Canadian Underwriter

Theresa Teixeira, Travelers Canada

March 11, 2022   by David Gambrill

Theresa Teixeira

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Theresa Teixeira, Chief Underwriting Officer, Travelers Canada

“The industry has really evolved to a wonderfully warm and inviting place for women to realize their full potential, and is far more equipped to support varied family dynamics,” says Theresa Teixeira, chief underwriting officer at Travelers Canada.

“I have three children – my youngest two were adopted 12 years ago – and I’ve personally witnessed real tangible progress surrounding supporting various family dynamics, especially at organizations such as Travelers,” Teixeira says. “Today for example, I’m on a team that is diverse and 50% women.”

However, as much as the industry has become “exceptional at embracing diversity, not all organizations are created equal” she adds.

Her advice to women who join the industry or aspire to leadership positions is to first “do their homework” on how the company they wish to join treats women and diversity issues.

“Most importantly, stay focused, walk with swagger, punch above your weight, assume you belong and of course this business loves a good work ethic,” she advises.

This sentiment has stayed with Teixeira since she first joined the P&C world.

“One of my first roles was as a field representative – I know it’s hard to believe in this day and age, but I was one of the first women in the industry to undertake such a role,” Teixeira recalls. “A field representative ‘owned’ a territory, met with brokers (at the time, mostly male) and inspected risks.

“Many of my stories are light-hearted, but they underline some of the adversity and challenges of the day. At that time, I felt like I needed to wear high heels to be taken seriously as a female professional. This involved climbing ladders to inspect risks — yes, in heels. Being chased by dogs at one of the many manufacturers that we insured — again in heels. Being the only woman on the team, work events and meetings were geared to men — I learned to golf after one of my staff sent a Golfing for Dummies book to my new boss, suggesting that I should in particular read the golf etiquette section!”

Despite this, Teixeira says she still considers that period of her career to be an opportunity to challenge the norm and grow.

“I’ve always felt that there were no obstacles to success except what plays out in one’s own head,” she says. “I try to treat adversity as a challenge that fuels my personal ambition. And when I’ve been able to visualize myself in a role, I would treat that as a sign to put a plan in place.”

The “Great Resignation” driven by the pandemic and an aging population will likely create many leadership opportunities for women in the industry, Teixeira believes.

“As roles are filled, the industry needs to prioritize leadership representation that reflects our community,” Teixeira says. “It goes without saying that companies demonstrating a strong commitment to employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, as well as making mental health a priority, are far more likely not only to have high employee engagement, but also a measure of overall success. The industry therefore needs to stay focused in this regard.”