The gender gap in life insurance ownership rates is closing, with about 60% of women owning some form of life insurance in 2010, according to the Life Insurance and Market Research Association (LIMRA).

A recent LIMRA study indicates women's ownership is now on par with men's ownership levels, but overall life insurance ownership levels are down from 2004, with the decline larger for men than for women. The study also showed women's average coverage levels were still only 69% of men's.

"Most modern U.S. households are dual-income households with more women working and contributing to the family's finances," said Cheryl Retzloff, senior research director, LIMRA markets research. "This is a great opportunity for our industry to redouble their efforts to reach out to women to ensure their families are adequately protected against the financial repercussions of the death of a wage earner."

While a recent Pew study showed 30% of wives earn more money than their husbands, life insurance ownership for wives has not increased accordingly, according to LIMRA, and households are still less likely to buy individual life insurance policies for wives than for husbands.

Retzloff said that agents need to take a different approach with women than men, as LIMRA research has shown that women are more interested in developing a relationship with their agent, are more deliberate in their insurance buying decisions and desire more time and educational materials than their male clients.

LIMRA said that the extra time could pay off, as a prior study of women buyers showed they placed more value on referrals than men and are more likely to provide referrals to their friends and family.