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“Building your brand allows you to have that consistent focus of who you are, how you view your work and life, and the balance between the two,” said Lisa Gentile (pictured), vice president of middle market for Liberty Mutual.

“When I started in the industry in the early ’90s, it was very male-dominated, as you’d expect. But I never apologized for leaving at 4:30 [in the afternoon] every day because I had things I wanted to do outside of work,” he recalled. “I decided I needed to put that stake in the ground because that would define who I was in the industry and how I was known, even if it meant having to turn down or quit certain jobs that required me to be on call 24 hours a day. /7.”

Gentile, who has over 25 years of insurance experience, will speak about the importance of a personal brand in the Women in Insurance Conference in San Francisco. Sharing his story with Insurance Business, he said he made sure to reject the nine-to-five mentality throughout his career.

“I wanted to get to work earlier but also leave earlier. That involved stepping back and having a conversation with my manager, saying, ‘You can trust me to get the job done.’ Women should be unapologetic about our priorities and how work fits into them,” Gentile said.

But authenticity sometimes comes with sharp edges that need to be smoothed out with gentle firmness, Gentile added: “Being unapologetic is essential, obviously with tact and grace. But it’s important to stay true to who you are because your career is incredibly long and will take many turns to the right and to the left. At times, you may be in a position where you feel like you are taking a step back. But [your brand] it must always be embedded in your truth.”

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Gentile’s career has taken her through a range of insurance roles from underwriting, brokerage, consulting and executive leadership. Throughout her journey, she said it had been important for her to draw boundaries between work and life. But she also admitted that it had not been an easy topic to broach.

These days, as remote work and Zoom business meetings become the norm rather than the exception, employees can often feel like the lines between work and personal time are blurring. “As we become a more global economy, we get some people from all over the world on these phone calls. It’s not easy to walk away from that. Someone somewhere is making a sacrifice. It’s about choosing the moments when you feel it’s essential to put that limit in place. But then you have to show some flexibility around that at other times,” Gentile advised.

The insurance industry has come a long way in improving work-life balance, and Gentile said this makes those awkward conversations about priorities easier to navigate for both men and women. “I know three or four colleagues from Liberty Mutual who recently went on paternity leave. That was unheard of when I was moving up the ranks,” she noted.

Gentile’s confidence to take control of her limits helped her earn the respect of her colleagues that has now become part of her brand. According to the insurance veteran, a brand is “that bundle of things that people think they’ll get when they have you.”

“It’s important to figure out what those things are and what features are important to you because they’re going to shine,” Gentile added.

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“Women in the insurance industry, particularly in senior management positions, are still trying to find our way. But we don’t all need to come from the same cookie cutter image. [of a leader]. We can all have various attributes that also give us strength.”

Want to join the discussion about personal branding and other hot topics in the insurance industry? Join the Women in Insurance Summit in San Francisco on October 4 at the JW Marriott Union Square. The in-person conference returns this year to unite women leaders in a day of empowerment and celebration.

Learn more about the summit and how to register at sanfrancisco.ibwomenininsurance.com.