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Women: Forging a New Economic Frontier

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Women: Forging a New Economic Frontier
OMA Insurance
A seismic shift is disrupting the global economy as women—who now represent more than 51% of the Canadian population--continue to outlive their spouses, secure an ever-increasing share of the job market and make more of the major purchasing decisions that have traditionally been made by men. Women represent over 40% of OMA’s more than 41,000 members, (a number that has doubled since 2002).  Here, we explore how these developments are shaping the insurance landscape.    

​Women are now at the wheel of the global economy, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Representing a monumental growth market, more than twice as big as China and India combined, the female consumer cohort has not only spurred retailers and service providers to rethink their marketing and advertising, but also their product offerings and modes of service delivery.

That being said, it can still be a challenge for some women to find jeans that fit properly, an automobile designed to make driving small children around less of a struggle, or insurance and financial services that directly speak to their unique needs, goals and preferences.

Furthermore, it's not uncommon for women to feel patronized or underserved when they need financial advice or want to purchase insurance. Dr. Tatiana Jevremovic recalls, "My husband had a financial advisor he was quite happy with, and who desperately wanted to talk to me. When I finally agreed, I was less than impressed with her 'sky is falling' approach and lost all interest when she attempted to use 'the bad mom' card to guilt me into making a decision."

And while numerous businesses are focusing on how to best appeal to women, sexism and stereotypes still exist—like the disastrous 2015 YouTube ad for Sony PlayStation Vista. Opening with a female physician asking her patients, "How many times did you do it yesterday? ", she then continues with an array of other innuendos before viewers become aware that she's talking about Remote Play for PlayStation Vista. The good news: after bloggers and others found it sexist, Sony pulled the ad. The bad news: no apology or acknowledgment of their blunder. ​

“ It's not uncommon for women to feel patronized or underserved when they need financial advice or want to purchase insurance.​​

Advertising Standards Canada's 2014 Consumer Perspectives report states that one of women's top concerns were ads featuring sexist portrayals. Examples of commercials for household cleaning products immediately spring to mind, such as a 2012 print ad for "Mr. Clean" that depicts colourful, cheery artwork of a mother and daughter cleaning side by side with the caption: "This Mother's Day, Get Back to the Job That Really Matters."

Although women have long been considered competent to manage the household, buy groceries and pay bills, major purchases or long term investments—like insurance—have historically been considered "male territory."

Insurance industry marketing and advertising has traditionally focused on men, in spite of research from the Boston Consulting Group indicating that women in Canada control approximately $3.2 trillion in total assets and $1.1 trillion in financial wealth alone.

Case in point: for more and more retired couples, women are now the ones managing the family finances and making all of the major purchasing decisions. Research commissioned by Toronto Dominion Bank reveals that widowed female baby boomers are outliving their husbands by an average of 16 years—partly because statistically, women also tend to marry men older than they are.​

…women in Canada control approximately $3.2 trillion in total assets and $1.1 trillion in financial wealth alone.​

Two more interesting facts to consider: more than one third of Canadian wives now out-earn their spouses, making them the primary breadwinners; female graduates outnumber males at most Canadian post-secondary institutions. With respect to the Canadian medical profession, this means that by 2031, more than 50% of our physicians will be women.

A BMO Nesbitt Burns investment advisor told the Globe and Mail that, "Women want to secure their future…they worry all the time if they're going to be okay. They care more about preserving their existing assets than accumulating wealth."

In a 2014 TD Wealth focus group session, participants were asked to create picture collages of their future goals. Women favoured pictures of families, vacation scenes and life experiences. Men veered toward muscle cars, upward pointing graphs, dollar signs and phrases such as "show me the money".

Women also differ significantly than men where the internet and insurance is concerned. Whereas men consider the internet a good source of information and advice, women are more inclined to consult insurance professionals, parents or friends. LIMRA research indicates that both men and women are more willing to purchase insurance online if they understand what they're buying; however, women are known for doing their research online but buying offline.  And typically, women do more research—those between the ages of 35 and 54 spend more time per website visit than men—and they take longer to make a decision. Websites offering testimonials, detailed product information and the option of calling a local service office or representative with additional questions if needed, all have high appeal to women.

This great gender divide means that resonating with women is not only a challenge—but a multi-pronged one. "One-size-fits-all" marketing and service can't possibly address all of the unique needs women have throughout the various stages of life.

Enter MD Management Limited. Senior Financial Consultant Bridget Paton says, "MD collects data on our niche client base—physicians—to help us anticipate and develop products and services they will need."

