Driving diversity in leadership

Driving diversity in leadership | Insurance Business

Driving diversity in leadership

In her role as executive manager, customer experience at Suncorp New Zealand, Catherine Bateman is committed to ensuring that women are given the same opportunities as men, and that people from all different areas of the business are considered for senior management positions.

“We are very cognisant of women and the value that they bring,” she said. “Suncorp is seeing women from all different backgrounds ending up in our senior leadership team, so that’s very encouraging.”

In fact, Suncorp carries out an annual talent review within the corporation which includes an analysis of the male/female staff ratio. Other aspects of diversity including age, culture, and professional background are also considered.

“There is more to diversity than gender,” