Embracing a DEI mindset

Building a diverse product shelf across a large insurance company can be a huge challenge. Here's how Canada Life is making it happen

Embracing a DEI mindset

Change is a long journey. With Canada Life’s 175-year history, the company knows firsthand how challenging the process of change can be. But Canada Life also knows that with these challenges come growth and success. And most of the time, the rewards make the journey more than worthwhile.

Today, a large part of Canada Life’s journey through change involves rethinking and reshaping their core offerings to better reflect the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Their main reason for doing this is so they can ensure they’re supporting their customers, communities, and their own valued team members. Canada Life firmly believes that people are unlikely to embrace their full potential if they don’t feel seen and understood. They recognize that people’s needs are shaped by their backgrounds, life stage, experiences, identities, and personal beliefs. That’s why Canada Life takes the time and care needed to develop products and services that are tailored to support the diverse needs of Canadians and their families.

When it comes to group benefits, Canada Life’s recent product launches like gender affirmation coverage and their family-building benefit have been successful steps toward diversifying their product shelf. According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 300 Canadians aged 15 or older identify as transgender or non-binary.1 Canada Life’s gender affirmation coverage can help Canadians on their gender affirmation journey to be their authentic selves – since everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable in their body.

Family is one of our primary ways to feel connected and have belonging in the world – and Canada Life’s family-building benefit can help support the many different paths people take to build their families. This benefit can help support the approximately one in six couples in Canada who experience infertility,2 as well as people looking to preserve their future fertility, those who struggle with unrelated medical diagnoses that impact fertility, and same-sex couples looking to start a family.

Canada Life’s wealth plans can help Canadians access trustworthy and affordable financial programs, but they know that not everyone starts their savings journey with the same goals in mind. For example, some plan members may be more focused on their children’s potential wealth rather than needing their own savings during retirement. But Canada Life’s wealth products are designed to meet members where they are, no matter their unique situation.

Having a diverse wealth offering also means providing access to specialty funds like the BlackRock Islamic Global Equity Index Fund. This fund provides members who are Muslim with the opportunity to invest in a diversified portfolio of global equity investments to help their retirement savings grow. Offering a high-quality fund that is Shariah-certified also allows plan sponsors to help support their ambitions and commitments toward DEI.

Being forward-thinking and approaching product development through a DEI lens is a huge priority – and something that Canada Life’s Shelley Sjoberg, assistant vice president, product development and support, is particularly passionate about.

“Workplace benefits are a really important way that employers can support inclusive and diverse workplaces,” said Sjoberg. “Our new family-building benefit and gender affirmation supports are just some of the ways we’re helping to do that. Critical to our success is drawing from the diverse perspectives of our customers and our own team. By fostering a diverse team, we’re better equipped to meet the needs of plan members, wherever they are in their own lives.”

Through 2024 and beyond, Canada Life is working to make their workplace plans even more relevant for members with diverse needs. On the benefits side, Canada Life is working hard to diversify their products and services and expand on existing coverage. This includes resources to help support women in the workplace and bring more attention to issues surrounding women’s health, which have historically been underfunded and suffered from a lack of research. This also means enhancing their family-building offering to further support Canadians in navigating their unique journeys to grow their families.

Improving supports available for Indigenous plan members is also a key focus for Canada Life. Indigenous peoples in Canada often face more severe health challenges compared to other populations.3 Canada Life wants to help mitigate these challenges by showing how their products can support the unique needs of Indigenous members.

As one of Canada’s leading experts on disability prevention and management, Canada Life is also committed to meaningful innovations to meet the diverse needs of members experiencing disability. This includes further educating their teams on the role culture plays in someone’s disability and return-to-work experience.

On the savings front, Canada Life is looking to continue ensuring their fund shelf includes quality investments to help Canadians save for retirement. They’re looking for even more opportunities to add specialty funds and help members build their financial plans for retirement, estate planning, a child’s education, and whatever else they may need.

While their efforts are far from over, Canada Life is working hard to build a product shelf that acknowledges how essential DEI is to doing business. It’s their belief that a strong spirit of curiosity, collaboration, and understanding will be key to any future success. Because change is a journey, and it can be challenging – but it’s also essential to embrace it with open arms and an open mind.


1Statistics Canada, “Canada Is the First Country to Provide Census Data on Transgender and Non-Binary People.” Statcan.gc.ca, April 27, 2022. www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/220427/dq220427b-eng.htm

2Unknown, “Fertility 101: Fertility Fundamentals,” Fertility Matters Canada, last modified June 2023. www.fertilitymatters.ca/learn/fertility101/

3Kim, Paul J. “Social Determinants of Health Inequities in Indigenous Canadians Through a Life Course Approach to Colonialism and the Residential School System,” Health Equity, vol. 3, July 25, 2019. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6657289/pdf/heq.2019.0041.pdf