Global reinsurer's leader challenges peers to "Embrace Equity"

"The fear of being vulnerable must not hinder us"

Global reinsurer's leader challenges peers to "Embrace Equity"

Insurance News

By Daniel Wood

All over the world, people and businesses are celebrating International Women’s Day - including Munich Re, the global reinsurer with a presence in Australia.

This year’s theme is “Embrace Equity”. According to the International Women’s Day (IWD) organising committee, the idea is to start a conversation about why equal opportunities aren’t enough. 

“It is a great opportunity and very important that we participate in the global campaign and ‘Embrace Equity’ is a great header for this year’s event,” said Anja Linsmaier (pictured above), head of non-life, Munich Re Australasia.

“Bring Your Whole Self to Work”

Linsmaier said, locally, her firm makes the entire month of March ‘Bring Your Whole Self to Work’, partly because of other big celebrations over the last two weeks in Australia, like Sydney World Pride and Sunday’s Pride March, which she took part in.

“We’ve had events to raise awareness, not just for gender diversity, but also for the LGBTQIA+ community,” she said. “Not to forget cultural diversity, which I think is a very important one to discuss, for the insurance industry in Australia in particular, given its diverse workforce.”

Linsmaier said it is a great time to raise awareness but the work needs to continue every day.

“Personally, I think it’s probably as much about what we do in this one month as what we do in the 11 months outside it,” she said.

Vulnerability and cultural awareness

For Linsmaier, Munich Re’s ‘Bring Your Whole Self to Work’, she said, is about having a platform where she can voice opinions without feeling excluded.

“The fear of being vulnerable must not hinder us being what we are,” she said. “Therefore I want to show that vulnerability is normal - I am vulnerable too despite having an elevated position in the company.”

It’s also about normalising an awareness of cultural differences and making them part of the conversation.

“We’re also talking about cultural differences between Australia, China, Germany, India, and many more – we have at least 20 nationalities in the office here in Australia,” she said.

Linsmaier sees diversity as “a core leadership topic,” not just the responsibility of the HR department.

“I think what I need to do, as a leader of a business unit, is invest my personal time and make it a priority on the schedule,” she said. “This is why I meet with each of my 50 employees at least twice a year and we are not meeting to talk business, instead I try to find out what drives them and also what blocks them.”

Linsmaier has also marked International Women’s Day by writing an article on LinkedIn about equity in the insurance industry.

“The topic of diversity really has me on the edge of my seat,” she said. “This [article] is not the first time I’ve written about or been vocal on gender diversity or gender identity.”

“Many women, including myself, have experienced microaggressions like not being invited to relevant meetings or being labelled ‘emotional’ in discussions,” she said.

Linsmaier said taking diversity to the next level depends on leaders admitting vulnerability which will make other people feel safe to bring up these topics.

“For me, it is really important to take the diversity discussion beyond quotas to the next level of creating real equitable environments,” she said. “The way we do that is by starting a discussion and I encourage my peers to take the time for mentoring and networking.”

Linsmaier said the insurance industry has “come a long way” on diversity and equity issues.

“The number of women in leadership positions is constantly rising and Munich Re is committed to raising the quota of women in leadership positions to 40% by 2025 as part of our mid-term business strategy,” she said. “Munich Re’s non-life operation in Australia is already surpassing this target with 56% female managers.”

The first one: 1928 in Sydney

According to the charity, UN Women Australia, the first International Women’s Day in Australia was held in 1928 in Sydney. The event was organised by the Militant Women’s Movement who were calling for equal pay for equal work, an eight hour working day for shop girls and paid leave. The following year the event spread to Brisbane and since 1931 annual marches have taken place in both Sydney and Melbourne.

What are you doing for International Women’s Day? Please tell us below.

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