March 11, 2021 by Greg Meckbach
To increase female representation in the C-suite, the property and casualty insurance industry needs to make it easier to balance home responsibilities and up its game in promoting insurance as a career for young people, a Nova Scotia broker suggests.
“We tend to feel most comfortable with and promote people like us,” said Gina McFetridge, president of Amherst, N.S.-based Archway Insurance. “It’s a little bit of human nature. So, to create diversity, to create an office that is more representative of society as a whole, you almost have to fight against your own internal gut instincts in terms of who you are comfortable with and who you think you would be right for the job.”
Diversity and inclusion need to be ingrained into a company’s culture, McFetridge suggested in an interview.
McFetridge previously served as president and chair of the Insurance Brokers Association of Nova Scotia. Her brokerage, Archway, which has more than 30 locations, was founded in 1985 by McFetridge’s father.
“Growing up as the daughter of a broker, I never considered getting involved in the industry,” said McFetridge. Nonetheless, she changed careers 11 years ago to become a broker.
“I did gravitate in my previous career to management positions and was director of marketing and communications for a company prior to joining Archway. And that experience was first in the world of information technology and then in financial services with credit unions.”
McFetridge found that IT is a “heavily male-dominated industry,” while financial services is very similar to the P&C brokerage sector, “where the lion’s share of the office is women but not representationally in terms of the C-suite.”
Society is changing, with men taking a more active role in their homes, McFetridge said. But since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in 2020, a disproportionate number of women have been dealing with children at home who are participating in school over the Internet instead of physically going to school, she suggested.
“Until we are able to create a work environment that supports the balance between home and work life, I think we will struggle to provide people opportunities for men and women that have a responsibility within their home of being a primary caregiver for family.”
The industry can attract a more diverse pool of job-seekers by encouraging young people to consider a career in insurance, she suggested. In general, students tend not understand the breadth of opportunity and the rewarding careers that are available in insurance, nor do they tend to understand the diversity of jobs that are available within the insurance industry, said McFetridge.
“It does take a very unique and specialized skill set, in my opinion, to be a successful broker and we sell ourselves short when we don’t consider that. We can more clearly map out career paths for people in terms of educational requirements to achieve success within the industry.”