President and CEO
Kathy Bardswick joined The Co-operators in 1978 and has held progressively senior roles since joining the company. In 2002, she was appointed president and CEO. Under her leadership, the company has prospered, and today is recognized as a leader in the Canadian insurance industry.
IBC: What asset do you feel most helped you get where you are today?
I would say the most important tool is my love of the business. I think the insurance industry is such a noble industry and does such important work globally. My heart is in this industry. I’ve always counselled people to do what they love, and I love this industry. The folks around me all feel similarly about the role that they play in a very important industry.
IBC: Do you feel there are barriers to women’s achievement in the insurance space?
As a young woman, I didn’t really pay a whole lot of attention to how the industry was receiving women at the time. I was treated fairly and equally in my world. I think the industry, at least in this country, has a number of CEOs who are women. It’s really taken for granted that we’re going to see women in those roles. My sense is it’s becoming a non-issue, at least in this country. … If there are barriers, I suggest that they might be more organization-specific now rather than a systemic issue within the industry.
IBC: What advice would you give to women looking to make their mark in the insurance business?
There are two issues women need to think about. One is whether they’re putting themselves out there as easily as their male counterparts. I think women still tend to hold back from that. The second issue is, I know there are women who, if they want family and children, don’t necessarily have as strong an ability to balance as I have. But I think the chase for the seat is never wise. It’s not the seeking out of the chair, it’s seeking out the impact they can have.
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