IBC’s Woman of Distinction: ‘Let's work together to promote diversity'

IBC’s Woman of Distinction: ‘Let's work together to promote diversity' | Insurance Business

IBC’s Woman of Distinction: ‘Let

Lynn Oldfield is a warmly regarded name in the Canadian insurance industry.

She has been a strong influence at AIG Canada since 1991, rising from leadership positions in financial lines, national accounts, M&A, and global risk solutions, to becoming president of the company in 2008, and CEO by 2010.

Oldfield is passionate about education, teaching Principles and Practices of Insurance at the Insurance Institute of Canada and contributing to updates of the IIC’s Chartered Insurance Professional Program. She created AIG Canada’s Emerging Leaders program and launched the Pay It Forward campaign, which connects young professionals with industry veterans.

She is a strong advocate of workforce diversity and was recently named the Insurance Business Canada Woman of Distinction 2017 – an accolade she described as “an incredible honour,” made even more so because of the “incredibly talented insurance professionals” she was up against.

“I would encourage every woman working in the P&C business to pursue for this award,” Oldfield told Insurance Business after receiving her honour. “I would love to see a continued vast slate of diverse candidates, growing their careers, investing in their own development and striving for the top.”

Oldfield is an inspiration for both men and women in the Canadian insurance industry. We caught up with her to find out more about leading AIG and building a more diverse workforce in Canada:

Why is it important to recognise woman in the insurance industry?

I think we’ve come miles in terms of women taking their rightful place in significant leadership roles in the P&C insurance industry in Canada. However, I think we still need to shout out examples. Female leaders need to reach down and elevate our young ladies up that ladder with us. There’s still work to be done in moving forward gender equity and pay equity in the leadership ranks of insurance companies.

What’s the key to your success?

As a leader, I’ve spent much of my career honing a leadership style that resonates with people. I strive to treat everyone with respect and transparency, and to be completely genuine and authentic in every interaction, whether it’s with an employee, a broker partner, a client or a competitor. Everyone has a story and I try to spend time listening to those stories. I take a lot of input before making decisions, which I think provides diversity of thought around the leadership table. I believe that diversity makes us more successful, and it certainly makes me a more well-rounded leader.  

Have you faced any memorable challenges in your career?

The greatest challenge of my career was the global financial crisis in 2008, and AIG’s unique role in that crisis. We were fortunate in that AIG has a very talented team who were able to work with our clients and brokers to retain our business relationships at a time when we were in the headlines for receiving tarp funding. I believe we did a great job by communicating constantly and being very transparent throughout the crisis, which meant our team could do what they do best, and do right by our brokers and clients. It was a defining leadership moment in my career.

You’re IBC’s Woman of Distinction 2017. How do we get more women into the insurance industry?

I’m a huge proponent of hiring the right person for the role. To do that, I think the insurance industry can do a number of things:

  1. First and foremost, ensure there is a diverse set of candidates for every single opportunity.
  2. Be systematic about training and development and ensure that everyone puts their hands up for opportunities.
  3. Create early leadership and young professional development programs.

I believe it is important to recognize that it’s not a gender issue – rather, it’s a young family problem. We’ve introduced flexible and remote work arrangements to benefit families and the results speak for themselves. Our employee engagement scores are up, and productivity has also increased as a result. I’m also a huge advocate of bringing women back into the workforce after they’ve taken time out to raise children. You don’t forget your skills, education and experience because you’ve taken a couple of years off. In fact, some of our most talented professionals are men and women who’ve spent some time out with their families.

How can we get more women into C-Suite insurance roles?

I believe that mentorship and sponsorship are critical. By sponsorship, I mean speaking on behalf of candidates who are not in the room and are not speaking up for themselves. We need to coach more women to go for it and raise their hands, because you don’t always need 100% of the qualifications to apply for a job posting and be considered.

I think as employers, we need to ask for a diverse set of candidates, and most importantly, we need men as our allies. With senior executive men walking beside us to implement a diverse recruitment system, we have proven that diverse teams perform better and deliver a better bottom line.

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