Coalition celebrates International Women’s Day
International Women's Day celebrates how far women have come, and how much further we have to go, in paving the future in what has previously been recognized as male-dominated societies, politics and economics around the globe. Women everywhere are leading initiatives that have made big impacts on society. Take biochemist Katalin Karikó, for example. She was foundational in developing the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology that was used to produce the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. If that's not impressive enough, UN Women are leading and driving change in climate adaption, mitigation and solutions with the launch of Action Coalition for Feminist Action for Climate Justice . Change, no matter how great or small, starts with all of us. And while Coalition may be just one small company, we, too, have the power to make a difference.
To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, we connected with our Employee Resource Group (ERG), Women of Coalition, on how we can #BreakTheBias and create a more gender equal world. Our Women of Coalition share what breaking the bias means to them, how they’ve overcome barriers as women in their careers, what advice they have for others, plus so much more.
Here’s how they responded.
The slogan for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. What does that mean to you?
A gender equal world where my voice is no different than his, hers or theirs. — Catherine Lyle, Head of Claims
Let's break down the prejudice, the partiality, the favoritism and unfair treatment of women in our world. It means there should be no difference between what I'm paid to do my job and what a male colleague makes doing the same job. It means that simply because a woman chooses to have a child or children does not mean that she loses her place in line for promotion. It means that we should not tolerate any viewpoint that a man's aggressiveness in the workplace is a positive, but a woman's aggressiveness in the workplace is a negative. It means that decisions on the merits — whether it be in sports, in the classroom, in the workplace, or the boardroom — should be blind to gender. It means never hearing,"But you're a woman" as a reason something can't be done or achieved. #Let'sBreaktheCycleNOW — Vanessa Vargas, Head of Legal and Compliance
What barriers have you faced as a woman in your career and how did you overcome them?
Being a female in a male dominated industry can be difficult, but you cannot succumb to the pressures that we face. Being a woman in this industry means supporting other women around you and encouraging and celebrating their success. If you see something, say something. — Kelly McGuinness, Production Underwriting Team Lead, Canada
Over my 28-year career as a lawyer, I have faced a variety of potential barriers, including poor managers, office politics, and male-dominated cultures. What I learned is that spending less time attempting to fight those barriers head-on — and more time focusing on developing key relationships that would give me a way up or out — yielded the best results and allowed me to keep my sanity. For example, I found that the best way to counter a poor manager was to be proactive in my own development path, forging relationships with other leaders in the organization, and taking responsibilities off my manager's plate in order to demonstrate how vital I am to the team's productivity. As for male-dominated cultures, most of the organizations that I've been part of have been led by men with predominantly male leadership teams. In these situations, I think it's important to make sure you grab a seat at the table, listen carefully, and have the confidence to speak up when you have something important to say. I don't believe that women need to act like men in order to be accepted by them, but I do think it's important to understand the differences in our communication styles and know how to make your points in a way that will be heard by your audience. — Vanessa Vargas, Head of Legal and Compliance
I’ve overcome being told that I’m not qualified to do my job or I’m not as smart as my peers who are men. I've worked hard and created a good reputation for myself. I hate saying that I’ve “proved myself" because no one should have to "prove" their worth and their capabilities, but I have shown that I am capable and qualified to do my job just as well — if not better — than my male peers. — Blair Engeldrum, Business Development
What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve been given?
Try to avoid working with someone who has no sense of humor was the best advice from my mom. — Catherine Lyle, Head of Claims
No one is ever going to advocate for you the way that you can advocate for you. — Kelly Carter, Sales Operations Manager, Business Development
When I was a second year student in law school going through the recruiting process, I sought out some coaching from a third year student who had just finished her summer internship. She said to treat every interaction as a potential door to a new opportunity, and to go about these interactions like building solid, long-lasting bridges, both personally and professionally. From the building staff, to the receptionist, to the interviewers, be authentic and professional in those interactions, and above all, be kind. You never know where you may cross paths again and how these bridges you build will weave into the bigger picture of your development. — Kirsten Mickelson, Claims Attorney
How do you support and lift up other women?
Mentoring other women is one of the most personally and professionally rewarding things I can do, and I love it. At one point in my career, I took on several mentees at once and made the time to frequently meet one-on-one. Even earlier in my career, I had a lot of value to provide because I wasn’t very far removed from where my mentees were at the time, and I related to the challenges of being a young woman in the legal profession. I enjoyed building relationships with my mentees and creating a safe space to openly discuss barriers and brainstorm how to break them. Additionally, it’s important to go beyond offering advice. I use my influence to advocate for each of my mentees and to give them the visibility and recognition they deserve. These relationships have gone both ways: many of my mentor-mentee relationships have turned into really wonderful, long-term friendships that I truly cherish. — Kirsten Mickelson, Claims Attorney
If I see women in my workplace being talked down to, spoken over, or generally overlooked, I will always make sure I communicate with them after the fact and let them know that I see them and will advocate for them. — Kelly McGuinness, Production Underwriting Team Lead, Canada
I try to make hiring pipelines for product management talent have strong female candidates so we can make sure we are diversifying our team and giving these opportunities to women. — Melanie Miller, Principal Product Manager
Having worked with so few women in my insurance career, I didn't realize how much support I was missing until I joined Coalition. I've always been blessed with great friendships in my personal life, but this is where I finally found support and encouragement from other professional women. Many of the women here have helped me elevate my perspective and find confidence in my voice. They've provided advice and support when needed, advocated for me behind closed doors, and they've championed my successes more than I have at times. In other roles I've held, it often felt like there were so few spaces for women that we needed to compete with each other. Rather than competing for a seat at the table, my female colleagues at Coalition have helped me grow my career by pulling up another chair to sit alongside them. — Jacque Jaeger, Business Development
What actions do you believe can be taken to address gender stereotypes?
