Canadian Underwriter

Catherine Roe, Aon

March 8, 2022   by Brooke Smith

Print this page Share

Catherine Roe, Executive Vice President, Central Region Leader, Canada, Aon

Despite a degree in English literature, Catherine Roe “fell” into the insurance industry and has worked in “many different forms” — including auto claims adjustor, claims consultant, and account executive — for just over 30 years.

Originally from Seattle, Roe began her career in the U.S., eventually moving to Canada about 20 years ago. (Her mom was born in Red Deer, Alberta.)

She credits part of her success in the business to her people skills. “I love people, and the insurance industry is all about relationships. There was always the opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. Even if I was mortified, I would try not to shy away from a challenge.”

Moreover, there has been a combination of long hours and perseverance. And a very understanding daughter, she adds. But she also credits some great mentors. One male mentor she had said, “‘You’re so good at what you do. You need to pound your chest just enough so you’re not waiting for people to come tell you how good you are. You’re reminding them of how good you are.’”

Roe is good at what she does, but she admits it took her many years, first, to appreciate what she has brought to the table and also to learn how to make a mistake or take a tough situation and evolve and learn from it. “It’s okay not to know everything,” she says. “It’s okay to make mistakes.”

Another challenge has been balancing work and family — particularly as a single mom. She says if you don’t have a support network, you have to find it and create it. With no blood family in Ontario, Roe “created families” — groups of people she’s supported and who have supported her.

She says she has also had to find that “sweet spot of delivering messages in such a way that you’re articulating that message, but without a lot of emotion. Finding the passion without the emotion. That’s probably a challenge for a lot of women.”

According to Roe, the P&C industry is getting better than it was, because there is opportunity available to women. “But it’s only half the equation,” she says. “Everyone gets caught up on the diversity side, and it’s absolutely important that we look at gender, orientation, colour, and ensure opportunities are available to everyone. But diversity’s a number, a statistic,” she says. “Inclusivity is what’s critical because inclusivity is what makes you part of something.”

So organizations need to ensure they’re not simply checking boxes and looking at statistics. “Ensure we’re creating environments and culture where it doesn’t matter the colour of your skin, your orientation, or your gender,” she says. “We need to work on how we’re hiring and developing our teams. It’s still very natural for men just to do things and say, ‘Oh well, there wasn’t any ill intent.’ That can only go so far — and so many times. We need to see that muscle memory start to happen where we don’t think about gender.”