Canadian Underwriter

Kim Edmondson | Desjardins

March 13, 2023   by Jason Contant

Kim Edmondson, Desjardins

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Kim Edmondson, Desjardins insurance agent

Companies in the Canadian P&C insurance space can provide avenues for support groups to help women overcome any barriers they face, said Desjardins insurance agent Kim Edmondson.

“I think if some organizations provide avenues for these groups, that would be really beneficial,” Edmondson said. “Because maybe women aren’t always comfortable reaching out to start the group. And there’s women out there I know who are anxious to join groups, and they don’t know how to go about it.”

Edmondson said she’s part of a few groups that bring energy and focus to different aspects of her professional — and personal — life. One is an informal, all-women’s group discussing work-life balance. “This group was created on our own. A female agent, a peer of mine, reached out and said, ‘You know, we should start a group where we share ideas, help each other, encourage each other,’ and the group has evolved and stuck together.

“It’s been amazing. I think women — everyone — should praise each other and recognize each other. Peer supports are [helpful] and everybody needs to get a little bit better at it.”

Desjardins also has a female empowerment networking group. Created in 1988, it promotes diversity and inclusion, bringing together women from various backgrounds and realities.

Edmondson said she considers herself fortunate to have a great support system, which includes her husband, past and current employers, company leaders and mentors. “But women do need to help and support each other, and organizations could help them focus on this.”

Early on, Edmondson knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur and have her own business, which she now does. “I didn’t know what that meant exactly. I loved numbers, I loved people and I loved solving problems, so I thought maybe I would be an accountant.”

But growing up in the small farming community of Tillsonburg, Ont., Edmondson was worried she had no office or business experience: back then, her work history included factory work and picking tobacco. She decided to go to school for business. A guidance counsellor suggested she check out a telemarketing opportunity at the local State Farm Insurance (now Desjardins) agency.

“I went down there and I got hired,” Edmondson recalled. “I knew that was the path I wanted, and I quickly realized this is my dream — I would want to own my own insurance agency.

“Simple things that I’d worried about — not having that business office experience — started becoming more irrelevant. I saw the big picture…These people were making differences in the lives of the community, and they were helping people.”

Edmondson acknowledges the opportunity to run her own business is very different than a lot of women who want to take on senior management leadership roles. For example, she has some flexibility to set her own hours. “But I do realize that a lot of women are challenged by hours they think their position requires, and they’re trying to balance their personal life with their professional life.

“You might find me here at my office at eight in the morning, typically you will,” Edmondson said. “And I’m often here past 5, but I don’t have to be. Other times, I’ve been curbside at 3 a.m., standing with a family, trying to console them while their house is burning.”

In the end, Edmonson followed her passion. “I had a dream, and I was not going to let go of that dream.”