For many years we’ve been taught that it’s vital to treat men and women equally in all professions. However, one woman sees things a little differently.
That woman is Tanya Gerrard-White, group director of HR and talent development at Markerstudy Group: she believes it’s not about everyone being equal, but about everyone being individual. And she should know: after all, Markerstudy boasts a workforce with just about as even a split as you’re likely to see in the insurance industry at 55% male and 45% female.
“There is a danger to generalising,” she said. “There is a risk that we’ll keep what is a very traditional industry too traditional. We have to move with the times because we don’t want to miss out on high potential and attracting talent.
“It’s not about treating people equally as such – it’s about treating them as individuals.”
Gerrard-White has been connected to financial services for around 25 years and has worked in both the US and London. In 2010, she met Kevin Spencer of Markerstudy, and he invited her to join his team where she quickly set about integrating a talent development function that was made up of HR, talent acquisition and talent development.
“Managers set the scene and establish the environment for people to want to come to work and really start something,” she said. “So we’ve used that and we’ve grown massively ever since.”
There’s little doubt that the insurance industry is male dominated – however, Gerrard-White believes that the secret to attracting more females to the industry is actually to not
actively look for them.
“I don’t think we see gender or age – it’s about having the right mind-set,” she said. “Markerstudy is known for being a bit quirky and being a business with a personality and I think that mind-set really helps – because we take that approach and we don’t see gender we become more attractive. We don’t tend to talk about it because it’s really about talking to the individual and seeing what they need.”
Nevertheless, there are some steps that can help make a business more attractive.
“We have fast track programmes in place so that if someone does take maternity leave they can get back into their career quickly,” she said. “We do coaching and mentoring which also helps.
“People are generally more conscious of their work-life balance – especially in the last five years. It also depends on the level we’re recruiting for. The level is perhaps the thing that most greatly dictates what people are looking for – with work-life balance being particularly important to senior people.
“Celebrating success is also really important. We will have big celebrations with pop musicians and so on – but we invite families and I think that’s key. We’re involving their whole support network and I think that’s important.”
So after nearly 25 years in the business what keeps Gerrard-White herself still so keen to be involved?
“I love how it always changes,” she said. “There’s always diversity in the economy and you’ve got to keep your wits about you. There’s more to insurance than people think and we have to show them that.”
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