Elite Women 2022

Leaning in, moving up

Insurance Business Australia is proud to present the winners of the 2022 Elite Women awards. This year’s champions represent an intelligent and diverse group of professionals who, when they’ve taken their hands off the ladder to success, have only done so to pull more women up with them. They’ve put in the hours to master their fields and helped with volunteer activities – as well as advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) – blazing a righteous path for the next generation to follow.

Women in the insurance industry in Australia have been doing better in some ways and not so well in others. According to Australian government statistics, women now make up more than half of the workforce, and they are pursuing educational opportunities at a greater rate than men. While Australian women hold only 17.6% of chair positions, those in insurance fill 23.7% of chair positions, according to Swiss Re. Conversely, although the pay gap for women in general is 13.8%, the pay gap for women in the financial and insurance sector is 22.6%, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

“Our team of women is empathetic, engaging, and focused, and we inspire them to reach their goals and achieve all that they can”
Jane Martin, Oracle Group Insurance Brokers

 

 

Driving growth and good will

One of this year’s award winners is Jane Martin. Over 30 years ago, she fell into insurance by chance, then fell in love with the industry and has since risen through the ranks to become the director of authorised representatives (ARs) and the state managing director of Oracle Group (Australia), Victorian division.

Her professional accomplishments are numerous. Throughout her career, she has distinguished herself by excelling in client collaboration and mentoring team members. She is also a firm believer in DEI and has worked to recruit and train diverse new hires with little to no experience in insurance.

In general, she says, life has been challenging over the past few years. “Women have sometimes struggled more during the pandemic, as often they are the main caregivers and could be juggling work, children, home schooling, and extended family members,” says Martin. “I’ve seen all our team go through elements of this, and the key has been to be personally connected to them, be supportive and understanding.”

In particular, Martin has faced three challenges. First, mobilising staff to work remotely in the face of lockdowns. Second, continuing staff development in the face of remote working conditions. And third, dealing with the hard market and capacity challenges through educating clients on market conditions.

On the issue of pay disparities, she says that while they do exist in the industry, she’s happy with Oracle’s pay policies.

“Seeing our organisation’s approach demonstrates that gender equality is improving,” she says. “Collectively, we have a long way to go, but the sheer number of key women identified through Elite Women in Insurance shows the landscape is shifting.”

Since taking on her new role as director of ARs, she has more than doubled Oracle’s AR network, helping the company to win the 2022 IB Fast Brokerage award.

Overall, Martin thinks women are key drivers of change. “We have been extremely fortunate at Oracle Group that women in our organisation outnumber their male counterparts – not for any specific reason other than we select the right people for the right job,” she says. “Our team of women is empathetic, engaging, and focused, and we inspire them to reach their goals and achieve all that they can.”

“If this is something that you really want to do, if you believe in it, simply keep forging forward because success will come”
Jessica Jenkins, Brooklyn Underwriting

 

Normalising mental health challenges

Another Elite Woman is Jessica Jenkins, relationship manager at Brooklyn Underwriting and co-founder of the Women’s Wellness Hour of Power. Her accomplishments include being elected to local government in Victoria at the age of 19. Leveraging her own difficult experiences during and after pregnancy, Jenkins has become an advocate for helping normalise some of the challenges associated with mental health. She has also been active in DEI activities, volunteer programs, and discussion groups.

For Jenkins, the global pandemic has added pressure to existing triggers for women of all ages, amplifying financial stress and mental health issues. “Lockdowns [resulted in] reduced social support and connection, creating a fragmented disconnect and social isolation from friends, family, and support networks that most women and young mums rely upon,” she says. “Lockdowns also meant ‘no buffer’ between work and home life with schools and childcare centres closed, children at home requiring care or home schooling when usually at school or in care, adding to the pressure of managing paid and unpaid work all under one roof.”

In particular, Jenkins says the challenges of the past few years have forced her to overcome her perfectionism. While working at home, she quickly found that her young child would interrupt important business and client meetings. At first, she was horrified. Then, she realised that everyone was understanding, and the domestic quirks helped humanise the situation. “Absolutely, it was not comfortable managing a toddler and working remotely; however, I got my trusty journal out and reflected on the day,” says Jenkins. “Was it bad? I was safe in my home and had the ability to work remotely while sadly, many others did not have that luxury.”

On the issue of pay disparities, she says the pandemic might have accelerated the shift to flexible working and is contributing to the progress towards financial equality for women.

Overall, Jenkins believes in the power of will. “If this is something that you really want to do, if you believe in it, simply keep forging forward because success will come,” she says.

“Today, women still face the struggle of trying to find a good work-life balance and dealing with ‘mum guilt’ of being in high-performing roles with multiple demands”
Poppy Foxton, Honan

 

Author of her own destiny

Poppy Foxton, another Elite Woman this year, is the national head of corporate insurance and risk solutions at Honan. She has been in the game for more than 13 years, forging a path through claims, risk consulting, and corporate broking to her current role.

One of her professional accomplishments is acquiring an ANZIIF diploma in insurance broking. She has also authored articles on insurance disruptors and market conditions that have been published in the Wall Street Journal and The Australian. As the lead of a mostly male team, she has focused on DEI and has mentored many, including fellow award winners Maja Vujinovic and Christie Mitsas. Foxton is also a member of the Honan Social Impact team, which drives environmental, social and governance strategy at the company.

