Having a baby can sometimes cause a road-block in career advancement so it is essential for firms to have the right tools in place to help women continue to propel forwards.
Alexandra Spence, director of marketing and operations at Berkley Canada is currently on maternity leave with her second child, and is trying to stay connected with the business to prepare for a smooth transition back to work.
“I found coming back to work after my first child to be challenging,” she said. “It almost felt like starting from scratch again.”
Spence believes that better communication could help women stay on the career ladder after motherhood without feeling like they are swimming upstream.
“From my experience I feel like there’s a lot of stop-start, so I wonder what we can do as an industry to support women who want to have a family but are still very interested in advancing their careers,” said Spence.
“We need to have more conversations in advance about what role they are going back into and how we can make sure they are going to be engaged when they return. Women want to come back and continue to be an important member of the team,” she added.
As a graduate of Dalhousie University, Spence initially stumbled into the insurance industry, working as an underwriter at AIG, followed by a brief stint at NEOnet before joining Berkley as a marketing coordinator in 2011.
Balancing a family with her career at Berkley has been manageable for Spence as a result of the firm’s supportive and flexible policy.
“I can’t commend them enough for how supportive they are in recognizing that we are all people and we do have an outside life,” she said.
Spence has been fortunate to work with numerous male and female mentors during her career and she is a strong advocate of the mentoring system. While she does not feel that her gender has held her back at all, she does believe that women sometimes have a hard time seeking advancements.
“It can be challenging to figure out when and where it’s appropriate to have discussions on tangible career opportunities,” she said. “There is a big leap from middle management to more senior positions.”
Spence hopes to encourage more women to join the insurance world.
“This is a really dynamic industry with a lot of opportunities,” she said. “It’s what you choose to make of it.”