We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
1. Within your market / industry sector, what progress have you seen businesses take to progress gender equality?
In the last 10 years, there have been some material changes to progress gender equality such as equal pay, shared parental leave, flexible working, jobs advertised as being available part, full or shared time, returnee programmes after career breaks, and mentoring and coaching opportunities. These have helped move the conversation onwards and build more pipeline for future leaders.
There is still some way to go if we want to fully unleash the potential that we have in our female talent base. I have noticed an increasing number of new joiners to the industry failing to find role models that speak to their aspirations and ambitions. The number of senior women in insurance is still outnumbered by their male counterparts, especially in some parts of the industry that have traditionally been less open to diversity in general.
In the wake of the global pandemic, I feel that there has been a raised awareness of parental duties in general and more specifically for working mothers who have at times taken the brunt of childcare duties. It is key that companies acknowledge this and ensure that it doesn’t hold those women back from advancing their careers.
What I would like to see next is for similar progress to also be made with respect to other realms of diversity in its widest sense.
2. What is one action companies can take to further balance their talent attraction strategies?
The hiring process in most companies comes down to one decision-maker, the hiring manager, which is very reliant on that one person delivering the much-needed diversity we aspire to have in our industry. The one action that could radically change this is to adopt interview panels instead, made up of diverse members who would advise on the hiring. This may take a little more time initially but the benefits in the long term would far outstrip the delays. It would give a more holistic approach to the process, provide candidates with an insight of the hiring company beyond their immediate manager or team, and show active engagement in hiring and promoting diverse talent.
3. What advice would you give aspiring women in the industry you work in?
I can’t say I have specific advice, but I will share what has worked well for me so far. Working hard and focusing on my targets has certainly been the underlying base for building on my career and gaining trust from peers and stakeholders. I’ve always tried to make choices based on positive decisions, prioritising my curiosity for learning and my drive to make a wider impact. I’ve also sought out great mentors, role models and sponsors to push myself further and seek my ‘stretch’ areas – these have been both male and female professionals, whom I admired.
The insurance industry is fantastically varied and if one area of the sector doesn’t excite someone, then I would encourage them to try another area, there are so many products and specialisms to choose from! But one thing that does matter is that whatever one chooses to do, it is done with passion and dedication. If you love what you do it will come easier, and success will be within reach.
4. International Women’s Day is also about celebrating women and their achievements. Who inspires you?
Close to home in our industry, I’ve been lucky to work with some amazing female leaders who have inspired and helped me: Dawn Miller and Kelly Lyles certainly take a spotlight as they have been prime examples of highly talented leaders for me. Even closer to home, in my own company Allianz Global Corporate Specialty, I am always impressed by the female talent that we have on the board and senior positions: Bettina Dietsche, Claire-Marie Costes-Le Poultre and Renate Strasse to name a few.
More widely the female role models that inspire me to be better are: Ruth Bader Ginsburg who fought tirelessly to give a voice to the voiceless; Michelle Obama who manages to win over any audience with her smart wit and thoughtful empathy; the business woman Leena Nair who is now CEO of Chanel and previously Chief Human Resources Officer for Unilever where she implemented some truly innovative approaches to people management…the list can go on and on, the many women who shape this world into a better place all get my vote of inspiration!