There’s no denying that the tech industry has been predominantly male dominated. In recent years, corporations have taken action to pave the way for what the future in tech will look like from a more balanced workplace. Clearsurance, the only customer-first marketplace for insurance consumers is not only changing the way Americans find the best insurance for them, but they’re also taking huge strides to ensure women are a part of the Insurtech startup ecosystem.
Michael Crowe, the CEO of Clearsurance has spent several decades building insurance focused startups.
“It’s no secret that both the insurance and technology industries have struggled to reflect the broader U.S. gender demographics,” Crowe said “According to recent census data 50.8 percent of the U.S. population is female so for us it feels natural that the executive team, as well as the broader company, would reflect the world around us.”
More than half — 57 percent to be exact — of the Clearsurance leadership team is female, including its CTO, Head of People and Compliance, and its Finance Leader.
Today, more than half of all startups have no women in executive positions, according to Silicon Valley Bank. Furthermore, Women Who Tech reports that 86 percent of venture-funded businesses have zero women in management positions.
The numbers are even worse when you look at tech positions specifically. Just 12 percent of IT leadership positions are held by females (up from 10 percent last year) and women represent just one in five employees on technology teams, according to the 2018 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO survey.
Suzanne Poirier, who was recently promoted to CTO of product and engineering of the company, believes that Clearsurance’s balance in executive leadership is a fantastic way to show women not only belong in these roles — it validates that their hard work is equal to those of men.
“Even as a young girl, I always questioned stereotypes and asked why I couldn’t do certain things because I’m a girl,” Poirier said. “I think in someway, I set out to prove those stereotypes wrong. And even though the notion that girls are not as good at science and math as boys is outdated, some people still hold on to that perception. This reflects in their decision making, and it can really hold women back.”
From the standpoint of gender inclusion and diversity, Poirier’s experience with Clearsurance has been very different from some of her other work experiences as a female engineer.
“I think the biggest challenge is finding your voice and having the confidence to use it,” Poirier said. “There were environments in which I worked that was more of a fraternity culture. And while I’m confident in my abilities, in that type of environment, my voice was not valued and my contributions overlooked and ignored.”
While women in tech are becoming more recognized, for example, startups with female executives are three times as likely to receive venture funding than 15 years ago, there is still lots of room for improvement. Today, U.S. female-founded startups have raised just 2.2 percent of venture capital investment in 2018, according to TechCrunch, making it more difficult for them to get off the ground.
Though having women like Poirier in executive roles like the one she holds at Clearsurance is so pivotal for this shift to happen.
“I’ve spent many years teaching technical courses and have been involved in local school programs that encourage young women to consider STEM careers,” Poirier said. “Having the role of CTO and working in a small company in which all voices are equal allows me to set an example of what is possible in technical roles, regardless of gender.”
Crowe explained that the company did not deliberately set out to achieve a specific gender balance. It really just happened organically as two of the executive recruiters Crowe used to fill key positions are women that Crowe has known since high school.
“I hired Suzanne because she was far and away the best candidate for the job, and she immediately attracted an incredibly talented female, senior full stack principal engineer to the team,” Crowe said.
Crowe’s views on gender inclusiveness in the workplace are rooted in his experience as a young entrepreneur, founder and CEO for his prior start-up, Crowe Paradis.
“As a younger CEO, I made every mistake one can make and most of those mistakes resulted from my own blind spots,” Crowe said. “When you have a team full of people who look and think alike, you’re missing diverse viewpoints originating from different life experiences. I tend to think and act too fast so I’m always looking to surround myself with people who tend to be more thoughtful and methodical in their approach to problem solving to balance things out.”
“The two colleagues I came to rely upon most heavily at Crowe Paradis were my Chief of Staff and COO, both women. The COO wound up becoming my hand-picked successor as CEO and is running the company to this day.” (Crowe Paradis was acquired in 2010).
Lisa Strader, a senior full stack principal engineer for Clearsurance, has enjoyed the fact that everyone at Clearsurance has a voice and can contribute to the success of the company.
“From graduate school through the first half of my career, I was often the only or one of just a few women in a class, in a technical meeting or on a development team. And while most of my colleagues treated me with respect, there were definitely times when I was not treated as an equal to my male peers,” Strader said. “But I quickly learned that I was in control of my career and chose to pursue projects and jobs where I would have a voice and be respected. As it turned out, these tended to be teams that had a balanced mix of male and female engineers and were often led by female managers.”
Ripples of the female representation at Clearsurance can be seen within the broader Clearsurance team — 52 percent of its 21 employees are women.
What makes this company so unique is that they never set out to fulfill a mandate that would call for a predetermined gender balance within their company; it happened purely organically. They’re truly what the future of tech should look like: capable women in leadership roles hired not because of their gender, but because of the diversity of their views, their intelligence, experience and innovative approach to building a tech company.
Based just outside of Boston, Mass., and founded in 2016 by Michael Crowe, Clearsurance is the leading online publisher of insurance consumer data. Its mission is to make insurance transparent so consumers have more control and better choices. For more information, visit clearsurance.com.