Ladies of Energy and Marine Insurance (LEMI)
Q&A with Nikki Howes - one of the founders
Miller’s Energy specialist, Lianne Portman, recently caught up with Nikki Howes of EPIC to discuss the Ladies of Energy and Marine Insurance (LEMI).
“LEMI events allow rising professionals to meet and network with other successful women, many in leadership positions, providing the encouragement and understanding that advancement is achievable”.
Can you tell us a bit about your background/career so far?
I launched my career in insurance 24 years ago with Aon. I have worked at several jumbo and small insurance brokerage firms since that time, specialising in Energy and Marine. Most recently, I joined EPIC Brokers in 2019 to establish and develop a nationwide energy and marine division. I have responsibilities extending from Account Executive with client servicing and marketing, to production, leadership and management roles. I am an officer with Houston Mariners Club, a member of the Planning Committee of the Houston Marine & Energy Insurance Conference, a LEMI co-founder, and a member of WISTA (Women in International Shipping and Trading Association).
What is LEMI and when was it created?
Based in Houston, Texas, the Ladies of Energy and Marine Insurance (LEMI) is a blossoming organization that started as a conversation between colleagues who often found themselves on common ground, discussing the lack of women-friendly networking and social functions in the industry. LEMI was born from that dialogue. Cristie Pappas (Ascot Group), Nikki Howes (EPIC Brokers) and Jana Byron (Lockton) founded LEMI in the fall of 2019, with a mission to support the advancement and professional growth of women in the Energy and Marine insurance industries. With an emphasis toward collaboration and camaraderie with social functions and networking opportunities more suited for all to participate.
Why and how did you set up LEMI?
With the mission in mind, LEMI sponsors networking events to foster and cultivate relationships throughout the Energy and Marine insurance space. Beginning with the founding three, LEMI organized its first event in the Fall of 2019 and the response was overwhelming, indicating we had truly identified a need for which women in the industry were searching. Despite the pandemic during the months following the first networking event, LEMI’s support base grew astronomically. Through LinkedIn and other social media, LEMI continues to focus on encouragement, education and networking opportunities. With a strong foundation in place, and growing member support, LEMI is well positioned to build on this momentum as we move forward.
What does LEMI hope to achieve and why is it important?
LEMI’s goal is to foster advocacy, identify development and education needs, and to support a strong network within the industry. LEMI events allow rising professionals to meet and network with other successful women, many in leadership positions, providing the encouragement and understanding that advancement is achievable, particularly with the support of others who have navigated the challenges before them. Striving to bring light to the unconscious biases and ingrained behaviors women have experienced in a male-dominated industry, LEMI seeks collaboration and inclusion for all colleagues, regardless of gender, within the Energy and Marine insurance industry.
What are the main challenges you have faced as a woman in insurance?
Historically, women have begun their insurance careers in administrative and support positions. These are extremely important roles, but often hit a wall for advancement when an individual reaches the highest level within those ranks, severely limiting opportunities for promotion. On the other hand, male colleagues often have an opportunity to expand beyond a support role into a production or leadership position. Even when women achieve higher goals, they often must work much harder to receive the same recognition as their male counterparts. Women often have to walk a fine line between being too strong when they are assertive and being too weak when they are friendly. As well, due to the limited representation in leadership roles, women often find other women as competitors rather than peers and therefore, are often less likely to mentor and provide opportunities to other women than their male counterparts.
LEMI hopes to break that cycle.
What advice do you have for women starting their careers in insurance?
First and foremost, find a mentor. This may be a colleague within your own firm or a member of a networking organization such as LEMI.
Secondly, take risks and put yourself out there to be noticed for what you accomplish. Put insecurities on the shelf, get involved, and ask to participate whether leading a project or presenting to a group. Take an active role in your own development rather than waiting for opportunity to come to you. Build a personal brand, and make sure to protect that brand, by always looking out into the future when making decisions today. Your name is priceless when investing in yourself and protecting your personal brand.
Lastly, enjoy your profession and learn everything you can. Women have more opportunities than ever before in the insurance industry, but there are still too few women in strong leadership positions. Become the expert and your value will flourish. Work well with others, ask questions, learn from those with greater experience, don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know and recognize the strengths and value of everyone on your team. These are the strengths that will allow women to continue to grow and thrive into the future.
An introduction to the other two LEMI founders
Began her insurance career in 2010 joining the start-up Marine & Energy practice for Fairfax’s Crum & Forster. While overseeing operational, administrative and analytical aspects of the company’s multiple MGA portfolios, her interest in Ocean Marine underwriting blossomed. She has since earned multiple industry accreditations while working extensively in the Houston, Seattle and Louisiana markets. Cristie joined Ascot Group as Vice President, U.S. Ocean Marine in 2019. Cristie is also a member of the Planning Committee for the Houston Marine & Energy Insurance Conference and a LEMI co-founder.
Is a maritime lawyer with over 22 years in P&I, both as a lawyer in New York representing P&I Clubs and handling complex P&I claims for two leading International Group P&I Clubs. She joined Lockton in 2020 working in concert with Lockton’s P&I experts, P.L. Ferrari. Prior to that Jana was a Senior Claims Executive at the UK P&I Club in New Jersey. She relocated to Houston, Texas in 2016 to establish and oversee The American P&I Club’s Houston office. Jana was most recently the Chair of the Houston Marine & Energy Insurance Conference, and is a member of the Houston Mariners Club, WISTA, the Maritime Law Association of the US and a LEMI co-founder.
At Miller, we share the same common goal to support the advancement and professional growth of women in the insurance industry
Miller’s Gender Alliance is a mixed-gender group of individuals allied to ensure Miller is an environment that attracts, retains and supports people of all genders.
The Alliance’s Objectives:
- Offer a supportive environment where non-inclusive behaviours and attitudes can be challenged
- Promote a culture of merit-based advancement and of work-life balance, ensuring fair and equal opportunity for all
- Provide education and support to Miller and its Senior Management to help achieve gender parity in all of our teams
- Demonstrate that Miller is an advocate for change, both internally and externally
Since forming in 2019, we have achieved some great advancements to assist with meeting the goal of better gender representation across all levels. We have become a member of the 30% club, and a corporate member of Cityparents – an inclusive network for City professionals who have a shared interest in balancing home life with a progressive career. Internally, we have worked alongside HR to conduct a review of our processes to ensure that we have a diverse pool of talent to recruit from, and an inclusive process.