The number of female leaders in our industry continues to rise and within Benefits Alliance, we see every day how these ladies are making an impact. We reached out to hear about what female leaders are an inspiration to them.
A female leader who inspires me is Arianna Huffington. Her book Thrive is a great reminder about the difference between ‘striving’ and ‘thriving’. A perspective switch on what we think success is. — Simone Marshall, Belay Advisory
Interestingly, a lack of direct female leadership has inspired me. I have never had the pleasure of directly reporting to a woman. This absence has impacted my career path. My experience never reporting to a leader who is a woman is core to why I myself have become a leader in the group benefits industry.
When I joined the benefits industry back in 2006, I was part of the GWL, NS Resource Center. With the exception of group benefits, all other product lines in the office were run by wonderful, strong women – Andrea Leet, April Stronik and Jaime Lavers. Normalizing the fact that women were leading successful teams was a more subtle influence but being in the same office where there were more women leading than men was inspiring. – Meghan Vallis, Equitable Life
So many to choose from, but I will mention one that continues to have an impact on me personally and professionally not just aspirational!
Marlene Higgins, VP of HR at Structurlam, one of North America’s largest manufactures of Mass Timber. What inspires me about Marlene as a leader is her authenticity and instinctual leadership style. She demonstrates that being a female executive in a male dominated industry only adds value by bringing a different perspective and lived experience. I’m sure this has translated into her passion for not just being a supportive mentor but providing real opportunities for women to gain upward mobility in their careers. — Chantell Arsenault, CapriCMW
My grandmother, for being the perfect example of what it means to press on for 100 years! Her secret to a long life? Working hard, loving your family and beer, but only one glass a day, everything in moderation. — Michelle Wegner, Empire Life
Hands down SARA BLAKELY – Founder of Spanx. It’s impressive to the perseverance that Sara had to push her idea for SPANX through despite many failures and hesitations from investors, we need more female mother entrepreneurs in the world! — Sarah Mark, CapriCMW
Perhaps the emergence of strong female senior leaders is more prevalent in the Group Benefits industry now but when I started my career in this field in 2000, there were much fewer females in senior leadership positions. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of working with dynamic, dedicated professionals both male and female. When asked which female leader inspires you? I was fortunate to have a couple spring to mind for their strong mentorship and guidance throughout my career. But one clearly stands out- Carole Yari. I first met Carole when working as an Account Executive for a firm providing wholesale pooled benefits to RWAM Insurance Administrators. In building a block of business with RWAM, many of the projects we collaborated on needed review from an administration, claims and IT perspective. I quickly discovered that Carole was not only responsible for leading those departments, but she also had in fact built the RWAM Group system. If there was a question about systems or workflow processes, inevitably Carole would be the one to provide resolution and ideas for steps forward. I learned that Carole had taken a career path not so typical of a female professional in that time period- she worked as a programmer, became a leader in IT and developed integral systems for the successful growth of RWAM as a TPA. 30 years ago, these technical roles were more commonly held by men. Carole took a natural step into the leadership of claims and administration as their functions were a direct extension of the systems she built and remained committed to develop. She also became one of the first Vice President’s of TPAAC, an association in which RWAM was a founding member. In working with Carole in a supplier capacity over the course of 6 years, I developed a strong sense of respect and admiration for not only her knowledge and work ethic but also her resilience and innovation. When presented with the opportunity to join the RWAM team, I accepted the challenge based on my awareness of the RWAM culture and the knowledge that I would be working among talented, entrepreneurial leaders such as Carole. With the Home Hardware purchase of RWAM in 2020, we have realigned some of our teams. Holding the position of Associate Vice President of Group Distribution for Ontario and Eastern Canada, I now have the pleasure of reporting to Carole in her role as Chief Executive Officer. Even after three decades in the industry, Carole still leads with enthusiasm, charisma and a professionalism that is rare. RWAM is committed to improving the client experience with Carole still leading initiatives that continue to facilitate the expansion of our use of technology and overall, our desire to be the provider of choice for our advisor partners. My inspiration to grow within this industry is drawn from many individuals and experiences, but the knowledge that a strong female leader before me has helped to forge the way, is a reminder that with hard work and perseverance, we all have the ability to make an impact and inspire others regardless of our role or gender. — Justine Lee, RWAM