An independent agent’s group in New Jersey will hold the first meeting of a newly-created forum for women next month in an effort to advance women’s ability to own agencies, the chairwoman of the program said.

Donna Cunningham, treasurer of the Professional Insurance Agents of New Jersey and president of ADP/Statewide Insurance Agencies in Cedar Knolls, N.J., heads up the PIANJ Women’s Business Forum.

Ms. Cunningham said that despite advances women have made in the workplace, and the predominance of women working in the industry, there remain few opportunities for women to advance to the upper levels on the agency side, including ownership.

“On the company side, women are doing great things, but on the agency side, women need advancement, and we are hoping this will provide an opportunity for them,” she said.

“Few women wake up and say they want a career in insurance,” Ms. Cunningham pointed out. “Often, those who do enter the agency business settle for lower level or customer service representative positions. Others may rise to management, but few own their own agency.”

The upcoming meeting will be the “maiden voyage” of the group, which Ms. Cunningham hopes will help women achieve their goals in the industry. She also is looking for the group to build alliances and partnerships with companies toward achieving this goal. Someday, she hopes to build a mentoring program to “help women move ahead and become owners.”

The first meeting will be held on Nov. 16, at 11:30 a.m. in the Forsgate Country Club, Monroe Township, N.J.

The meeting will feature Lisa Tepper, regional president of the Metro New York/New Jersey region for Travelers Insurance, as the keynote speaker.

Additional information and registration for the forum and luncheon can be obtained by contacting Rose Klein, PIA member liaison, at (800) 424-4244.