Women in the Workplace | Celyeste Power

Featuring Celyeste Power, Insurance Bureau of Canada President & CEO 

What’s your career journey been to get where you are today? 

As a political nerd, I was a Page in the House of Commons Page Program in my first year of University and that ultimately led me to start my career in politics, where I spent seven years working for a variety of Ministers including as Issues Manager to the Prime Minister of Canada. It was an incredible opportunity and I learned a lot. I learned how to think critically and quickly in stressful, fast-moving environments. I also learned the importance of building consensus and ensuring all voices are heard in the decision-making process. 

After my stint in politics, I begun working at IBC about 10 years ago. I’d planned to stay at IBC for only a short period of time, but I decided to build my career in insurance because of the passion and dedication I witnessed from right across the industry. Whether it was the kindness people showed me as I was learning about the industry, to experiencing how this industry pulled together to rebuild a community after the Fort McMurray wildfires and countless natural catastrophes since, I’m struck by the people who make up our industry. It’s an incredible privilege to represent our members, and one that I don’t take lightly.

What advice did you receive along the way that’s been most impactful? 

Whenever I get asked this question, instead of giving the best advice I’ve ever received I like to share the worst advice I ever received, because good advice came from it. In my first few years in the industry, people would tell me that I should be more like one of the guys in the office—I’ll call him Bob. Bob was a smooth talker. He dressed in three piece suits. He was very polished. Very serious. I wanted to be successful and so I took that advice—I tried to be more like Bob. But, in time I realized I’m not Bob. I’m terrible at being Bob. I decided to lean into what makes me, well, me. So the worst advice I’ve ever received was to be like someone else. And, from that, I think the best piece of advice I can share is to be authentic. Be you. Of course we all have areas to grow and we shouldn’t stop doing that, but don’t lean away from the things that have brought you this far, the things that are authentically you.  

What’s the most rewarding part of your role?

The thing that motivates me the most in my current role and all throughout my career is people. Helping people, leading people, working with people—even debating people! I am passionate about people. I was always the kid in school that was thrilled when there was a group project so we could bring in different perspectives and expertise. I’m still thrilled today that when a challenge arises, I have an incredible team of people surrounding me and a brilliant Board to engage. I also love giving new people opportunities and seeing them run with it. Sometimes they do the complete opposite of what I would do (and for a moment, honestly I’m a little nervous) and then they bring it all together and deliver strong. Even better, they’re excited and motivated. I not only learn that I have an incredibly capable colleague to lean on but also that you can do things in a completely different way and it will still be successful. So, people is what is most rewarding to me. Those I work with, the members I serve and the consumers that depend on our industry.

What are your observations on women in leadership positions in the insurance industry? 

I read an article a while ago in the Globe & Mail on the gender gap across the national work force. It wasn’t specific to our industry, but the findings won’t surprise anyone. Let me give you one quote, that I think sums it up, “Women are outnumbered, outranked and out-earned by men not just at the very top, but on the way to the top and in the middle.” We’ve got a long way to go. I think we’re seeing more and more women in management roles, but there are still gaps at the executive tables. We’re slowly chipping away at it, but there’s more to do. I feel, quite passionately, that once you get into a leadership role, it’s your, and my, responsibility to help the next woman get there. Having an advocate—and I’ve had a few—has helped me immensely. And I take my responsibility to now be an advocate for others very seriously. I believe we’ll get there, especially when I meet the new generation of women joining the workforce. They give me so much hope for the future. They are a force to be reckoned with and I love it!  

In what ways can female employees be better supported and empowered? 

There are a lot of ways. Early on in your career, seeing other women in leadership positions is inspiring—it helps you see a path for yourself. Mentorship is incredibly important and rewarding for both the mentor and the mentee. 

I think we’re still seeing women shoulder more of the burden at home, and finding ways to offer more flexibility is critical. In this hybrid environment, we’re going to have to be incredibly thoughtful in making sure that we’re not overlooking women who may need to work from home more often than others. We need to be deliberate about confronting proximity biases. And we need to understand that parents of any gender may need to step back a bit when they have young children, and we need to make sure that they aren’t penalized or overlooked because of it. It’s a big challenge in particular for working moms, for women who may be looking after elderly parents and we need to recognize.

What are your top tips for leading a fulfilling career?  

I believe that if you are doing work you care about and connect with, you will have a fulfilling career. I think the industry you represent and the people you work with also contribute to feeling fulfilled. I believe strongly in the critical role the insurance industry plays in the lives of Canadians. I believe our industry provides the financial support and peace of mind people and businesses need to carry on. And, I believe IBC plays an important role in helping insurance be more available and affordable across the country. I care deeply about the work we do and for the team I lead and members I serve. For me, that’s translated to feeling fulfilled in my career. 

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