"For example", Paton continues, "we know that women generally accumulate less assets than men for various reasons (such as lower earnings, taking more time off for child rearing, choosing general practice instead of a specialty, taking on more responsibility for elder care and preferring more risk-averse investment strategies), yet we need to make our assets last longer because we live longer."  

Another equally important emerging trend that cannot be ignored: in spite of the fact that women in Canadian society continue to advance and expand their role in the economic marketplace, their financial planning has not kept pace.

Canadian women remain critically uninsured—a staggering 70% compared to 42% of men are underinsured—which puts their families at risk. If a male spouse is the only one carrying life insurance, it means families are insured for half (or less than half) of what they would realistically need to financially overcome the death of either parent.

Therefore, it's​​ critical that both partners have income replacement plans.

For the 38% of Canadian families where only one partner works "outside the home", life insurance is no less critical. Obviously there's tremendous emotional loss associated with the death of a spouse or parent, but there's also significant financial loss. With day care costs ranging anywhere from $7,500 to $14,000 per child (rates differ by province), housekeeping and cooking (which many families could not replace without paying for it) and post-secondary tuition fees spiraling out of control (not to mention funeral costs, which can range anywhere from a minimum of $10,000 to $25,000 or more), it's safe to conclude that the cost of the death of a stay-at-home parent can be astronomical.  An insurance policy would certainly bring peace of mind and ease the burden of the surviving spouse.

Bridget Paton wonders if perhaps women haven't historically taken advantage of the lower pricing that insurers offer for their gender: "Lower life insurance premium cost is one of the few pricing benefits women have over men!  From planning for adequate income replacement to adequate long term care arrangements, women need to be made aware of the greater impact on us of being under-insured. The consequences of inadequate coverage are more greatly felt and more often by women who tend to 'make do' with much less in their old age."

Dr. Virginia Walley says, "Insurance can be hard to understand, complicated and the paperwork can be downright painful. Physicians—who kind of have a reputation for taking care of everyone but themselves--often feel they just don't have the time to deal with it. I also think it's fair to say that many women physicians find themselves more time-deprived than your average male physician. I also believe age comes into play: when you're in your 20's and 30's—whether you're male or female, you feel pretty invincible. Plus, you've got a lot of major life expenses like medical school debt, building your practice, saving for a house, already paying a mortgage plus saving for your children's education, just to name a few. It doesn't matter if you're just out of med school or you've been practicing for years, the golden rule of insurance is to get it while you're young. That's when it's the most affordable."  

Bridget Paton adds, "With the increasing number of women entrepreneurs (like physicians), their influence is growing right along with their earning power. The types of products and services they want and need is a little different from what their male counterparts have wanted in the past. Staying abreast of these trends is serving our company and our clients well."

Dr. Walley concurs: OMA "does a great job of making it as easy as possible for our members, even if you have to increase, add or switch coverages. Their 'concierge approach' serves all physicians well, but women in particular; not just because it eliminates real or perceived hassle, but because their insurance solutions are focused on meeting needs, not hard-selling one-size-fits-all products just to make the bottom line."

The Canadian insurance landscape will continue to evolve, as will our member expectations. OMA Insurance is ahead of the curve with respect to providing proactive, holistic, member-centric coverage and service. Bridget Paton concludes, "MD Management Limited strongly believes in addressing all aspects of a member's needs in tandem so they can use their resources as efficiently as possible: this means cash flow/debt planning, investing, insurance, estate planning, tax minimization, children's education and more."

When we look to the future, we anticipate that continued accessibility, understanding specific needs and developing relevant, engaging solutions to meet those needs will ensure that all OMA members reap the rewards that come from having the right protection. Now that's empowering!     


Harvard Business Review September 2009 Issue: The Female Economy by Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre

Manulife Affinity Markets Market Update October 2010 "Women underserved, yet large and influential market"

Life Health Professional March 30 2015

2014 Consumer Perspectives on Advertising, Advertising Standards of Canada

LIMRA Research Briefings 2009: Consumer Internet Use: How Men and Women Research and Purchase Insurance by Mary M. Art

LIMRA Retirement Industry Insights April 2014: Canada – Industry Must Improve Communication with Women Clients by Eric Crowley

Insurance Supermarket Inc. July 2, 2015: 5 Reasons Women Can't Lag Behind on Their Insurance

The Globe and Mail Saturday August 9, 2014: Women and wealth: The investment sector's new – and crucial – frontier by Jacqueline Nelson​