March 9, 2023 by Gloria Cilliers
Tara Laidman, Vice President, P&C Business Operations, The Co-operators
“Our first obstacle as women in P&C is the lack of awareness or information about careers in our industry,” says Tara Laidman, vice president of P&C business operations at The Co-operators.
“We don’t do enough to educate the future workforce about the amazing opportunities and the enormous range of possible careers that exist in insurance. We need to get in front of high school, university and college students and inspire them to become strong, successful women in our industry.”
Laidman recalls she herself didn’t intend to find herself in the industry, at first.
“I went to university and left with a Major in Psychology and a double minor in Criminal Justice Public Policy and Sociology,” she says. “After graduation, I was taking a short break to work while deciding between law school and teachers’ college, so I started working at the Co-operators. I never made it to law school.
“Today, 18 years later, I’m constantly encouraging others to consider a career in the industry, and in leadership. I have had the opportunity to work with amazing leaders at Co-operators who have helped me see that I could have a very promising career in insurance. They’ve given me a variety of opportunities to gain experience, including leading strategic initiatives that allowed me to expand my skills and build my career.”
Some women, herself included, put obstacles in their own way when it comes to applying for leadership positions, Laidman believes. “We may hesitate because we think we don’t meet 100% of the requirements for the role, rather than focusing on those valuable transferable skills and experiences that we do have that would allow us to be successful in leadership roles,” she explains.
“I think the P&C industry could help by finding more opportunities to demonstrate and articulate how we recognize the value of female leaders, and the unique perspectives they can bring,” says Laidman. “There is no longer one cookie-cutter model for an insurance leader, both in terms of leadership style and strengths. We need to encourage women to be their authentic selves as leaders because, in my opinion, that is where the magic happens.”
Laidman considers herself “fortunate to be surrounded by strong, empowered women, both professionally and personally, who encourage and support each other.”
This support system “fuels my confidence and has had such a positive impact on me and my career,” she says. “It’s imperative the industry and the companies we work for help promote both formal and informal mentoring networks. These networks provide opportunities for women to see other women in leadership positions who can inspire them and, more importantly, share their knowledge.
“And those of us who are in leadership, who have had the benefit of these relationships early in their career, need to pay it forward. We need to get involved and actively mentor women in our organizations and the broader industry.”
Laidman believes the unique and diverse perspectives of each leader brings success to a team, a company, and ultimately the industry.
“Organizations need to ensure they have a strong diversity and inclusion strategy, one that promotes an overall understanding of the benefits of leadership diversity, which includes action plans to ensure its strategy comes to fruition,” Laidman says. “I’m incredibly proud to work for an organization that has inclusion as a key value and indicator of success and is committed to embracing the diversity of all Canadians.”