The Women in Insurance Summit is about all supporting and helping other women in the industry succeed, and according to key speaker and Achmea Australia chief executive Emma Thomas, this is exactly what motivated her to support the event.
She says that women are increasingly being encouraged to put their hands up for senior roles and move forward in their careers, but that role models within the industry sharing their stories and ideas are still a key part of inspiring meaningful change.
“My personal family history is a big part of who I am and what I do today as chief executive of Achmea Australia, and it’s a privilege to continue Achmea's 200-year legacy of lending a hand and supporting others,” Thomas told Insurance Business.
“I’ve set a vision for myself to be the best CEO for Achmea Australia, to realise my potential and transform the organisation. To achieve this, I need to also continue to develop and help people reach their full potential too.”
Thomas says events like the Women in Insurance Summit are invaluable because it’s not often that insurance workers get to take the time out to think about their careers, the path they’re on and where they want to go. She says New Zealand is one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to diversity and gender equality, however there is still some way to go before true diversity is achieved, especially at senior leadership level.
“New Zealand was the first country to grant women the vote, and we rank in the top 10 in the world for gender equality,” Thomas said. “However, that doesn’t mean we are ‘there’ yet. Different perspectives always improve the quality of the decision, so this under-representation of women in senior management roles is a concern – particularly in the agricultural sector, where women make up nearly 50% of the global workforce.”
“Women have a significant amount to offer in leadership roles, and increased representation at a decision-making level is vital for the future success of any industry, including the insurance sector,” she explained. “While there is no silver bullet, what needs to be top of mind is that a diverse and inclusive workplace starts with the right culture.”
Thomas says that putting people first should be top of insurers’ agendas when it comes to equal opportunities, and that active discussion is a vital part of change. Rather than allowing unconscious biases to go unaddressed, she says companies need to actively foster respect, equality and positive recognition.
“Your top talent should not all have the same background,” Thomas said. “This includes diversity in gender, but also other aspects including different cultural backgrounds. There’s still significant unconscious and conscious bias at workplaces and assumptions all too often hold people back in business.”
“Lastly, it’s about fostering an environment where people feel confident and comfortable to express their true thoughts and feelings,” she concluded. “This can contribute to significant and positive breakthrough change in an organisation.”