March 11, 2021 by Jason Contant
Lorie Phair, president, Canadian Broker Network
Women fight the stigma that you can’t be pleasant and kind while confident and assertive at the same time, said Lorie Phair, president of the Canadian Broker Network.
“In fact, I was told once that I was too nice to be in a major, senior role,” Phair said.
Another barrier for women looking to get into senior executive positions is that women, in general, are not self-promoters and are less apt to “just go for it.”
“Women tend to second-guess themselves as to their credentials and experience, and often sell themselves short,” Phair observed. “They often feel they have to have 100%-plus of the requirements for a position, whereas men are more apt to put their hand up for any opportunity… or they sell themselves into an opportunity.”
That said, women should be careful not to make assumptions about what’s unfolding during one-on-one or group conversations. “You have to be careful not to say, ‘Oh, I’m being disrespected or not being regarded as a woman,’” Phair said. “We have to be careful we don’t go down that slippery slope. You always have to make sure you are seeking first to understand the situation you’re dealing with, and then deal with it appropriately.
“You still have to be worthy of an opportunity. You have to have the right skills and experience.”
An organization needs to have a supportive culture that welcomes the advancement of women, Phair added. Companies will see the benefit of having a diverse and inclusive culture that’s actually institutionalized within the organization. “It’s fine to say, ‘We do this,’ but they have got to be able to answer the question, ‘How?’ Give me examples, how are you inclusive?”
Creating training and mentoring for individuals and companies is important, Phair says. So is creating platforms to give women a voice and an opportunity to be heard and seen. “That’s at the industry level as well as within their respective organizations,” Phair said. “From a business perspective, I think we should also emphasize the huge economic benefits organizations really do experience through advancement of women.”
Not only is it the right thing to do out of sheer fairness, “I think studies also support the very real contributions that women make in the C-suite and on boards through their personal experiences, which are different, their different perspectives, and their different styles,” Phair said. “There really is a business case for more organizations to be more diverse and inclusive,” not just for women, but for diversity and inclusion all-around.
“The insurance industry, like many other industries, is notorious for being known as an ‘old boys’ club, but I think that’s changing slowly as more and more women move into senior roles and there’s more focus and attention brought to bear on the issue in general.”
For Phair, insurance wasn’t a chosen career path, despite her growing up in a family brokerage business and being used to discussing insurance around the table.
“In fact, after university, I was going to become an accountant. I was working at a [chartered accountant firm] in Toronto,” she said. “But my father, who owned the brokerage, called me one day… and really encouraged me to join him and my brother at the family business, and grow it together. Having a very supportive father and male figure certainly influenced and encouraged my career.”
Phair joined the family brokerage in Toronto in the mid-1980s and never looked back. From there, she moved on to a number of senior roles including running her own consulting business. “The industry has provided a great career and it’s been a wonderful journey!”