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IWD: #InspireInclusion with Jo Chadha, Head of Cyber at Sompo International

  • Publish Date: Posted 4 months ago
  • Author:by Sanjeev Vegad

​​​This International Women's Day, I interviewed Jo Chadha, Head of Cyber at Sompo International, and she shared her thoughts on how we can #InspireInclusion.

When we inspire others to understand and value women's inclusion, we forge a better world. The IWD 2024 campaign theme seeks to inspire others to understand and value women's inclusion. Organisations, groups, and individuals worldwide can all play a part, and to truly include women means to openly embrace their diversity of race, age, ability, faith, body image, and how they identify.

International Women’s Day belongs to everyone, everywhere. Collectively, we can all help create a diverse, equitable and inclusive world. ​​

1. What does inclusion mean to you, and why?

Coming from an ethnic minority background, inclusion is an ideology that I value dearly. I do not wish to be defined by the colour of my skin, and I strongly believe that inclusion is a universal human right where people are embraced irrespective of their background, race, gender, identity or circumstances. It is our responsibility to future generations to create a society with equal access and opportunities devoid of any form of discrimination and intolerance.

Such beliefs must extend to the workplace, where employees are able to bring their authentic selves to work and feel valued, respected, and empowered. An inclusive workplace where employees feel a sense of belonging, can actively participate, and thrive at their jobs is critical to organisational success. This not only helps in attracting and retaining talent, but also fosters innovation, greater productivity and better decision-making as employees can contribute to their fullest without the fear of being humiliated or disrespected. Prioritising inclusion will naturally lead to successful DE&I strategies – an organisation cannot be Diverse or Equitable without a culture of Inclusivity.

2. Why is International Women’s Day important to you?

International Women’s Day celebrations throughout the 20th century have inspired protests for women’s rights around the world. Apart from celebrating accomplishments made by women throughout history, it continues to raise awareness of social, economic, cultural, and political challenges faced by women.

When I first joined the insurance industry 25 years ago, I struggled to find senior female role models that I could relate to. The industry has since come a long way, but there is still an immense amount of work that needs to be done to improve gender equality. We need to actively fight bias, broaden perceptions, break barriers, be inclusive and take specific actions to attract and retain the next generation of women leaders. Organisations need to turn their words into measurable actions, have clear metrics on the steps they are taking to achieve gender parity and, most importantly, we should all hold organisations accountable towards those commitments. International Women’s Day should not just be about words but progress towards transparent and meaningful actions.

3. What advice would you give aspiring women in the industry you work in?

The insurance world is multifaceted, and we underestimate the continuous learning and development required to keep up with this fast-paced and constantly evolving industry. Go beyond the “how” to the “why” we do things – be curious, ask thoughtful questions, stay ahead of market trends, and most importantly, have the courage to admit to not knowing the answer. My greatest learnings have come from collaborating and engaging with those outside my line of specialism.

Be pro-active about your career goals, find your purpose, keep thinking about the next steps and work on both the soft and technical skills required to achieve those goals. Be honest and self-aware about your weaknesses, as whilst terrifying as it sounds, this self-critique and ability to accept constructive criticism is incredibly powerful.

Put yourself forward, and do not fear change. Change brings opportunities, and comfort zones are highly overrated! Not everything is going to be a success, and learning how to fail is a skill that sadly does not come naturally. Prioritise self-care – we tend to put immense pressure on ourselves to succeed and be perfect, but perfection is a myth!

4. What are some commitments individuals can make to help inspire inclusion for women, for example, calling out discrimination when you see it?

Whilst we can all spot discrimination and sexism in the workplace, microaggressions or instances of unconscious bias are harder to call out. Women want to be hired based on their talent (and not to fill a quota), have access to the same opportunities and feel safe (both physically and psychologically), respected, and appreciated for the work that they do.

We all have the power to do the right thing and support the women in our workplace, irrespective of our job titles and identities. We must speak up against any form of intolerance, discrimination, or unconscious bias; and help create inclusive workplace cultures through our positive actions and behaviours.

5. Can you share a personal or professional experience that has inspired you to advocate for women’s inclusion?

I have been extremely fortunate to have worked for some forward-thinking leaders throughout my career. Leaders who were great mentors and strong advocates for the empowerment of women in the workplace. Remote working was an alien concept in the London market underwriting world when my first child was born 19 years ago, but these leaders designed remote, flexible working arrangements to allow me to focus on my parenting aspirations whilst also helping me develop my career. As a mother of three children in a senior leadership position, I am forever grateful to those incredible allies during the last 19 years who helped me enjoy my work and develop a rewarding career.

Whilst there are now many initiatives to support gender equality in the workplace, the challenges that some women face when juggling their careers and personal commitments remain unchanged. I want to be an advocate and ally to the ones who doubt their abilities and inspire them to succeed into positions of seniority. Strong leadership support and an inclusive workplace can help the insurance industry attract and retain future female leaders and I want to help create more awareness around policies and practices that make the insurance industry more attractive to women.