. It implies women are so scarce in business news that we must devote an entire issue just to point out their importance to this industry. 

That is ironic, as writer Louise Lague points out in our cover story, since there are more women in insurance than men. Yet, we all know, the vast majority of those in power are male. Stale, male and pale is the often heard ridicule—but maybe not for long.

This year, for the first time, women surpassed men in obtaining PhDs. They already out-numbered them in obtaining master’s degrees and undergraduate degrees (by a wide margin). If this keeps up, in the future women will hold nearly two thirds of the college degrees. What does that mean for this industry in 10 years? How about 20?

And if the bottom line were totally about profits, then women would already be in charge. That’s right. Research shows that companies led by women are doing much better than those led by their male counterparts. Shareholders, are you listening?

Let’s be honest. Women have not moved up in proportion to their actual numbers partially for two main reasons: They have intentionally sidelined their careers to have families (and why don’t men do that?) and the old boys’ business club is still dominating business.

But education has always been the great equalizer in America, so I have no doubt women will be taking their places at the top in greater numbers soon. With males graduating from college in such small numbers (something like only 43% of graduates these days), a power shift seems inevitable. So, will this result in “stale, female and pale,” or will we step beyond cultural limitation into a more ethnically diverse leadership structure? Take it from this stale, male and paler (a cross between Scot and Brit), there are signs of hope. If we can elect an African American as president, maybe our attitudes are changing. But from the great equalizer perspective, Asian Americans are the only minority aggressively pursuing the American dream by using higher education as their stepladder to success. We can look at the rejection of President Obama and his policies in November’s mid-term elections as a sign that hope and racial tolerance will take you only so far—all the more reason for minorities to focus on that college degree.

We are a nation whose culture, for the most part, blesses equality. Equality may be right if not reality. No one said we make it easy.

We’ve Got Legs
Our chief photographer, Tom O’Neal, has shot several portrait covers for Leader’s Edge, but this is the first time we’ve asked him to do a concept cover visualizing our story on the inevitable rise of women into leadership in this industry. With the help of his wife Mollie (those are her legs), he managed to capture the iconic essence of what it means.

We went through a dozen poses before Senior Art Director Brad Latham determined we finally got it just right. Tom originally wore the pants in the photo, complaining it hurt every time Mollie jammed that stiletto into his shoe as he remotely clicked the camera shutter. I convinced him to fake the man’s trouser leg and stuff the shoe and trousers with newspaper. He acknowledged it was much more comfortable. I should hope so. Take after take, Mollie was a real trouper. From concept to design, reality can be a long, long distance. 

A Leg Up
I’ve known Barbara Haugen, the subject of this month’s profile, for 17 years—which means I’ve been good friends with Barbara for 17 years. Long before either of us worked for The Council, we worked together at the National Association of Insurance Brokers—she as a lobbyist, I as a publishing consultant. Years later, when Council President Ken Crerar was contemplating a magazine, Barbara—as senior vice president for The Council—brought us together. She oversaw the magazine at its launch and for several years thereafter. Now, eight years into the life of Leader’s Edge, she is embarking on the good life—retiring to the sunshine of Florida. I know I speak not only for those of us at Leader’s Edge, but for the entire Council staff and its extended family, in saying we will all miss her—and wish her well.