Female role models

In celebration of Women’s Month, FAnews, on behalf of GWII, spoke to a few women about their journeys in the industry and what actions need to be taken to strengthen the talent pipeline and develop and diversify the workforce.

Supportive of women in business

Early on in my career, there were few strong female role models, but this has changed somewhat. but the reality is that males still dominate senior management roles setting the tone for the business, which is not always supportive of women in business.

Carla Jordan, the current President of the Insurance Institute of Gauteng (IIG), and a strong female role model, is focusing on celebrating insurance as a career of choice. It is an amazing industry that offers a rewarding career path for whatever skills and interests someone may have. I believe that through offering meaningful mentorship programs, real work–life balance and a culture that embraces equality we can compete with other “sexier” industries to attract and retain top talent, particularly female talent. It also goes without saying that equal pay is non-negotiable.

I believe that working within the insurance industry can be especially stressful and that by introducing flexibility in the workplace we can help avoid the job becoming overwhelming. A work life balance can also be a powerful tool to attract and retain talent. The definition of “flexible work” does differ depending on the specific role an employee fulfils but it is important to find a balance where employees are engaged and productive. With technological advances it is relatively simple to facilitate communication and collaboration no matter where the employee may be. It is critical that any flexible work models are supported by management to ensure they are effective.

It is important to be yourself and to always have integrity. The ability to own your own accomplishments and celebrate them is crucial – something a lot of women struggle with. You have to of course “know your stuff” to be taken seriously. One needs to be consistent, confident and continuously learning.

Tracy Mclaughlin
Managing Director
GIB Insurance Brokers

Women CAN have it all

Career women often have to multitask by ensuring their homes and families are sorted while managing their career. They cannot drop the ball on any of their commitments as this will have an effect on their performance. Women can be their own harshest critics, so it goes without saying that dropping the ball on a work commitment or family commitment is not acceptable to them. Companies should therefore take this into account and investigate a suitable flexible work schedule as well as remote working opportunities. Companies should not feel threatened by introducing a remote working solution for women as there are so many ways to monitor performance via technology.

The biggest issue in business is that women are often not taken as seriously as their male counterparts. The industry needs to encourage equal opportunity across the board.

Continual training from the most junior staff member all the way up the ladder to the most senior staff member will strengthen the talent pipeline and develop and diversify the workforce. A managers’ most important role should be to coach and develop their staff. Women need to understand that they CAN have it all: a career and family, simply by managing their time and balancing their work and home commitments.

Knowledge is always key. Continually educating yourself in all aspects of the industry as well as staying up to date with current news and economics is critical. A woman should remain consistent, respectful of those around her and have a positive attitude. Be honest and trustworthy while remaining steadfast and confident in your decisions.

Denleigh Wilensky
Managing Director
HIC Underwriting Managers

Decisive action to build woman talent

One of the biggest personal challenges I faced was having to make the decision, after the birth of my daughter, to return to work earlier than the allowed maternity leave. I was building my career and felt that I needed to be in the office. I don’t regret my decision but do wish that at the time, we had the technology we have available now that allows people to work remotely. Mature organisations should adopt this way of work, as research does suggest that most people work as hard when off site as they do in an office environment.

It seems to me that the more progressive organisations have already considered some sort of flexibility into their models, whether it’s having a crèche/day care on the premises, allowing for additional leave for family responsibility or allowing flexible working times.

Another example of a challenge (in the 90’s) was when I realised that relationships were strengthened on the golf course. My only involvement at the time was being the “drinks” lady at the water holes on sponsored golf days. I made the decision that I wanted to play. I took lessons and can now play. This decision definitively improved relationships with my male counterparts, and I love the game!

Women have traditionally not built up the strong networks that their male counterparts have, and it is critical then that the already successful woman in insurance should be open to mentoring younger women entering the insurance world or those looking to build their careers in insurance. This guidance will assist them in choosing the most suitable jobs and will also help in building their confidence in the workplace and taking some risks while on their career journey.

On the talent pipeline we need to think broader than the insurance industry as a source of talent. New entrants and competitors to the market will come from unrelated industries. We need to be open about what defines talent... with experience moving lower down the list of indicators of success. We must also be open to source talent from different, unrelated industries.

The pay gap between men and women must also be addressed. The 2018 WEF Global Gender Report ranks South Africa’s gender equality 19th out of 149 countries. But on the element of wage equality for similar work, the ranking plunges to 117th. Organisations must also look at their current policies and take decisive action to build their woman talent. Organisational leaders must ensure that the women in their organisations have opportunities for growth in strategic projects and for them to make meaningful contributions to the organisation.

Michele Peach
Head: Business Assurance
Hollard Insure