There are still plenty of gender stereotypes, even in 2022. I've seen innocent assumptions being made that a woman does not desire more at work because of her gender or she has children. It’s also a mistake for any woman to assume that they will automatically be considered for bigger roles. I feel it is of utmost importance for women to communicate their career aspirations and then repeat them as often as needed. The door swings both ways on this issue though. It's also perfectly okay if you do not desire to climb the corporate ladder indefinitely. Knowing when you are personally fulfilled makes you better at any role you have as a woman. There is a need for all of us, no matter where we are on the corporate ladder. Being true to yourself and making your desires known are two of the most impactful lessons I've learned in my 18 year career, and frankly, in my life. — Michelle McArdle, Business Development
Who has been a role model (personal or professional) for you in your life?
My mom has been the biggest role model in my professional life. She attended college while my sister and I were small children. I saw her go from an unpaid internship in her early 30s to retiring as an Executive Vice President with the corner office. Go Mom! Watching her gave me an internal drive that I can't quite explain. It's just a part of who I am. When you are independent, you are confident. I know that no matter what happens, I'll be okay because I can take care of myself. The career that I have built, the personal relationships that I have made, and the confidence and independence I have gained through it all are invaluable. Thanks, Mom. I love you. — Michelle McArdle, Business Development
My biggest role in my life has been my mother, who has been breaking boundaries and gender stereotypes her entire career. My parents met when they were both electrical engineering majors in college. This is significant because, at the time, her program was only 4% female. She has worked in aerospace for 40 years, working her way up to being a director at NASA before she retired. What has truly had the biggest impact on me is that, as a child, I never saw her as an outlier; she was just my mother. And because she could do these things, there was no reason I couldn’t do them, too. When I went to college and studied mathematics, I was one of a handful of women in the entire program. I then worked in finance for several years, working my way onto a management team of 12 where I was the only woman. If it weren’t for my mother’s example, I don’t know if I ever would have gone into the career path I wanted to pursue. As a child, I was never told my interests in math and science were out of the ordinary, and I was never pushed to like other things that are more commonly associated with being feminine. Her impact has been profound on my career, and I truly don’t know where I would be without her. — Kelly Carter, Sales Operations Manager, Business Development
What do you think will be the biggest challenges the next generation of women will face?
I think many of the challenges that I've seen in my career will likely continue to be challenges for women in the next generation. For example: pay equity, the struggles between having a career and having a family, and the proverbial "glass ceiling." COVID certainly didn't help with some of these issues as women struggled to find child care or the costs of child care increased so much that it didn't make sense for them to keep working. While some things haven't changed, I'm excited to see more and more women entrepreneurs and women advancing to positions of leadership (albeit, not as fast or as many as I would like to see). I'm excited to see the number of female lawyers and engineers entering the market increasing. Heck, we have our first female Vice President in this country, and that's an amazing accomplishment! More men are taking paternity leave or opting to stay home with the kids, which is a great sign of the times and allows women to return to the workplace to pursue their careers instead of their male partners. I think that the remote work situation has been a huge win for female workers who often have to juggle maintaining a home, family/children/pet(s), and a career – but it doesn't offer a complete solution. My hope is that the next generation of women will work to resolve some of these ongoing issues and free themselves up to truly have it all. — Vanessa Vargas, Head of Legal and Compliance
What advice would you give women who are looking to join your career field?
When you break a glass ceiling or go through a virtual door, don't let the broken shards hit other women and don't let the door shut behind you. — Catherine Lyle, Head of Claims
Product Management is a very male-dominated profession. Don’t get caught up in being the only woman in the room. Most of my day is spent interacting with men and I’m often the only woman in meetings. Instead of focusing on that and feeling like I need to prove myself as the only woman, I aim to focus on my work, doing my job well, and forming relationships with my colleagues - regardless of gender. Having confidence and striving to do your job well will get you far in this field. People will learn they can rely on you and trust you to execute, and they'll pay less attention to your gender. Additionally, finding strong allies who support you and have your back can be a beneficial strategy. If you find yourself in a challenging situation, you have people who know what you are capable of and will back you up. — Melanie Miller, Principal Product Manager
I find that imposter syndrome impacts everyone at some level, but definitely women. Women are more likely to not apply to a role than men simply because they don't meet all the requirements. If you are looking for a new opportunity and you don't apply, that is your decision, but you are not going to be considered. We all get in our heads at times, and it’s best to take a moment, realize what you want, and make an actionable plan to get there professionally. — Sharon Markowitz, Senior Product Marketing Manager
Join the women of Coalition
Navigating a career in a male-dominated field like ours isn’t always easy, but the women of Coalition support one another to overcome biases and create pathways for women to succeed. If you’re interested in joining us, take a look at our open positions on our Careers page.