Insurer’s GM on diversity, providing opportunities, and making a positive impact

People and culture expert highlights the breadth of work required

Insurer’s GM on diversity, providing opportunities, and making a positive impact

Insurance News

By Terry Gangcuangco

“There are too few women in CEO roles in the insurance industry in Australia, but we’re starting to see some movement, particularly more women in C-suite.”

That was the assertion made by TAL people and culture general manager Paola Molino (pictured), who will be speaking at this year’s Women in Insurance Summit Australia, when Insurance Business sat down with the CBA, Westpac, and Insurance Australia Group (IAG) alumnus about the sector’s image woes, TAL’s talent initiatives, and how proud she is to be making a positive impact through insurance.

“In the two most recent insurance companies I’ve been in – IAG, which is the largest general insurer; and TAL, which is the largest life insurer here in Australia – we have more women working in our business than men overall,” noted Molino, who believes that the perception surrounding the industry being a field dominated by older men relates primarily to the senior levels.

“There is a disproportionate number of men compared to women in more senior roles, and that’s industry-wide in Australia and broadly across financial service. But we are starting to see that change. We’re starting to see more women on the C-suite, and the focus has been on getting that pipeline through.”

The general manager conceded that there is still a lot of work to do, while adding that she thinks there are several factors that need to be addressed to change the image and reality of the insurance industry dominated by males in senior leadership roles.

She said: “If you’re outside the industry looking in, I can understand why people may think it’s male-dominated and for the older generations.”

At TAL, though, Molino revealed that attracting young joiners has been a priority through graduate programmes and has seen great success in attracting graduate talent. In fact, the company doubled its graduate intake this year. She pointed out, however, that fintechs and start-ups are increasing their attractiveness and becoming strong competitors for graduates.

Meanwhile, speaking about the insurer’s diversity agenda, Molino shared: “This year we strengthened our talent review process, which included understanding our people’s learning agility and getting to know our people’s career aspirations, helping identify our key talent and develop individual development plans to reach those career aspirations. From that we’ve also identified programmes to help accelerate development and in particular focus on our female talent.

“We’ve implemented a female sponsorship programme where our key female talent have the opportunity over a period of six months to work on a variety of projects and experiences that will expose them to the broader leadership team. We’ve only just launched that, so we’re looking forward to seeing results and continuing to provide programmes that support our people.”

TAL also provides individualised programmes to support both its male and female leaders.

“Supporting our leaders to have career conversations is important so that we understand what people want to achieve and ensure we can support them achieve these aspirations,” explained the people and culture GM. “Secondly, it’s ensuring we have robust development plans in place providing women with the opportunity to broaden exposure and experience and be ready for succession.

“For whichever career that they’re considering, how do we ensure that we can support them? Women in our industry, particularly at the senior levels, are well sought after and there’s quite a bit of competition for female talent. We’re striving to increase our gender diversity – the more opportunities we can provide women at TAL, the more women we will retain and attract.”

As for her own chosen career and industry, Molino shone a spotlight on what insurance offers to the community and the broader society.

“I often think of the consequences of Australians not having the right level of cover when the unexpected happens. The positive impact insurance has on individuals, families, communities, and our economy is significant. For example, without  life insurance cover, in particular, we would see people that wouldn’t be able to afford the support to recover, and the negative impact on families and our economy,” she illustrated.

“I think about being able to provide that level of security and being able to sleep at night knowing that if something was to happen, I’m okay and my family will be okay, and the broader impact that has economically. Being able to support the millions of Australians, individuals and families who have had the unwanted and unexpected occur, makes me proud to work in the insurance industry knowing the positive impact we are having and the difference we make.”

Moving forward, Molino said high up on the agenda at TAL is the future of work, which spans not only flexible work arrangements or a hybrid way of working – something that the insurer has opted to implement even post-pandemic – but also, more broadly, continuing to strengthen the organisation’s “great” culture and how the company can support its leaders to enable them to best lead in the new environment.

Molino is among the speakers at the Women in Insurance Summit 2021 taking place on August 05 in Sydney. Register now.

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