Lorie Phair, President, Canadian Broker Network
Formalizing and institutionalizing mentorship, which includes training mentors within an organization, is key to supporting women and diversity in the Canadian P&C industry, said Canadian Broker Network President Lorie Phair.
“I think everyone is intuitively and intellectually supportive of women and other minority groups, but unless there are formal actions that people can actually experience, it’s really hard to move the needle significantly,” Phair said. “Actions really do speak louder than words.”
Although industry groups exist to support and mentor women, it can be a challenge to arrange time to be with these mentors. “I know, I’ve been there,” Phair said. “That ties into that whole resource issue — people don’t have a lot of spare time. But hopefully that will be temporary, and I want to underscore I think there are very good intentions.”
Increased awareness and the industry’s work on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is improving matters, Phair says. This is particularly true for middle management opportunities for women, where there was a gap in the past. “Organizations have had to realize they’ve got a middle management problem. They’ve got to start cultivating future leaders.”
The past three years have been unprecedented due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and this has ushered in new flexible work and hybrid work realities. Has this helped female insurance professionals? Yes and no, Phair said.
Flexible work has eased some of the childcare burden on women, but now some firms are requiring a full return to work. “Even though it’s been generally proven that for most business, not all, but most businesses, they weren’t negatively impacted with this flexible work environment,” she said. “And in fact, in some cases, productivity improved.”
Of course, this will have an impact on parents — both male and female — who may be used to adjusting their work day to accommodate childcare responsibilities.
Overall, though, the industry is showing signs of progress, even though it’s still regarded by some to be an ‘old boys club,’ Phair said. “We’re taking baby steps towards improving that. We’re seeing lots of policies around DEI coming into place. We’re seeing more awareness training around that. We’re seeing women moving into more positions of influence. And quite honestly, we’re also seeing some of the old guard retiring.”
Progress will be incremental, Phair predicts.
“It’s not, ‘Yesterday it was this, today it’s that,’” she says. “It’s an evolutionary change. But I think we’re headed in the right direction. And there are a lot of great people involved in leading that charge and…institutionalizing some of these changes in their organizations.”