January 17, 2018 by David Gambrill
Membership numbers for the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) show significantly more men than women are broker principals in Ontario, although the association sees reasons for optimism that the gap is starting to shrink.
Numbers released in the IBAO’s 2017 Annual report show that, among IBAO’s membership base, 79 per cent of broker principals are male, whereas only 21 per cent are female.
But within the overall IBAO membership, 63 per cent of IBAO’s 11,915 members are women, whereas only 37 per cent are male.
Raising the obvious question: Why are there so few women broker principals, when there are more women IBAO members than men?
IBAO says the overall numbers in 2017 paint a misleading picture of recent demographic trends in the broker marketplace.
“At first glance, these numbers paint an unbalanced picture of female leaders in the broker channel, but numbers from our Convention this past October tell a different story,” IBAO chairwoman Traci Boland told Canadian Underwriter Tuesday. “We’re seeing a lot of female leaders emerge within our membership despite what hard numbers might suggest.”
Boland said a higher percentage of female brokers attended IBAO’s 2017 annual convention in Ottawa than men (54% women versus 46% men). This is significant, she said, because of the leadership content provided at the conference.
“Convention’s geared for an audience of thought leaders and strategic roles within a brokerage,” she said. “Educational content focuses on subjects like succession planning, brokerage technology and broker valuation.”
Not only was the content geared towards leadership level roles, but also more people attending the 2017 convention were in leadership roles. This past year’s attendance by more women than men was telling, Boland said, because the Convention was held this year in Ottawa. [In the past, the convention is most often held in Toronto and sometimes in Niagara Falls].
IBAO’s 2017 annual convention required an investment in travel expenses for brokerage members to attend the convention. “Brokerages weren’t sending front-line staff as a result of added travel and accommodation costs,” said Boland — essentially saying that women attending the conference were more likely to have been in leadership roles.
Certainly, the IBAO is promoting leading women within its membership ranks. The association’s 2017 Young Broker of the Year was Ashley Holmes, operations manager at Roughley Insurance Brokers.
As for the “hard data,” there are many ways to slice it, Boland noted. “Data from this year’s annual report revealed a slight increase of female principal brokers compared to 2016 numbers, so we may be at a tipping point when it comes to female leadership within the channel.”
IBAO’s 2016 Annual Report showed 80 per cent of broker principals were men, indicating a one per cent year-over-year increase of the number of female broker partners.