GWII President’s reflections of 2021…

The year 2020 and 2021 heralded a change in the Gauteng Women in Insurance (GWII) committee with Catherine Pienaar stepping in as the President of GWII.

Her dedication to the organisation is never ending and having served as the President for the past year two years, in which she steps down at the end of 2021, she looks back to where it all began and what the future may hold.

A Q&A session

Briefly tell us about what the year 2021 has been like for the GWII?

The year 2020 brought about unprecedented change in South Africa, with far reaching ramifications, impacting on our political, economic, social and technological environments. Optimism painted a rosier picture for 2021, with the promise of vaccinations and a hope to the end of what had become our ‘new normal’. Whilst the lockdown restrictions were a lot less restrictive than what we had experienced last year, the pandemic continues to play a significant part in our lives, and challenges GWII to interact with our members in a responsible manner.

In practice, this meant constant discussions as to what the responsible course of action would mean, in terms of the decision to hold in person events, whilst being mindful that our members were undoubtedly feeling some sort of fatigue as far as virtual events were concerned

A lot of things have changed. What were the biggest changes for the GWII this year?

Whilst we would have loved to host in person events, to catch up with beloved industry peers, we just had to ensure that we took the decision which would ensure the safety of our members. And so, we embarked on another year of trying to present interesting, fun, different virtual events which would not only allow us to engage with our members, but still ensure that they were benefiting from presentations including important, relevant and captivating content.

We dare say that the committee rose to the challenge, and the GWII continued to maintain a strong presence, delivering frequent, interesting events which would prove to challenge, engage and interest our members. Not only did our quarterly CPD events assist members in accumulating the required FAIS hours, but the content also delivered by our amazing sponsors was incredibly interesting – these events attracted attendees in hundreds!

Our year kicked off on a high note, with our Mix ‘n Mingle Gardening 101 – a fascinating session wherein award-winning Claire Reid provided valuable lessons and ‘hacks’ to inspire and equip our ‘green fingers’! The Game Show Mix ‘n Mingle challenged our members’ general knowledge, and the Musical Bingo event recently held had teams battling it out with their music knowledge. It was great, particularly in respect of the latter event, to see some of our members arrange small events whereby their teams were participating together in one venue, whilst battling it out virtually against their industry peers. We have certainly missed interacting [face-to-face] with our members.

The Leaderwalk event strives to get the leaders in our industry, inviting and encouraging the participation of our male peers, to ensure that the challenges and opportunities facing our industry are discussed on a considered, collaborative basis. These events have fared extremely well, despite having our committee members having to quickly conquer new technology to deliver a fantastic experience.

Our networking events have considered the significant impact which COVID has had on our members, focusing on looking after ourselves. From a Vision Board session to the Masterclasses focusing on Mindful Resilience, The Power of Sleep, Mindful Movement and Mindful Nutrition, GWII has strived to deliver events which would assist members in maintaining good holistic health.

As a President, what are some of the challenges you have had to overcome?

Having to practice caution and responsibility and not having the opportunity to actively engage with committee members, in person, has certainly hampered our ability to really get to know each other, develop and nurture deep relationships. Having to function without our regular face-to-face interactions has expounded the importance of communication. I am hopeful that 2022 will bring the opportunity for the committee to have regular in-person engagements, not only with each other, but also with our member base. One cannot fully fathom the deep relationships that committee members and members have formed historically, and the current construct has robbed us all of the opportunity to build and nurture these relationships.

GWII has had the privilege of having several new committee members join over the past two years, and I am saddened to not have had the opportunity to interact with these amazing ladies more than what I have. Hopefully 2022 will allow me the chance to get to know them better, albeit not as a committee member myself!

I have previously written about a colleague’s sage words of not being able to pour from an empty cup. Although we have all experienced the impact of the pandemic, we have also had our own unique challenges and heartbreaks which have affected us differently. It has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone, and I can say without a doubt that 2021 has brought about challenges in my life which I thought were insurmountable. There are still some days where I feel like it has been one step forward and five steps back! Traversing these tribulations has only been made easier due to the love and support of family and friends – a significant portion of which are industry peers. Over the months that have gone by, I can honestly say that it has been the strong relationships that have rooted within my life that has been my saving grace.

We do not always know what someone is going through, nor can we completely appreciate their situation until we have walked in their shoes. Speak and act with kindness – “No act of kindness, not matter how small, is ever wasted” (Aesop).

Whilst we lament the challenges of the past, let’s use these as lessons to grow and contribute towards making a better tomorrow.

Any inspiring last words you wish to share with our readers, as you step down from the position of President?

I looked back to the article introducing me as President of GWII, in 2020. No different to this letter, I was asked to give some inspirational words for our readers, as well as a message to our members. The message I conveyed then is still as important now as it was then:

Ubuntu – “I am because we are. Derived from a Nguni word, Ubuntu can be seen and felt in the spirit of willing participation, cooperation, warmth and openness. It speaks to the possibilities that open up when we work together towards a common cause, embracing those around us in acknowledging their strengths and our weaknesses, and combining these to only fortify our combined abilities.

We are blessed to be in such an amazing, dynamic industry. Take a moment to meet those around you, listen to their stories and share yours. Embrace opportunities to meet new people, and experience new things. Be mindful to share your knowledge and pursue the furthering of your own”.

I thank all of our members for their fantastic support during the course of the year, and really hope that you have benefited from, and enjoyed the GWII events. To our committee members – thank you very much for all of your support, patience, hard work, inspiring ideas and incredible enthusiasm. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve on the GWII – for the people I have met, relationships I have built, the lessons learnt, and experiences shared. It has been an incredible journey.

In closing, I wish you and yours a safe, blessed festive season!

Catherine announced Catherine Naidoo as the new President of the GWII for 2022, with Shaazia Khan as Deputy President, followed by the new incoming committee members.

Read up on the new committee in our January newsletter.