Canadian Underwriter

Voices of P&C women

March 8, 2023   by David Gambrill

Women portraits of different nationalities and cultures.

Print this page Share

Happy International Women’s Day, 2023.

To celebrate the accomplishments of women in the Canadian P&C industry, Canadian Underwriter has reached out to 20 of the industry’s women leaders. We asked how they got into the industry and what the industry can do to make it easier for women who aspire to be its next generation of leaders.

Here are their voices.

It is hoped our one-week newsletter series will inspire ideas to help promote women into senior leadership positions within the P&C industry going forward.

Women dominate the P&C industry workforce. Only in the health care/social work and educational sectors do women have a greater representation. Women make up just over 62% of the P&C workplace, according to a 2018 demographic study undertaken by the Insurance Institute of Canada — up from about 60% found in a similar Institute demographic study in 2007.

Within the P&C industry itself, women are most represented in the areas of human resources, legal services and underwriting. They are under-represented in the roles of information technology, appraisers, claims investigators, and commercial and specialty brokers.

In senior management roles, women were making some headway as of 2018.

“Women have the highest degree of representation in front-line management roles, where they account for 59% of employment,” the IIC observed in its 2018 demographic study. “Women also have a high degree of representation among middle management positions in the P&C insurance industry, where they account for 49% of the people employed in this occupation….

“Women’s share of senior management positions in the P&C insurance industry has shown the most improvement over the past decade, rising from 28% to 35%.”

While this proportion of women in senior leadership ranks is better than within the broader Canadian workforce, and within the financial services industry generally, “there is still room for improvement,” as the Insurance Institute noted.

Within the Canadian workforce as a whole, you can see that while women manage to escalate into middle management, the tendency is for them to stay locked in those roles, with no further chance of advancement.

Statistics Canada now has a web page dedicated to DEI statistics, showing how many women have been able to climb the corporate ladder. It shows that for all occupations, men held 64.6% of senior management positions in 2022, while 32.5% were held by women. That’s better than five years ago, when 71.4% of men held senior management positions and women 28.6%.

The disparity is particularly obvious when you look at the level of male-dominated corporate board directorships and the proportion of privately controlled companies — which describes many Canadian brokerage business models — owned by men. In 2019, for example, 80.8% of all corporate boards in all industries in Canada were populated by men, while only 19.2% of board directors were women. And 63.4% of private businesses in Canada were owned by men, whereas 20.6% were women-owned.

Studies show more female representation in top senior leadership roles improves profitability.

A Pepperdine University study in the U.S. found 25 Fortune 500 firms with the best record of promoting women into high positions were 18% to 69% more profitable than the median firms in their industries, the U.S.-based Leadership Research Institute observed.

Likewise, the impact of women C-suite executives on profitability is spelled out in a 2022 Peterson Institute for International Economics Study. “…[T]he correlation between women at the C-suite level and firm profitability is demonstrated repeatedly, and the magnitude of the estimated effects is not small,” the report observed. “For example, a profitable firm at which 30% of leaders are women could expect to add more than 1% to its net margin compared with an otherwise similar firm with no female leaders.

“By way of comparison, the typical profitable firm in our sample had a net profit margin of 6.4%, a 1% increase represents a 15% boost to profitability…”

Nine in 10 Canadian P&C brokers noted DEI practices are important to their organizations, according to a 2022 survey of more than 200 brokers by Canadian Underwriter and Sovereign Insurance.

Among other things, they found not having gender and other forms of diversity representation leads to cultural risks such as ‘groupthink,’ as alluded to recently by guidance provided by Canada’s financial solvency regulator, the Office for the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.

Additionally, the brokers said, the risks of not having DEI policies and procedures included losing good employees (47%), losing access to the best new talent (46%), reputational risk and image management (32%), risk of homogeneity or groupthink (30%), losing clients or customers (28%), falling behind the competition (21%) and risk of overconfidence or loss of creativity (17%).

We hope your reading of our profiles over the next week will inspire creative thought within the industry.


Feature image courtesy of