March 14, 2023 by Alyssa DiSabatino
Linda Dolan, President, Insurance Brokers Association of Canada
After being offered a part-time job at the Port Alberni Shipping Company Ltd. by one of the owners, Linda Dolan was later charged with running the company’s insurance department. She started taking her Canadian Accredited Insurance Broker (CAIB) courses shortly after.
Then in 1997, she purchased the company from the previous owners. Later in 2002, she purchased Alport Insurance Agencies Inc. alongside her husband and business partner, and combined the two companies. “He doesn’t do insurance, thank God,” she joked. She has owned and managed the company ever since.
Almost a decade later, she got involved with her provincial association, the Insurance Brokers Association of British Columbia (IBABC), where she later became president for a few years. From there, she joined the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada’s (IBAC) executive committee, where she is currently president.
“It’s interesting where life takes you sometimes,” she reflected.
“When I became president for our provincial association, a lot of women [commented that] they were so happy because I was only the third woman in a hundred years to be president, and they were very happy to see a woman in the leadership role.”
Plus, the national association has made history this year by having three women on its executive committee — a first since its founding in 1921.
“This is the first time in almost 102 years we’ve had three women on the executive committee. That’s never happened before. It’s myself, Robyn Young, and Traci Boland. We’re pretty proud of that.”
Women in the industry, she observes, are oftentimes underrepresented, “which is so interesting, because if you go into a brokerage, the frontline people usually are women. There are men, but they are usually producers or do the commercial line end of it.”
From experience, she acknowledges the work-life balance and time commitment for senior leadership roles can be a difficult barrier to overcome for women, particularly if they have a family.
“Speaking at the association level, I’d say to different women that I knew, ‘Why don’t you become a director?’ [and they’d say] ‘Oh, Linda, I can’t. I’m just so busy with my family.’
“If you have good support at home — your husband’s support, [and] your family’s support — then it’s easier.”
Having raised three of her own children, Dolan says she understands. But she notes women are increasingly becoming senior leaders, and the barrier of raising a family is decreasing in importance over time.
“We make tremendous leaders,” she said. “I think we’re intuitive. We understand people. That’s why it’s good to have women in leadership roles, because they understand what it’s like to juggle everything.”
Employers play a critical role in allowing women and other employees the flexibility to raise their families while working. Luckily, this has become more standard after the pandemic led to increased hybrid work options.
“I’ve been an employee and an employer and, as an employer, you have to be flexible,” Dolan said. “My thought is always, ‘If there’s something going on in one of my staff’s family, I don’t want her to come to work, because I know that her mind is on her family.’
“[The pandemic] has allowed us now to work from home part of the time. I think of women in the big city — if you have a couple or three days where you don’t have to do the commute, you just do your work, and that makes it easier.”