Women are needed in leadership positions in insurance more than ever before as the changing world calls for a wider variety of views and skills, according to Emma Thomas (pictured), CEO at specialist agriculture insurer, Achmea Australia.
“The world is changing, the climate is changing and events are getting more severe,” said Thomas who has seen first-hand the devastating impacts of natural disasters and storm events on the farming community. “Companies are recognising the gap at the table that produces group-think, so they are starting to focus on having more women in leadership.
“Making sure women are getting to the interview will ensure the best person for the role is appointed,” she added. “Often there aren’t any women on the shortlist so hiring managers need to go back again to look at the applicants and see if there are women who have not sold themselves as well as the men.”
Growing up on a family farm in New Zealand gave Thomas a deep understanding and a passion for agriculture. After completing her education, she worked in an audit role with Deloitte and subsequently in an executive role at an IT solutions company before spending 10 years in senior leadership at Farmers Mutual Group Insurance in New Zealand.
The opportunity came to take on the CEO role at Achmea Australia when Thomas was approached by a head-hunter. She moved to Sydney with her husband and two children in 2017.
“I saw it as a unique opportunity to move to a company that has an international presence and a presence in agriculture,” said Thomas. “Moving to Australia has enabled me to develop my leadership skills in a different country and culture.”
Thomas hopes to bring more women up to the C-suite to ensure a balance of views and differing problem-solving skills.
“There is a lack of women in leadership roles,” she said. “Men and women are guided into different roles early in their career. Women have to make sure their contributions are recognised. It’s not that we work harder than men. It’s more about ensuring that someone is aware of what’s been done.”
Thomas advises women to pursue their dreams and not to be discouraged by obstacles they may face along the way.
“If you do meet setbacks, take them as a challenge. Perhaps you didn’t present your case well enough so think about how you can reframe it and try again,” she advised.