Kathy Davenport was already a successful salesperson when she decided that she wanted more. A young newlywed at the time, the New Orleans, LA, resident wanted to start a family, but she wasn't willing to trade her career prospects for one.
Today, many Americans struggle with how to balance career and family goals. Women especially find this challenge more acute, as studies show they continue to bear most family management and caregiving responsibilities for children and elderly parents.
"I know that when I started family, I wanted a career in which I could earn a good income, but make my own hours," says Davenport. "So I asked around. Having been in sales, I was convinced I could find the balance." It wasn't, however, in her current profession. "The life insurance industry, it turns out, let me design a balance that worked best for me," Davenport added.
Once she found the right industry, she knew she discovered the right company when she attended a New York Life women's network meeting. "I met other women who had tailored success to their own needs: parents of young children, parents with adult children, single parents and even older professionals. By learning to work smart, I could design a career that wouldn't detract from time with my family.
Today, 20 years later, her decision to become a New York Life agent, has proved to be a good one. She has two active daughters, ages 16 and 10, who occupy a great deal of her time but she still has enough time to manage a career that is the envy of many.
Davenport has not only managed a career but she has thrived. She has qualified for New York Life's Council, made up of the company's leading sales producers, for 20 straight years. Davenport also is a life member of the prestigious Million Dollar Round Table, the insurance industry's gold standard for insurance sales success. To gain life member status, Davenport qualified for MDRT for 10 years.
And Davenport has familiar company. New York life has more women MDRT qualifiers than any other insurer in the nation – more that twice as many as the second place company. Rather than detracting from her success, Davenport says that the qualities that fill her life also make her a success in business.
As a life insurance professional, Davenport counsels some 600 clients about their retirement, college, business planning and estate planning needs. Davenport and, indeed, countless academic studies, show that inherent qualities of being a mother, such as time management, empathy and problem-solving, translate well to the business world. "I am a trusted advisor – and isn't that what being a parent is all about?" asks Davenport.
All of those skills and trust were desperately needed when Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf area. Davenport lives a half-mile outside the flooded areas of New Orleans. "We sustained only minor damage, but others weren't so lucky," Davenport says. "I was proud that only two of my clients needed to go to their portfolios for major money. That means I positioned my clients correctly so that they had access to emergency cash."
Intangible skills help, but technical skills also matter to Davenport, who has acquired a handful of life insurance and estate planning designations to increase her knowledge in these financial areas. Hers is a career that she would happily recommend to other women.
"If you have the discipline and time management skills, you can do well in this business," she says. "Where else can you have a great income, and make your own hours to be with your kids on the important occasions. I have it all."