By Sara Ametrano
Every year on March 8th, countries all over the world celebrate International Women’s Day. It’s a day to recognize women’s personal and professional achievements as well as the daily challenges they face. The event’s theme this year is #EachforEqual.
“I look at the team we have [at Trisura] and am proud of the diversity of the team and the skillset that they bring to the table,” Marilyn vanGansewinkel, Trisura’s senior vice president of specialty insurance solutions, says. Over her 23-year career in the specialty insurance industry, Marilyn has seen a great deal of change. She began as an underwriting assistant, and at that time, nearly all administrative/assistant positions belonged to women.
Today, the industry has considerably changed, with women holding many senior positions at insurance companies and brokerages alike. Hiring a candidate has transitioned from the gender associated with a specific job to focusing more on the qualifications of the individual applying. The opportunities in the workforce continue to grow, and Marilyn is excited to see how women will seize them. “While hiring people, I am continually impressed with how driven women are now. They know what they want and where they want to go.”
Women have a critical role in their own success and the success of their peers. In fact, there are certain advantages that come with being a woman. “Women are excellent at being empathetic,” she explains. “This makes them good at listening to any challenges the person that they are talking to might be dealing with.”
Marilyn firmly believes it is important to surround oneself with influential and dynamic people – and there’s no shortage of this in the insurance industry. In fact, the people she crosses paths with while working is one of the things she likes most about the industry. Along with hard work, she credits several female and male colleagues and managers she’s worked with over the course of her career with helping her get to where she is now. She believes that she was given opportunities throughout her career to move into more challenging roles as they presented themselves.
Speaking from her own personal experience, Marilyn acknowledges that although being a mother while working can appear daunting, it’s all about finding the right balance. “Be present wherever you are, whether it’s at work or at home,” she advises.
Trisura’s President & CEO, Chris Sekine, has known Marilyn for over two decades. He applauds her support of those around her and is excited to see the impact women will continue to have in the workforce:
I have known Marilyn for well over 20 years, and as one the original Trisura employees from 2006, her leadership qualities and character are an integral part of Trisura’s DNA today. She is and has always been a tremendous mentor to many of our employees, both women and men. In addition to Marilyn, Trisura has been fortunate to attract many empowered and strong women into senior leadership positions since our beginning. Janet Mascitelli, who is now retired, ran our surety business in Toronto and Donna Anderson started our surety business in the Prairies. Rebekah Alberga, is our General Counsel and started our claims team in Toronto. The list goes on, and it also includes Cindy Grant, our Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Pina Mazzoli our Senior Vice President of Digital Distribution and Marketing.
As a father of two daughters nearing the start of their own careers, empowering women is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Our next generation of leaders have to be comprised of more women—our daughters. The more women we can inspire to be leaders, the greater the talent pool that organizations can draw from will be, which will bring diversity in thinking and formulation of strategy. Organizations that can effectively empower women will have a great strategic advantage.
From the start of her career to now, Marilyn has seen women’s confidence flourish, and it’s one of the things she’s most proud of, saying, “Women know what they want, and now they go for it.” She encourages women to continue to seize the opportunities that come their way. “Be confident. Don’t be scared to ask for what you want–there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious. Rise up and deliver.”