The Insurance Future is Female
| Connections Editor | Mar 11 2020
Stacy Johansen, president of Downeast Insurance, has come to embody the inspiring tenacity of female insurance professionals rising into positions of leadership. Like many other women in the ACN community, Johansen is proving that the future of insurance is female.
How did you get your start in the insurance industry?
I graduated from college in 2005, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my degree; I graduated with a degree in communication arts. I moved home and was working at the Gap, as every 23-year-old does. One of my college roommates called me and told me her mom’s receptionist quit on her and needed someone to answer phones; this was in July. So, I went and interviewed at this insurance agency for the job answering phones. I didn’t have any knowledge of insurance. My friend’s mom interviewed me and asked if I wanted the job, so I took it.
I started working, and my first day was a quick tutorial on using the computer and answering the phone. I started doing receptionist work for this small agency in a small town in Maine. I worked there for about six months, and then I got my P&C Insurance license in 2006. I left the agency and I went to work at Downeast Credit Union as a teller on the front line for about a year and a half, knowing that Downeast Credit Union owned Downeast Insurance and knowing that I could probably get back into the insurance world.
In 2007, the person who had been my mentor invited me to come back to Downeast Insurance, so I’ve been working here since then. I’ve always had more of an admin mentality to figure out how to help everyone else. A couple of years later, the job changed a bit into an operations manager role and then into a vice president role. The original plan was that my boss was going to retire in 2027, but she decided to retire this year.
Did you know that you would eventually assume the President position?
I think I always knew this was coming my way. I was essentially being groomed for this position. I started my CIC training in 2008 and finished that up in 2012. I really wanted to help grow our agency and our community. It was very a much an “it just happened” situation and had a lot to do with who you know.
Now that you are in a president role, what are some of your most significant career moments that led to you assuming this position?
I think the biggest one is just finding your mentor; finding the person who will believe in you when you don’t believe in you and answer all of your dumb questions is super important. I never grew up wanting to be the boss. If someone asked me to complete a task, I would do it. Now, I’m in the position where I have to figure out what the task is. So, having Melanie as my mentor truly made a difference.
Carrier partnerships has been really important to me as well. It made the transition easier for me, especially since I know I don’t have all the answers. If I have a question on insurance or what the coverage means, knowing that I have the backing of the carriers to help answer those questions helped eliminate the stress and keep me going.
What are some greater implications of being a woman and the head of an insurance agency? Do you think women leaders are becoming more prevalent in this industry?
In the traveling that I’ve done in the past with Melanie and being in different meetings with other agencies, the leader has always been an older man. I think me coming into this role is definitely different. Melanie always said if you have to be the only one in a skirt, then so be it. To have more women coming up in the business is fabulous. It’s great to see in my CIC classes that there are a lot of female managers. If I sit here and think about the local agencies, there are some women at the top, which is nice. I’ve been in the industry for 15 years now, and there are still a lot of men in leadership positions, but honestly it takes both. I still think there is a high concentration of men, but we’re working toward having more women leaders in management positions every day.
In your agency, do you make it a personal goal to help other women rise into positions of influence?
That’s the new role I’ve stepped into. I’ve seen the importance of mentorship myself, so now I’m working to become that person. It won’t be an overnight thing, but by watching others and learning from others I think I can fulfill that role. I’m pretty young for this position, so I’m always trying to figure out what those younger than me need to succeed.
In what ways do you plan to impact change in your agency as you continue in your role as President?
I’m trying to shake things up. I’m trying to come into this role in a new light and make some changes. I feel like sometimes in insurance, even though each day is different, it can get repetitive. I just want to bring the excitement back into the agency. I want people to be able to recognize Downeast Insurance for community involvement and other cool things.
Talk about your role as president of the Maine chapter of ACN. Do you think there is more room for women in chapter leadership roles?
Last year I ran the chapter by myself. I’m thankful that this year I have help. That’s going to be the biggest thing when managing my presidency of Downeast vs the Maine chapter. Also, having the support of the agency is incredibly helpful too in finding that balance.
How does ACN help foster women moving into leadership positions within their respective agencies?
I love Applied Client Network. I started going to meetings with Melanie years ago. We’ve always had a female president of our chapter, so I don’t know anything different. I have primarily worked with females in the industry. I’m the current president of the main chapter and I have a female vice president beside me for this chapter. When we go to conferences, we see a ton of empowering women presenting on different topics like HR and Excel. I think Applied Client Network has done such a good job finding strong women to lead in these roles. I’ve met so many of these women at Applied Net and at the chapter meetings. If ever I have a question, I’m going to turn to these women.
Tags: Insurance , Commentary , Women in Leadership , ACN