Celebrating women this women’s month

In celebration of Women’s Month, FAnews on behalf of Gauteng Women in Insurance (GWII) spoke to a few women about the significance of Women’s Day, what Women’s Day means to them and how they use their positions to influence change, with some advice.

Q. What is the significance of Women’s Day for you and why is it important?

A. Women’s Day for me is more aligned to the fact that women in business are just as successful and influential, and when given the right tools can become unstoppable. It’s important to guide young women and motivate them along the same path resulting in strong, powerful female leaders.

Q. As a woman in the financial services industry, what is one of the biggest setbacks/challenges you have faced?

A. There is a common misconception that women can’t tackle tough discussions or deal with conflict, we are seen as being too emotional. This is an over-generalisation. I also find that we are given the more “admin intensive” tasks to do over our male peers. Just because we are good at something doesn’t mean that we enjoy it any more than our male counterparts; responsibility in all areas should be equal. Women have many talents but just because we’re good at it, doesn’t mean we enjoy it!

Q. What strategies/steps do you believe are key to building credibility in the industry, specifically as a woman in the insurance industry? 

A. Set boundaries from the offset, let people know what you are about. If you aren’t happy about something, speak up. Ask for what you want based on what you feel is fair. Women can be too accepting of the roles given to them, if you aren’t happy, do something to change it. It’s that simple. If you don’t speak up, no one will know that you aren’t happy. I don’t believe that a lot of the way things are, are actually done so consciously by our male counterparts. A lot of the generalisations that exist, exist because a lot of women out there still don’t speak their mind enough. And I have never encountered any problems in asking for what I want or believe to be fair. If your reasoning has good grounds there wouldn’t be. I’ve always spoken my mind, what’s the worst that can happen? Being told no? And if so, so be it, but at least you’ve tried.

Q. Can you share with us, how you use your position to influence change? Perhaps you can provide an example. 

A. I think this comes down to setting the example, you need to behave and portray what you believe is fair and let your fellow female colleagues allow themselves to follow suit. Allow other women to witness that it’s acceptable to question the status quo. We actually are treated as equals in my eyes, you just have to speak your mind – if you don’t say anything, assumptions can be made and you need to always ensure your intentions or standpoint is heard as long as it’s done with fair reasoning.

Jayne Creswell
Regional Sales Manager
CIB

 

Q. What is the significance of Women’s Day for you and why is it important?

A. Women’s Day is a wonderful reminder of why we ought to celebrate diversity. In general, women think differently to men. We bring a softness to the world. We work hard with or without recognition. We love others’ children like they are our own. We feed others before we feed ourselves. We have compassion and many more amazing attributes.

Q. As a woman in the financial services industry, what is one of the biggest setbacks/challenges you have faced?

A. This industry is filled with extremely hard working people, who, in fact promote women empowerment. I am very fortunate to have worked with so many respectful men and women. Sadly, we’ve all been discriminated against in one way or another, but let it motivate you to go the extra mile and show your worth, earn respect and strengthen your resilience.

Q. What strategies/steps do you believe are key to building credibility in the industry, specifically as a woman in the insurance industry?

A. Find yourself a good role model and remember to lead by example. My mom is such a great example to me, as her mom was to her. She has worked hard her entire life. Amongst so many great life lessons, she has exemplified perseverance under persecution, humbly serving people, and of course, everything can be fixed through prayer.

Q. Can you share with us, how you use your position to influence change? Perhaps you can provide an example.

A. Work hard and lead by example. I know this may sound like a cliché, but it is powerful. The power of influence in our country is alarming. Whether it be negativity, resentment, discrimination, etc. Yet, we can change the way people think through our behaviour and example. Use your God-given talents, work ethic and joy to change people’s views on life.

Olivia Smith
Marketing & Communications Officer
Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS)

 

Q. What is the significance of Women’s Day for you and why is it important?

A. The day symbolizes a significant moment in the history of South Africa, where women of all races and ages stood together against a system of racial discrimination. Today, it is not only a day to celebrate this momentous occasion that moved our country forward, but a day to acknowledge and celebrate the strides being made by women today in all sectors of society. It is not only a day to reflect on the progress that has been made, but also understanding that we have more to achieve.

Q. As a woman in the financial services industry, what is one of the biggest setbacks/challenges you have faced?

A. I think I have been very lucky in that I have always had access to opportunities from when I was very young, up until now. For example, I had full scholarships to high school and to university. I also studied a course that was in high demand in financial services, and therefore, it was easier to get a job. I have also been very lucky to have the right mentors and managers at various stages that helped me to identify my blind spots and give me the right opportunities. However, representation and seeing people who look like you in places that you aspire to is very important, and I think that remains a challenge for women in general, because of the lack of representation, particularly in senior management. I have only had one female manager in my career, but she was a powerful example. I don’t subscribe to the belief that there are certain innate qualities that make women less likely to succeed. For example, an old myth suggests that women are less confident and thus less likely to get promotions. The reality is that women are equally confident, they are perhaps less likely to advertise it. The way around that is to excel at every opportunity that you are given, so that people who have influence can see you, plus you must create personal and genuine relationships with various stakeholders who can also vouch for your work and credibility.

