Portrait of the artist as an insurance agent

Woman at her desk

Why Nathalie Martel is driven to help women protect their income

Picture your top five dream dinner party guests: Ghandhi, Michael Jordan, Anna Nicole Smith, Margaret Atwood, Rob Ford. We’re guessing your insurance advisor isn’t at the top of that list. We get it. While we love the work we do, we understand that for most people, talking about insurance is about as appetizing as a trip to the dentist (no offense to your dentist, who likely didn’t make the list either).

That’s why finding the right advisor, someone who’ll approach your unique needs with personalized care, a sense of humour, and even creativity, is essential to getting the coverage you need in the least painful way possible. 

Bonus points if they’re someone like Nathalie Martel, who works out of Quebec City and has a special interest in helping women protect their income. In recent years, she’s noticed an uptick in the number of women who want to invest in disability insurance, even though it typically costs 50%1 more for women than it does for men.  

We talk about why that is and how she works with her clients to find them the best coverage within their budgets.

To start off with, what’s your experience selling disability insurance? 

A. I’ve been a broker for 24 years and before that I got a bachelor's degree in administration, where my specialty was disability management. So, I like to say I’ve always had a big crush on disability insurance. It’s very fascinating to me. When most people think of insurance, the first thing they think of is life insurance, but disability is equally important, especially for the lawyers I work with. You studied so much to be where you are, so protect the income you’re earning. 

Life insurance is also relatively straightforward, while disability insurance is more complex. That’s what I really love about it, the challenge. 

As an agent, I have to listen to my clients really closely. I look at what their premiums would be, how that price fits into their budget, and any exclusions they’d face. It’s very personal. Then, of course, there’s the fact that women’s premiums can be so much higher than men’s. Women make up more than 50% of the legal community in Quebec, so it makes sense that more and more of them come to me for help. 

Why are women’s premiums so much higher? 

A. It’s because of claims experience. Women file a lot more disability claims than men. From my experience, they’re mostly for a lot of stress-related ailments and back injuries. The price is dependent on each client, but to give you a simple example, we could look at a 32-year-old woman who makes $100,000 a year. For a typical disability insurance product, she would pay $200 a month, while for a man it would be $93.

This could change in time, because I’m seeing some changes already in terms of an increase in men’s claims as they take on more responsibilities in the home. They’re tired and they’re stressed, but at least it’s no longer women handling everything themselves. 

How do you balance women’s need for the protection disability insurance offers while also respecting their budgets?

A. I’ll always advocate for some sort of disability coverage, but if it doesn’t fit into their budget, then we have to get creative. 

Respecting the budget is key: I’m not going to sell her something she can’t afford. What I do is sit down with her and go over everything. I’ll show her the maximum policy which, to be honest, even I don’t have because it’s so expensive. Then we look at what she can afford and how we can work within that budget. Most of the time, I’ll suggest things like insuring debt on her house, business fees, and critical illness insurance. That way, at least she has some coverage if something bad happens. 

These aren’t concessions I have to make with my male clients.

Is there anything you wish people understood better about disability insurance?

A. It’s one of the first products you have to consider when you enter the legal profession. It’s necessary, but it’s very particular. I know that a lot of people assume that being an insurance advisor must be a dull job, but I feel like an artist when I work with my clients. Each person is different and between their family, practice, and income, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. We have to work together and get creative. You can see that I’m still passionate about what I do. I like doing what I’m doing. It’s not just to sell something, I genuinely care about how these products work for my clients. 


It’s too bad that even in the world of finance, which we so often think of as sterile and detached from our lived experiences, the same gendered biases exist that so many of us women have fought to overcome in our culture at large. After all, women’s stress doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it happens because we have so many responsibilities across different spheres. With men picking up more of the slack, hopefully that changes, and this progress can in turn be reflected in insurance rates for crucial coverage. 

In the meantime, we’re lucky to have people like Martel. Her efforts are proof that while insurance jargon may feel cold and impersonal, finding the right policy is anything but. Our needs and limitations, when it comes to our policies, reflect some of the most personal things about us: our income, our debt, our family and health history, and even our identities. It’s sensitive territory that takes more than an algorithm or quick perusal of a webpage to navigate. Martel’s holistic approach to insurance is a prime example of the difference human-to-human advice can make in an imperfect system. And you never know, she might even be free for your dinner party next Friday night.

We can help.

Your career is your biggest investment. Get human-to-human advice about how to protect your income with an insurance plan that will work for you if you can’t. 

Get started


Source: doctordisability.com, “The gender gap in disability insurance: What women need to know,”