Melanie Loiselle-Mongeon and Brenda Loiselle-Marcotte
Pawtucket, Rhode Island
How did you get started at your agency?
Melanie Loiselle-Mongeon (pictured on right): This is a family business that we both grew up in. We worked here occasionally on and off throughout high school. In high school and college, I was focused on a teaching career. After a short stint teaching first grade, I was approached by my father for an opportunity at the agency. I figured I’d give it a chance and try it out. That was 21 years ago. I’ve been able to use my teaching background, as I’ve taught some insurance classes for our local association and for a local university. The qualities of a teacher help me teach employees and educate clients.
Brenda Loiselle-Marcotte (pictured on left): My major in college was in accounting information systems and I went to work for a global IT firm for 4 years. I actually got staffed at insurance company projects because coming out of college I had a knowledge of the industry from working at the agency. After a while though, I wanted to move back to Rhode Island and find something that didn’t involve as much travel. That’s when my father needed management personnel and propositioned me for a job. I gave it a try and I’ve been here since 2003.
Loiselle-Mongeon: I have a lot of favorite books, but my favorite book ever is “Night” by Elie Wiesel. It’s about the Holocaust and it’s very moving. I read it when I was 15, and now my daughter just read it in her high school class. The book I read most recently is “A Woman Is No Man” by Etaf Rum, about women coming to America from Palestine.
As a woman, what are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome or are overcoming in the industry?
Loiselle-Marcotte: I do more producing and client-focused work, and when you are meeting with a male-owned business, you have to prove your knowledge when you walk in. If you’re a young female, people don’t expect you to be as knowledgeable. Trying to prove your value and knowledge is always an uphill battle.
Loiselle-Mongeon: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in meetings at our local association or on insurance agency councils where I am the only woman and often also the youngest person in the room by 10-15 years. The challenge becomes having to prove yourself and having to make sure your voice is heard because you’re different than the rest of the people in the room.
Brenda and I have the challenge of being women, and also being the daughters of the boss. There’s a preconceived notion—not by everyone, but by some—that we’re only here and in this position because our dad owns the agency. I feel that this makes me work that much harder to prove that yes, I’m the daughter of the boss and yes, I’m a woman, but I have my own brain and my own thoughts.
If you could change one thing for women in the insurance industry, what would it be?
Loiselle-Marcotte: See more women in more diverse roles within the industry: producers, leadership roles, company executives. Women are seen as being good with people, able to make others feel good and solve problems, so they tend to be service people. But the industry needs to see that their skills transcend beyond those roles.
What are some of the unique opportunities women insurance agents have in the industry?
Loiselle-Mongeon: Women have an innate ability to connect with people. The insurance industry is a people business. That’s what we do—we help people, no matter what aspect of insurance we’re in. There are so many opportunities for women because we’re good at that, whether it’s being on the front-line helping clients and selling policies or behind the scenes on the underwriting or actuarial side.
Loiselle-Marcotte: I believe insurance is a relationship-based business and people buy from people they connect with, like and relate to. There are more women today who are making head-of-household or head-of-business decisions and are buying insurance. Those customers connect with and relate to other women.
What progress have you seen in gender equality?
Loiselle-Marcotte: In the past 15 years, I’ve seen more females outside of service roles. Traditionally, women are more often in customer-service positions, and I’m seeing more women in marketing or leadership roles, but to say we’ve made enough progress that we’re “there” isn’t true.
We have a long way to go to make sure women are present across the board in a lot of industries, not just insurance. As the baby boomers are aging, there’s a lot of opportunities for younger folks to get into the industry and hopefully we see more females choose the insurance industry as a career.
Loiselle-Mongeon: There are more women around now than 10 years ago in those higher positions. The level of respect and inclusion is better. There’s more awareness, and some big insurance carriers are trying to be inclusive and cognizant of it, but there’s still a long way to go. There are still instances where people say the wrong things and put their foot in their mouth.
What advice do you have for other women in the industry?
Loiselle-Marcotte: Don’t believe there’s a ceiling or that your role can’t go beyond what you’re doing today. Continue to educate yourself—it’s an industry in which the more knowledge you have the further you can go.
Loiselle-Mongeon: Don’t be intimidated by anybody, whether it’s a man or woman. Be confident in yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or promote your own ideas.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Loiselle-Mongeon: Our dad always says, “You should treat everyone fairly and honestly because that will always come back to you.”
Loiselle-Marcotte: People say its lawyers, car dealers and insurance people that have that negative aura or stereotype. Always be honest and ethical in business. Not everyone in the industry is ethical. The vast majority are, but it always sets you apart if you put that first.
This is the second in a series of three interviews featuring women leaders in insurance, in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8. Stay tuned to News & Views next week for a Q&A with a Liberty Mutual senior vice president.
AnneMarie McPherson is IA news editor.