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Diversity in insurance is something we all need to care about

21 August 2018

By Michelle Ashby
Learning Leader

This July, I was very proud to host the Women in Insurance Summit, a one-day conference for individuals who were seeking to improve their understanding on the challenges faced by women in the insurance industry.  

We haven’t ‘fixed’ gender diversity - yet

When I was asked to chair this event, it prompted me to reflect on my own experiences, and it is fantastic to think about how far we have come since I started my career in insurance in the 80s. Back then the ‘old boys club’ style was an entrenched way of doing business and I have more than a few shocking recollections of the way women were treated.

One of the things I’m often asked is – haven’t we solved this issue? Can’t we wrap it up now and say ‘well done’, pat each other on the back and move on? 

However, our industry continues to face challenges around unconscious bias, gender pay disparity and genuine inclusion regardless of age, culture or background.

What do we need to focus on to improve diversity? 

While each speaker and panel at this year’s summit had a different topic, three key themes continued to surface throughout the day that we all need to focus on to create a more inclusive industry.

The importance of diversity

Diversity in business is one of the ways that we can challenge ourselves to deliver better outcomes for our customers.  To achieve this, we need to ensure that we’re bringing people into our business from a diverse range of cultures, ages, experiences and genders.

It’s encouraging to see real understanding from many that a more inclusive and diverse industry will help us be better businesses.

The need to keep pushing yourself

There’s research that shows that the gender pay gap often starts with a woman’s first role, because women are less likely to negotiate their salary – and then compounds over time from there.

One of the key themes from this summit was the need for women to push themselves, when it comes to negotiating, taking opportunities and learning. 

Taking every opportunity presented, even if you don’t believe you have all the skills required at the time, is key to developing and growing as individuals to support the career that you want.

Sometimes that means being prepared to have tough conversations around where you want to go in your career, and finding people who can support you to overcome obstacles.  

A need for flexibility

All of this is underpinned by the need for flexible work arrangements - and not just for women. 

I’m very proud of our approach to flexibility at Suncorp, and the way it is enabling everyone in our business to balance work with family, community work, sport or any other commitments - and helping our people to bring their ‘best self’ to work each day.

For every business, it’s time to embrace the changing nature of work and the way technology is allowing us to create more flexible workplaces.

The future is bright – and we all need to work for it

The insurance industry has come a long way in the time I’ve worked in it and I think the future looks brighter still. Tolerance, new female role models, an increasing number of men choosing to stay home with the kids and campaigns like #timesup are all playing a role in keeping diversity, inclusion and fair play top of mind.

As the Learning Leader at Suncorp New Zealand and chair of the ANZIIF Women’s Council, I feel privileged to be in a position to influence how we build diverse workplaces, and to see the incredible work that Suncorp and other businesses are doing in this space.

I hope we all feel inspired to continue this journey. Because this bright future will only be possible if we continue to change today.

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Media enquiries: Tony Reid 027 405 1174 or Lisa Meiklejohn 027 404 4355