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International Women's Day 2019: Jenni Sparks, CFO, Generali

  • Publish Date: Posted about 5 years ago
  • Author:by Alex Ince

Now, more than ever, there's a strong call-to-action for a #BalanceforBetter in the workplace.

This International Women's Day, Alex Ince, director of our Hong Kong team interviewed Asia Generali’s chief financial officer (CFO) Jenni Sparks, to find out her views on what being a woman in insurance means today.

What are your secrets to having a successful career?

  • Being confident in one’s own skills, ability and potential
  • Being flexible and open to all opportunities even when they are not on the original career plan
  • Having a supportive family and particularly a very supportive partner.
  • A lot of women are not prepared to “blow their own trumpet” and without doing that at least occasionally it is easy to be overlooked.

Within your company, what are you doing to achieve a #BalanceforBetter?

  • Inclusion is a key priority for us in Asia and our senior leadership has undergone unconscious bias training.
  • We are focused on building D&I awareness across the Group and with International Womens Day on the 8th March all businesses across Generali will be hosting #BeboldforInclusion events this week. Our HK event was held this morning with great attendance.
  • Specifically on gender balance, we hire on merit but have a strong focus on ensuring that we have a gender mix in candidate pools. We are also working hard to get transparency over the gender pay gap and eliminate this over time.
  • We are also working hard to increase the flexibility in ways of working. We have introduced more flexible work hours and are asking employees what “smart working” would mean for them.

In your opinion how has the increase in gender balance and D&I affected your market?

  • D&I is core to our new strategy. To achieve our ambition to be Life Time Partner to our customers, we need people with the right skills, right mindset and right behaviours. We need to reflect our customers and our customers are diverse.
  • The insurance industry faces significant disruption.  Innovation is key. Companies that have diverse employees and a culture of inclusion will have a significant competitive advantage.
  • Improving the gender balance and D&I is increasing the pool of available talent. 

What advice would you give aspiring women in the insurance industry? 

Be humble enough to learn from others but confident enough to speak your mind. Be clear on your priorities in both your work and personal life and find the balance that works for you.

How do you achieve work life balance? 

I think it is very important to understand what work life balance means as it is certainly different for each individual. For me it is a matter of being very clear on my priorities; what is critical and what is not. I really enjoy my work but to do well at work I need to look after my health and well-being. And I need time-out to focus on family and hobbies. I do this by setting fixed time on the schedule for these other priorities. I get up early and exercise every morning before the work priorities can intrude. When the children were at home, weekends were family time:  I put a total ban on working from Friday night through to Sunday lunch-time even though that meant sacrificing weeknights. And now Monday nights are taboo for meetings or travel as that is my choir night.

Who inspires you and why?

There is no one person that inspires me. I get my inspiration from working with and learning from a diverse range of people.