March 9, 2021 by Adam Malik
Fayeanne Beattie, chief financial officer, Gallagher Brokerage Canada
For women entering the industry, finding that mentor is a key part of professional development and moving up the ranks, says a veteran P&C executive.
“Having a really strong mentor system is important,” said Fayeanne Beattie, chief financial officer at Gallagher Brokerage Canada. “So finding people within the firm who can help support your career.”
Her advice came with one important caveat: That person should not be someone to whom you directly report.
“I think sometimes a mentor from outside your team may provide a different perspective, or may provide an alternative way of thinking about things for you,” she explained. “They may see other avenues or other opportunities to which you, and even your manager, may not be privy.
“It also gives you the opportunity to have those individuals be advocates for you. Because if they’re in other meetings or they hear other feedback, they’re able to then either speak on your behalf or come back around on things.”
Though there has been progress in getting women into positions of senior leadership, women still face some barriers, Beattie observed. One is the lack of consideration for certain roles of which women feel they are deserving. Equality in the hiring process is an area in which progress needs to be made, she said.
“People like myself, or other females on leadership teams and executives, I think our duty is to really make sure that we are facilitating and almost holding ourselves accountable to ensuring that there’s role transparency and that there’s a really strong process around selection,” Beattie said.
“One thing we have to make sure of is that we are holding ourselves to a strong and disciplined hiring process with proper selection committees. We have to have all of those considerations in mind when they’re selecting successful candidates to move into integral and leadership roles. That’s fundamental.”
A bad hiring process means never being able to get a proper feedback loop. Get the process on a proper trajectory and “you’ve at least given everyone a fair chance and a fair shake,” she said.
Another barrier is longstanding: Work-life balance. If the pandemic has proven anything, it’s that people can do things virtually. They’re able to work in different environments, with different methods and tools.
“We’re doing meetings in virtual settings all the time now,” Beattie said. “So I think there will be, and there will continue to be, a shift in how we actually interact with our clients and do business. Each one of those scenarios actually presents more flexibility and more opportunities for women to feel less compelled to be in the office from a set time to a set time.”
Leaders are taking notice of this, she said. They’re more conscious of how flexible work arrangements can indeed work for the business.
Indeed, there is less business being conducted on the golf course, for example. There’s a recognition in the business community of needing a more formal method of communication.
“Our clients have certainly grown in their level of sophistication, and perhaps even [in recognizing] who the decisionmakers are in their organizations, as we see a shift in terms of the number of women who are in leadership roles,” Beattie said. “I think we’re seeing two things: One is the shift in our client base [in terms of] the male/female split there. But I think there’s a bit more of a sophistication level around how business is conducted now.”
That may very well be reflected in the changing demographics among managerial and executive teams. Beattie reported that 65% of the Gallagher workforce in Canada is female. Nearly half (45%) of its executive team is female. One-third of its regional presidents is female.
Thinking back to the early days of her 25-year career, Beattie said there might have been just one female in such a role. Women were relegated to working the files.
“I personally think the insurance industry has maybe outpaced some other facets of the financial services space,” she observed. “I think there have been so many strong female leaders that have come forward, whether it’s on the insurance company side or on the brokerage side. They’ve really had a strong voice.”