Q. What strategies/steps do you believe are key to building credibility in the industry, specifically as a woman in the insurance industry?

A. I think the steps to gain credibility should be the same across genders i.e. hard work, competence, excellence and integrity to name a few. In order to be considered for senior opportunities you have to work on the right projects, with the right people who can vouch for your credibility.

Q. Can you share with us, how you use your position to influence change? Perhaps you can provide an example

A. I think one of the most important ways to influence change is through mentorship. It allows you to make a positive difference in someone’s life, by helping them to navigate challenges but also to see opportunity.

Precious Nduli
Executive Head of Technical Marketing & Vitality Drive Engagement
Discovery Insure

 

Q. What is the significance of Women’s Day for you and why is it important?

A. This day is very important for us as women. It is a day when I take time to reflect on and celebrate the women in our country. Learning from their successes and experiences shows that, as women, we are powerful beyond measure. It encourages me to know that what I am facing, or will face, they too have faced and overcome. We need to harness that power to ensure that we protect the rights of all women in our country. The recent rise in gender based violence implores us to stand together and fight till women are able to feel safe in our society.

Q. As a woman in the financial services industry, what is one of the biggest setbacks/challenges you have faced? 

A. Being taken seriously in a predominantly male environment and remaining feminine, whilst being assertive and unemotional, is not easy. I have often been trapped in the dilemma of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. As women we still face a situation where some of our male counterparts sometimes believe that certain positions are reserved for them. I am of the opinion that, as an industry, we should be placing many more credible women candidates in executive positions to lead organisations. This is changing, but slowly.

Q. What strategies/steps do you believe are key to building credibility in the industry, specifically as a woman in the insurance industry? 

A. Knowledge, expertise and gaining experience in your field of choice combined with a strong network and the ability to communicate at all levels are key. Further studies in order to gain the necessary business qualifications will help us, as women, to have a voice in our industry. There are many associations in the industry. I believe there definitely needs to be more collaboration between these associations to ensure that efforts are combined and we “sing from the same hymn sheet”. This will ensure that we remain relevant and credible.

Q. Can you share with us, how you use your position to influence change? Perhaps you can provide an example.

A. The future lies within the youth, and mentorship is very close to my heart. Whenever I get the opportunity, I make a point of it to put my hand up and be a mentor. I believe that to have a mentor ensures much faster progress within an organisation, but you also gain much needed guidance and wisdom to ensure that you make the right decisions. I recently became a mentor on the Insurance Young Guns mentorship program and I had a mentee who had just started in the insurance industry. She needed guidance on what to study and how to further her career. I could influence change by doing so, and so can all of us!

Rochelle Pillay
Technical Support Manager
Hollard

 

Q. What is the significance of Women’s Day for you and why is it important?

A. Women’s Day marks a palpable moment in history, where the women of South Africa congregated and marched, in unity, to the Union Buildings in a visceral protest against the subversion of human rights that the proposed amendments to the Urban Act presented. Gathering strength and wisdom from their act of defiance against injustice, and looking at the prevalence and degree of violence that the women of South Africa face today through Gender based Violence (GBV), I believe there is yet much more we as South Africa women can do to improve our lives as a whole, all while maintaining the corporate, familial and social spheres of our lives.

Q. As a woman in the financial services industry, what is one of the biggest setbacks/challenges you have faced?

A. Having begun my career in the financial industry 10 years ago, when I had two very young and demanding children, I quickly learned to confront and overcome the many fears of failure that had on occasion plagued me. One of my biggest career setbacks was being in subordination to a male manager who undermined women in the workplace, choosing not to recognise their capabilities, and believing that women were emotional rather than intellectual leaders. I found that working in an environment where my potential is stifled simply because of my womanhood was a challenge that need not exist in this day. Today I can say I am blessed to be working for Emerald Risk Transfer, I have been motivated by two great women in leadership i.e. Carla Jordan (Former IIG President) and Nonte Nzimakwe(Head: Financial Reporting) my direct manager. Having to see them and learn how they have made it in this industry has instilled in me a burning desire to succeed. And has somehow wiped all the fears I had in the past. “Passion, Purpose, Pride” by Carla Jordan.

Q. What strategies/steps do you believe are key to building credibility in the industry, specifically as a woman in the insurance industry?

A. I have found that having a teachable spirit, along with integrity and a keen willingness to learn and understand the business and the industry as it develops and grows is paramount to building credibility in the insurance industry. As a woman, I further believe that a deep conviction of one’s capabilities, and a determination to excel in the field where one is placed opens room for growth of credibility both as an individual, and as a gender.

Q. Can you share with us, how you use your position to influence change? Perhaps you can provide an example. 

A. At the risk of seeming hubristic, I believe that I influence change by simply being good at my job. I believe that where one is able to meet the mandate set forth, as well as go beyond that mandate, a good example of integrity in the workplace is set to candidates in the workplace. Where one tills the ground, fruit is inevitable. Another example is how I will always go extra mile to meet all my deadlines.

Sarafina Sibiya
Accountant
Emerald Risk Transfer