March 9, 2023 by Gloria Cilliers
Brooke Hunter, President, CEO, Hunters International Insurance
Brooke Hunter, president and CEO of Hunters International Insurance, recently reflected on her leadership after learning more men get promoted from entry level positions to manager than women.
“What’s become known as the ‘broken rung’ in the ladder in essence means not enough women get the first promotion, so the pool of candidates up the ladder reflects as much,” Hunter recalls reading in Women in the Workplace, a study published by McKinsey & Company last year. “To me, this sounded like opportunity. Any targets for promotion of women need to start much earlier than we think.”
For Hunter, the report triggered new ways to think about creating a greater number of fellow female leaders within the industry. She reflected on her own promotion to manager in her twenties. “I realized the reason my first promotion happened is that someone outside my team noticed my potential.”
Hunter understood the importance of networking early on in her career. She “grew up” in the industry, after all.
“My family was in the insurance business and my father used his vast pull to get me a job as assistant to the file clerk at a brokerage in Vancouver,” Hunter recalls. “That was in 1990, and a lot has gone down since then. I’ve worked in global brokerages, big regional ones and founded my brokerage Hunters International Insurance 19 years ago.
“Today, I sit on the board of an international broker network in Brussels, UNIBA Partners, and I am an active principal within the Canadian Broker Network. I have two teenage daughters, two stepdaughters, a stepson, husband, dog and three cats. My calendar continues to runneth over — like most people with active careers and responsibilities beyond their desk.”
Networking has been key to her career ever since that first promotion. “Back then, I was curious, asked questions and made genuine conversation with people at all levels if the company,” Hunter says. “I think many women in our industry need guidance and support when it comes to networking. But, I’ll add, this will not happen naturally working mostly from home behind a screen. It will mean having to form genuine connections with people seeking to understand each other beyond the surface. Women and their employers will need to get more serious about internal company networking to make that first promotion happen.”
Employers also need to factor in flexible work arrangements, Hunter points out. Research reveals 49% of women leaders rated flexibility as one of the top three considerations when deciding whether to join or stay with a company, compared to only 34% of male leaders.
“If as an industry we wish to attract and retain top female talent, we need to create bespoke plans for them – in fact for everyone of any gender,” Hunter says. “A person’s tempo can change throughout their career, but it doesn’t necessarily dampen their ambition. So how does the industry promote networking and productivity and prioritize work-life balance? With thoughtful, bespoke job plans for people looking to build meaningful careers. It’s tough to execute, because it requires long-term thinking — not easily summoned in corporate environments seeking growth at all costs every quarter.”
These are not easy issues to address, Hunter admits. “However, our industry is full of interesting people who truly believe in the value they and our industry bring to society. That in itself is an authentic foundation from which to build on the potential every young person brings to the table.”