Is it more difficult being a woman in insurance?

Davina Boulineau, vice president of TD Insurance, joins IBTV to discuss recently being named one of IBC's Elite Women 2022. She explains the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated profession, whether or not women now have equal opportunities in the sector, and the importance of mentoring.

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Jen: [00:00:22] Hello everyone and welcome to the latest edition of Insurance Business TV. I'm Jen Frost, news editor Insurance Business. Today we're joined by Davina Boulineau, Vice President at TD Insurance Private Client Advice. We love celebrating success at IBTV and Davina has been selected by Insurance Business as an elite woman in insurance. Davina will be sharing her top tips for professional success, and we'll be talking about how far the industry has come on gender inclusion. Davina. Congratulations and welcome to the show.

Davina: [00:01:01] Thank you so much. I'm really excited to be here. 

Jen: [00:01:04] It's really great to have you on board, Davina. Thank you. First things first. Can you share some insight into your professional journey and how you got to your current role? 

Davina: [00:01:16] For sure. Yeah, I'd be happy to do that. I've been in the industry for 25 years now. It's really hard to believe that it's been this long, but I've been having a lot of fun doing insurance over the past few years. As I specialize in the high net worth insurance clients segment, I've done high net worth insurance from so different angles. I started as a customer service representative in a large call center very early on in my career. Then I became a broker. I led a high net worth team of brokers for a national firm. I've done underwriting for large and complex insurance portfolios. I've also done marketing and business development, managing high net worth brokers in Canada and the United States. And then about six years ago, I was hired by TD Insurance with a very specific mandate to define architect and execute a strategy for our high net worth insurance clients. And so we launched this business about five years ago now, and I'm extremely proud to say that this unit is the first direct to consumer insurance service in North America designed to preserve our clients lifestyles and wealth. It's going amazingly well. My team and I are having a lot of fun doing something that we're so passionate about and that we love, and I'm really excited to share that with you. 

Jen: [00:02:43] Thanks, Davina. Some pretty strong achievements there. I do want to ask, though, do you feel like being a woman in insurance has ever made your career more challenging? And how have you overcome any difficulties posed by this? 

Davina: [00:03:01] That's a great question. I've been in the industry for such a long time and I would be lying if I told you that I didn't have my fair share of challenges, especially in the early years when I entered the workforce. I was full of optimism and ambition and I knew I wanted to get into management, but I was always told that I was doing so well as a sole contributor and that management was boring and not for me really. And after a while, I honestly started to believe that maybe this was true and I couldn't lead anyone. And so getting the wrong advice didn't really help my confidence level. And I started doubting myself and my abilities to achieve my career goals. But lucky for me, I have a strong support system. My family, my closest friends in the insurance industry told me to not give up, and I listened and I kept pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. And I eventually got the leadership role. And the executive who hired me for the job saw diversity as a strength and not a weakness. And he decided to give me a shot. And sometimes that's really all people need. 

Jen: [00:04:20] So how important is mentoring to you? Have you had any great role models or mentors along the way? 

Davina: [00:04:28] Yes. I don't think I'd be where I am today in my career if it wasn't for the many mentors and sponsors that I've had over the years. I've learned so much from them and I'm so grateful that they were so willing to share their own experiences to help me navigate different challenges that I faced over the years in my career. Earlier on, I had so many insecurities. I was scared. I didn't want to show up, I didn't want to be seen, and I certainly did not want to speak up. And so mentorship has really helped me to figure myself out and tap into my full potential. It really made me strong, resilient, and it made me believe that I am enough and that I am okay as I am, including my strength, my weaknesses, my imperfections and my insecurities. And so, thanks to my mentors, I have learned to accept all of me while challenging myself to grow in ways that are super uncomfortable. And they help me become the leader that I am today, and which is a leader by design and not by default. So I'm really grateful for them. 

Jen: [00:05:42] Do you think we're now at a stage where women have equal opportunities in insurance? And if not, how can the industry do more to help? 

Davina: [00:05:52] And that's another great question. The short answer is no, I don't believe that we have equal opportunities yet. I mean, I still see a lot of women out there being considered for leadership roles based on their past and current accomplishments while men are being hired based on their potential. This isn't right and this needs to change. We want to be hired based on our potential to. And the fact of the matter is that women make up just over half of the Canadian population, and yet they continue to be underrepresented in professional leadership positions. And so the industry is doing really well in terms of getting female representation in entry level positions, but moving them up through the talent pipeline right into more senior leadership roles is still a challenge, I find. And so what I will say, though, is that I've seen a lot of progress in getting women to sit at the table in leadership positions, but there's still so much work to be done. And so if the industry could help, I would say it'd be nice to make it a priority to support the achievements of women leaders at all levels across the industry. And we want to empower them and help them to tap into their full potential through strategic initiatives and a few initiatives that I can think of. Is networking is one of them. Networking across the insurance industry is really important. Making sure we fully understand the aspirations of women at the executive level and supporting their development and then mentorship and sponsorship initiatives are also equally important to help women take their careers to the next level. 

Jen: [00:07:43] Davina, can you leave us with your top tips for insurance professionals looking to reach the elite status themselves? 

Davina: [00:07:52] Sure. The biggest tip that I could give is to never underestimate the power of mentorship. The importance of leaning on someone you trust for advice and guidance to help you navigate cannot be overstated. And so if you don't already have one, I would strongly recommend that you get multiple mentors, maybe 3 to 5 mentors, to get different perspectives. You can take bits and pieces of what each has to offer and decide for yourself what feels right for you at certain points in your career. Then after that I would say do not be afraid to network. Perhaps with other women. Networking is probably one of the most important thing women should do for their careers. It has so many great benefits. You get to meet people at all professional levels. You get to hear advice from peers and experts, experts in the industry, and it also help in boosting your confidence. So don't be afraid to network. And to be honest, women are stronger when they are together. So we really need to do everything we can to support and empower each other by showing togetherness, passion, excellence and enthusiasm in everything that we do. So these would be my top tips. 

Jen: [00:09:20] There you have it. Togetherness, passion, excellence and enthusiasm. Some really strong words. You know, you've left us with lots of food for thought today. Thank you so much for joining us on the show. 

Davina: [00:09:33] Thank you for having me. 

Jen: [00:09:35] It's been great having you with us. Thank you also to you, our viewers. Don't forget to check out more of our videos, podcast and daily news at I'm Jen Frost, News Editor Insurance Business.