Canadian Underwriter

Ilda Dinis | Northbridge Financial Corporation

March 8, 2023   by Gloria Cilliers

Ilda Dinis_Northbridge

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Ilda Dinis, Senior Vice President, Customer Experience and Marketing, Northbridge Financial Corporation

“I am very proud to be working alongside an incredible group of senior women at Northbridge, but the reality is that women in our industry are still underrepresented at senior levels, particularly in CEO and board positions,” says Ilda Dinis, Northbridge’s senior vice president of customer experience and marketing.

“Making sure women have access to career advancement is about creating inclusive work environments and supporting them at every stage of their lives,” Dinis says. “The pandemic recently reminded us that women still play the primary caregiver role in most homes, so companies need to consider how they support that reality if they want to continue developing women into leadership positions.”

Reflecting on her own path to becoming a woman in a leadership role, Dinis recalls how she started her career in communications in the non-profit sector and made the move into the insurance industry almost 20 years ago. “I had applied to a role at ING Canada and thought I was applying to the banking division. I had no idea they had an insurance company operating in Canada. That mix-up turned out to be a great career move and I’ve had amazing opportunities to grow within the industry,” she says.

One of the biggest challenges facing women joining the P&C industry is the lack of information out there about the amazing career paths available within the industry, Dinis says. “Most people seem to stumble into insurance by chance, myself included. We need to do a better job of shouting out on rooftops the amazing career opportunities available, every chance we get,” she adds.

Dinis believes the obstacles facing women in P&C are no different to those facing women in most industries. “There are three areas I think are important for all organizations to focus on to ensure women have equitable access to leadership opportunities,” Dinis explains. “These are: making sure networking events are inclusive and accessible; providing flexible work options; and finding and addressing existing biases in how people are hired and promoted.”

Expanding on these points, Denis first discusses inclusive networking opportunities.

“Love it or hate it, networking is important to career advancement, so a good place to start is by evaluating whether networking opportunities are inclusive and accessible to everyone,” she says. “Women are often left out because these events are commonly after work hours, or they aren’t catered to a broader audience. If the only options on your organization’s networking agenda are things like fishing, sporting events, or golfing, it’s time to look at expanding the options. And while women’s networks are a great opportunity to connect with other women, given that most senior leadership positions are still held by men, they don’t provide access and visibility to all the key decision makers.”

Another important way companies can support women in their career advancement is by offering flexible work arrangements that allow them to navigate the demands of their personal life, Dinis says.

“The pandemic accelerated the adoption of more flexible work-from-home policies and companies should continue investing to ensure they have the right mix of options to support people at all stages of their life and career,” she says. “Flexible work has huge potential to enhance diversity and inclusion. However, it’s important to ensure women who take these accommodations don’t get left behind. Women who manage teams need to ensure they remain connected and visible to other decision makers, so they can continue to be considered for promotion opportunities. It’s also important to make sure high performance doesn’t translate disproportionally to putting in facetime and always being available, focussing instead on outcomes and results.”

Finally, organizations need to address the biases and lack of inclusivity that exist in the workplace and their impact on hiring and promotion decisions, Dinis says.

“Referred to as the ‘broken rung,’ research has shown women start to become underrepresented in promotions right from their first promotion to manager,” Dinis explains. “The higher you go, the smaller the talent pool to draw from, and the fewer women you see. So, an important question to ask yourself is (to be validated with your company’s data): Are women being promoted at the same rate as men? And if not, why not?

“Companies need to ensure hiring managers are aware of implicit biases that might impact their support and promotion of female candidates. Bias training is an important first step, but there also needs to be a sustained focus on talent processes and how a company recruits, measures performance, and promotes women.”