It’s important for women in Canada’s insurance industry to hear stories about the paths other women leaders have taken to achieve success, said the winner of a national leadership award from the Insurance Institute of Canada.
“We need to give more visibility to the stories of successful women leaders in our industry,” said Renée-Léa Soucy, senior manager of commercial insurance with Co-operators in Laval, Que. “It is important for women to hear about the paths our women leaders have taken to achieve their success, so aspiring leaders can see how they can take a similar journey. We get inspired by the leaders who are similar to us.”
Soucy won the Institute’s 2022 National Leadership Award in the Emerging Leader category on Monday. She spoke with Canadian Underwriter about what changes are needed to encourage more women to get into senior executive roles, among other topics.
Having women leaders in senior executive positions inspires other women to believe they have the opportunity to follow the same path, and it gives their ambitions credibility, Soucy added. “We need to believe in ourselves, and when we see women in a senior executive role, it’s helping to see it’s achievable. That’s really something that can aspire us.
“It also benefits the organization overall to highlight diversity in our leadership teams and acknowledge how diverse perspectives help improve business outcomes.”
How can the industry better attract future leaders?
For Soucy, it’s important to have a meaningful job where she feels valued and has the opportunity to make a positive impact. The values of the business must align with the values of the person to attract people and make them feel like they are part of the company and part of the leadership team, Soucy said. For example, a lot of young people are concerned about sustainability. This aligns with the principles of sustainability and social responsibility at Co-operators.
The industry also must continue to evolve and adapt to the values and priorities of current and future generations, Soucy said. “We know people coming into the workforce today value flexibility and work-life balance. Work-life balance is so important now, I think more than ever.”
It’s never too early to develop a future leader, she added. “We need to continue investing in the development of our people by providing mentorship and personal learning opportunities, including leadership skills development,” Soucy said. “Finding a good mentor can make a big difference.”
Soucy encourages emerging leaders to ask questions if they are interested in reaching a career in management. “Don’t be shy to ask questions to the manager in place,” she said. “If you want to follow a path you need to know what the [other managers] have done.”
Soucy said she was inspired to get into the insurance industry by her father, who had a career as a life and wealth insurance broker. He took care of his clients the same way as he did with his family, Soucy said.
“He always seemed to love what he was doing,” she recalled. “So, I decided to study general insurance with the goal of working with him to offer his clients a complimentary service. I was inspired by him, especially the connection he had with his clients and his involvement in the community.”