Like Martin and Jenkins, Foxton says the lockdowns were especially challenging to women. “Today, women still face the struggle of trying to find a good work-life balance and dealing with ‘mum guilt’ of being in high-performing roles with multiple demands,” says Foxton. “Many women have to work part time to accommodate this, meaning they end up doing a full-time job after hours and well after kids’ bedtime or [having] limited career progression.”

She notes three challenges over the past few years. First, returning to work after maternity leave. Second, struggling to work from home during lockdowns. Third, continuing to assert herself as a high-ranking professional woman in an industry still considered to be a man’s world.

On the issue of pay disparities, Foxton says it’s still very real but doesn’t think it’s outright intentional. “Sometimes it is due to women taking a break to raise children while their male counterparts continue to progress in terms of salary,” she says. “Also, it may be a generalisation, but one that holds true, that some women struggle to ask for what they are worth even when they outperform males around them.”

Among Foxton’s accolades are the 2021 ANZIIF Making a Difference in Claims award. She also led the Indigo Project, which won two industry awards, 5-Star Insurance Innovator and 5-Star Insurance Technology.

In the meantime, she thinks women in the industry could benefit from better networking functions. “I have noticed that a lot of women’s networking functions are based around a lunch, where the majority of time is spent listening to speakers and panels,” says Foxton. “While this is enjoyable and educational, it leaves very little time for actual networking. I would love to see more industry events built around genuine networking opportunities that women will enjoy. Men tend to be good at this, as there is always time to talk shop over a game of golf.”

 

Elite Women 2022

  • Abbie Wilson
    Your Trusted Broker
    National Insurance Brokers
  • Aimee Pozoglou
    National Practice Leader, Commercial Lines
    ProRisk (Professional Risk Underwriting)
  • Amanda Morris
    Managing Director
    ARMA Insurance Brokers and Broker Base Pro
  • Angela Fitzpatrick
    Head of Key Account Management
    Crawford & Company
  • Anita Lane
    Director
    Solution Underwriting Agency
  • Belinda Speirs
    Group General Counsel
    Suncorp
  • Catherine Carlyon
    Country Manager, Australia
    AXA XL
  • Cathy Mitchell
    National Senior Facilities Underwriter
    Berkley Insurance Australia
  • Chloe Thomas
    National Claims Manager
    ProRisk
  • Christie Mitsas
    Client Manager, Private Client Group
    Honan Insurance Group
  • Christine Bell
    Country Head, Australia and New Zealand
    Swiss Re Corporate Solutions
  • Denise Gammie
    Account Executive
    Brookvale Insurance Brokers
  • Emma Thomas
    Chief Executive Officer
    Achmea
  • Heather Blanco
    Chief Executive Officer
    SUREWiSE
  • Ilona Horvath
    Head of Liability, Financial Lines & Construction Claims
    QBE
  • Jane Mason
    Head of Product, Channels and Risk
    BizCover
  • Jane Smith
    Head of Energy and Power – Pacific
    Marsh
  • Kirsty Owens
    State Manager SA and National Portfolio Manager SCTP
    Berkley Insurance Australia
  • Lara Morgan
    Partner
    allinsure
  • Lisa Carter
    Managing Director
    Clear Insurance
  • Lucy Roberts
    Director
    Interlink Insurance Brokers
  • Maja Vujinovic
    Head of Risksmart
    Honan Insurance Group
  • Maria Parry
    Chief Operating Officer
    QIB Group Holdings
  • Marni Jackson
    Head of Product – Vehicle
    Youi Insurance
  • Menna Troughton
    Brisbane Metro Domestic Operations and Account Manager
    Crawford & Company
  • Natasha Barker
    Manager, Corporate
    Gallagher
  • Nicole Eldridge
    Director of Insurance
    AUZi Insurance
  • Poppy Foxton
    National Head of Corporate Insurance and Risk Solutions
    Honan Insurance Group
  • Prue Willsford
    Chief Executive Officer
    Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance
  • Rebecca Innes
    Senior Broker
    ProBuild Insurance Brokers
  • Rebecca Stirton
    Training and Quality Assurance Manager – Claims
    Adica Insurance
  • Rita Gillam
    General Counsel and Chief Risk Officer
    DUAL Asia Pacific
  • Sally Richardson
    Marketing Director
    Arteva Funding
  • Sarah Lyons
    Chief Executive Officer – Australia
    Gallagher
  • Skye Theodorou
    Co-Founder and CEO
    upcover
  • Suzi Leung
    Chief Claims Officer
    Zurich Financial Services
  • Tanushree Arora-Sopori
    Director
    Imperium Insurance and Financial Solutions
  • Wendy Foweraker
    Executive Manager, Broking Operations
    Community Broker Network

Methodology

Starting in February 2022, Insurance Business Australia invited insurance professionals from across the country to nominate exceptional female leaders for the annual Elite Women list. Nominees had to be working in a role that related to, interacted with, or in some way impacted the general insurance industry. They should also have demonstrated a clear passion for insurance.

Nominators were asked to describe their nominee’s standout professional achievements over the past 12 months, along with their contributions to diversity and inclusion in the industry and how they’ve given back through volunteer roles and charity work. Recommendations from managers and senior industry professionals were also taken into account.

The Insurance Business team reviewed all nominations, examining how each individual had made a meaningful contribution to the industry, to narrow down the list to the final 50 Elite Women.