Debra Dunn, USAA: Women in Insurance Leadership 2021

USAA’s Debra Dunn embodies a drive to support women in insurance. With more than 20 years of experience in the industry, Dunn is SVP and GM of property insurance for USAA Senior Vice President and General Manager, responsible for product development, innovation, product management and business strategy and planning. She is the first woman to hold this position in the company’s history.

There, she championed innovation and development and delivered value to members by implementing artificial intelligence and machine learning across the property insurance value chain, pivoted quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic to implement digital property inspection tools and launched a Home Service partnership to assist members. Dunn also launched Connected Home, a program that promotes smart home adoption for safety prevention in exchange for shared data..

Debra Dunn, USAA

“It’s the telematics of the home, very sophisticated technology,” she explains. “So much money goes into the house, and it should be protected at all times.”

Even before the pandemic, Dunn was an advocate for remote work and flexibility. She also took the lead in designing and launching USAA’s P&C Women in Leadership program. “ Both efforts exceeded initial success measures and continue to serve as focal points for how we support and engage our teams today,” says Jim Syring, president of the USAA P&C group, in nominating Dunn.

The program has three components: Sponsorship, Dynamic Development, and Advocacy:

  • Sponsorship: women are appointed senior leaders to help coach and sponsor them through Action Learning Sprints, where candidates work with executive leaders outside their direct reporting structure. Eight directors participated in the two inaugural sprints with four executive leaders supporting the groups in the coach and sponsorship roles.
  • Dynamic development: women are supported through a curated curriculum hub providing internal and external development opportunities, books, and articles relevant to women’s topics, and access to engagement opportunities to share thoughts, ideas, and best practices. 
  • Advocacy: This component aims to drive awareness, support active modeling of inclusive behavior, and facilitate open dialogue regarding gender equality in the workplace. It was part of a conscious effort to include men in the conversation around workplace equality.

“You have one hand on the ladder and another one to pull someone up with,” says Dunn.
She also launched the Advocacy in Action podcast series launched to provide a forum for employees and leaders to discuss relevant topics related to challenges they face in the workplace, how to model inclusive behavior, and share best practices and lessons learned. The podcast is a series of catalyst for change and open dialogue, standing by Dunn’s saying, “Because you know it and you are at the table, speak up.”

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