March 8, 2021 by Adam Malik
Susan Murphy, president, Hub Ontario
The path Susan Murphy took is not necessarily one that she would recommend for young women in the insurance industry.
While the president of Hub Ontario was progressing in her career, Murphy would often be the only female in the meeting room. She’d be the only female travelling with a group of executives. When she’d meet with brokers, 90% of the people in the room would be men.
She felt the support of her male colleagues and had her share of mentors — both female and male. She didn’t see being female as a disadvantage. “But as I look back on it now, it was so important for me to progress in my career that very early on, I made the decision to fit in and kind of be one of the guys,” Murphy said.
Trying to fit in is something she wouldn’t do again. “The advice I give to a lot of the young women in the networks that I talk to today is: That was a mistake for me,” Murphy told Canadian Underwriter. “So I really push them: Don’t try to fit in. Don’t try to be one of the guys. Make sure that you stand out. Make sure you have a voice.”
She believes the responsibility for having a voice falls on women. They need to be at the front driving change, she advised.
“We need to create those networks. We need to make sure we’ve got the mentorship capabilities available for women coming into the industry to keep women in the industry, even as their lifestyle changes,” Murphy said. “How do we keep them in the industry? Maybe it looks a little bit different at different periods. But we’ve got to drive that change, too.”
She pointed to progress made in just the last 10 years where different women’s groups have emerged, along with events and advocates. “It’s amazing to see what we have today versus what we had even 10 years ago. But we have to remember that we have to help lead this change as well,” Murphy said.
“So it just goes back to my point: Let’s not try to fit in. Let’s have a voice. Let’s be advocates for each other and for ourselves. And really be aggressive at driving this forward, because it’s for all the right reasons.”
She considers herself lucky because she was surrounded by great people. But barriers still exist.
“Our industry historically in Canada has been a predominantly white male industry. And the industry tends to hire like-minded individuals,” Murphy said. “And I think that’s [the same in] many industries.”
The industry needs to evolve and seek out diversification, whether it’s in gender equality or equity and inclusions, she said. “We have to stop that process around just hiring like-minded people because it makes us comfortable,” Murphy observed. “We all know that having more gender diversity or purity in an organization benefits that organization in so many ways, not only from a shareholder value perspective, but different perspectives. Culture is different. How we engage our employees is so different.”
Another barrier is lack of balance when it comes to work and life. “Our industry hasn’t historically been very flexible in what a work environment looks like for a working parent,” she observed.
This is an industry where a lot happens in the evenings. “The five to nine is really where things happen,” Murphy said.
So allowing for flexibility and allowing for people to have better balance will help everyone, especially women.
“That flexibility — whether someone’s in the office, whether they’re working from home, whether they’re working in the evening, and they’re not [in the office] because they’ve got other priorities — we’ve got to get better at that,” Murphy said. “Historically, that hasn’t been what our industry has been like.”