Catherine Mulligan, global head of cyber for Aon's Reinsurance Solutions spoke to Insurance Business about her career challenges, gendered stereotypes and her career advice for young women.
Mulligan says that she has faced challenges carving a career as a senior executive in a male-dominated industry, but is quick to point out that many others have had it tougher than her.
“I am a white woman in a corporate job so that’s not representative of every woman in the entirety of the workplace.”
“I have to be ten times more prepared in order to be taken seriously and I think it’s probably important to note that people of color probably would say they have to be 20 times more prepared,” she said.
“I am living proof that you can get on in the industry,” she told Insurance Business.
Mulligan believes that men also need help. She says that our culture hurts men by restricting their ability to show up with their whole range of humanity.
“We use words like hard and unemotional to describe male leaders but these are neither masculine nor necessary leadership characteristics,” she said.
“I think that as a woman, I have tacit permission to bring a full range of styles to hard conversations.
Mulligan says that employers should create forums where men can show their full scope of their humanity.
“I think it’s a bigger issue than just the individual performance and choices of individual women,” she said.
Reflecting on her own career, Mulligan says that being humbled early in her career was her greatest gift.
“I think my greatest personal and professional lessons were the ones where my ego was called out and I think every single person I know has had or will have in their career where they will just get kicked in the teeth.”
“Once my ego was out of the way, I could make more intuitively wise decisions as a leader and about my own career path,” she said.
She says that women need to allow themselves to make mistakes and ask for help.
“I think women in this culture hold themselves to this idea of perfection and it really creates a terrifying trap. It’s frantic and efficient work usually done in isolation because we don’t want to ask for help so letting go of that old belief freed me to be a more efficient and creative contributor,” she said.
Offering advice to young women working in insurance, Mulligan says that they should learn to be direct, kind, honest and straightforward.
“Don’t be afraid of conflict,” she said.