APIW was founded in 1976 by a group of women insurance professionals including Cecilia Norat, Director of State Relations, American International Group, Inc. She recently talked to the APIW Board about how APIW got its start. “A group of us – Josephine Hoey, Ruth Curry, Barbara Brown, Katja Anderson, Myra Tobin and Dorothy Coombs – got together and decided to form a Committee of Professional Insurance Women. One of our first decisions was to host a cocktail party recognizing Mary Lowry’s contribution to the insurance industry on June 25, 1976.”
Mary Lowry was one of the first women in the insurance business to achieve the status of underwriter. In 1976, she had been in insurance for over 42 years and was a special risk underwriter in the comprehensive general liability area. During her career, she trained many of the executives in senior positions at various insurance companies and intermediaries. A special plaque designating Ms. Lowry as the first recipient of this special award was presented on behalf of the Committee of Professional Insurance Women by John Lennon, Deputy Superintendent of Insurance of New York. Ms. Lowry also received messages of congratulations from Senator Jacob Javits, Governor Hugh L. Carey and Mayor Abraham Beame.
In accepting her award, Mary Lowery said, “I’m proud of the contributions women have made to the insurance business and am particularly pleased about the changing roles of women in the business. Division of roles by sex is being put aside so that skill and ability are the criteria for advancement into decision-making levels. The insurance industry has been a leader in changing this attitude. Nevertheless, I hope to see more maturation of the business so that more and more women will be enabled to rise to decision-making levels.”
As temporary chairman of the insurance women’s group, Cecilia presided at the cocktail party and stated that the Committee would “seek members among women who work in the insurance business at a decision-making level”. She also noted that the group intended to help needy students attending The College of Insurance, now St. John’s School of Risk Management in lower Manhattan, through scholarship aid. The proceeds of the June 25 reception were presented in the form of a check to the “College of Insurance’s Scholarship fund”.
The following year, the Woman of the Year honoree was Elizabeth Hill, who ran a school that taught people how to take the broker’s test, which was then an all day exam. Elizabeth Hill was responsible for bringing many women into the industry through the broker route. According to Cecilia Norat, the independent broker route was the main way into the industry for women because many of the brokers were family businesses which would accept women as professionals when companies would not.
Today, APIW remains dedicated to two of the original goals stated by Cecilia Norat in her presentation at the first meeting of APIW: to celebrate the accomplishments of an outstanding woman in the insurance business at the APIW Insurance Woman of the Year event held annually in June and to provide scholarship aid to young women studying insurance. Since the late 1990s, APIW has awarded two scholarships annually: one for a student at St. John’s University School of Risk Management, and the other for a student attending the Katie School of Insurance outside of Chicago, IL.
Our goal is to provide women insurance professionals with unparalleled opportunities for professional development and networking. Our monthly programs address the latest developments and issues affecting our industry, helping prepare our members for leadership roles in their organizations by providing a wide, comprehensive view of the insurance business.
We encourage all members to actively participate in the organization, assume leadership roles and work on collaborative projects. To become involved, volunteer for an APIW Committee. Whether you are looking to expand your network of professional contacts, hone your leadership skills, or advance your career, APIW is here to help you achieve your goals.
Based in New York, APIW also has a long-standing, flourishing Chicago Network as well as Networks in Atlanta, Hartford, Miami and Philadelphia.