March 8, 2022 by Gloria Cilliers
Brenda Rose, Executive Vice President, Partner, FCA Insurance Brokers
“One challenge every leader faces, but I believe still often falls more heavily on women, is being able to commit to extra responsibilities while juggling personal responsibilities, such as caring for children or assisting elders,” says Brenda Rose, executive vice president and partner at FCA Insurance Brokers.
While Rose says she has seen a great deal of progress made in the industry over the past couple of decades and currently, there are many women leading insurers and brokerages, she notes some industry niches still exist where there are fewer female participants than others.
“Specialization is one way to build expertise and a career at the same time. But it appears, to me at any rate, that in some niche corners of the industry some old-boys-clubs are still lingering. It’s a shame, because that kind of thinking is, by definition, limiting,” Rose says.
“There is still some distance to go to that ideal place where gender is not even considered,” adds Rose, who joined the industry almost 40 years ago.
“Like many of us, I fell into the industry accidentally but found a permanent home,” Rose recalls. “After graduating with a degree in French, I was first looking for a job to pay the rent. I happened to be hired into a small Toronto brokerage where they were looking for bilingual staff. That one door opened up all the possibilities that exist in the brokering world.”
Rose says she learned quickly that insurance holds lots of interesting challenges and constant change.
Such as the pandemic, she adds. A challenge that also brought learnings.
“One benefit we’ve had from the pandemic is a new realization of how flexible our work arrangements can be,” Rose says. “There’s still a cost attached to remote interactions and staggered schedules, but our learning has been that we can incorporate space for individuals’ other responsibilities without damaging our collective enterprise.”
Employers who want to help not just women, but any staff, develop their leadership skills and compete successfully for potential stars can “foster a culture where there is flexibility and consistent respect for concurrent personal commitments,” Rose advises.
“This is not at all altruistic,” Rose adds. “If we as the current leaders are looking for the next generation to succeed us, why wouldn’t we provide whatever flexibility is possible to ensure that we have the greatest selection of candidates?”
While the industry can do many things to help make it easier for women to reach leadership roles, Rose says she also suggests women (or anyone) can help themselves to earn a leadership position by volunteering.
“There are so many opportunities in the insurance industry and none of them need to be political – within the brokers’ associations, through the Insurance Institute, RIMS, or other education forums, or any number of charities and community-based groups,” Rose advises. “The learning and practical experience is invaluable – all while demonstrating your leadership abilities to yourself and your associates.”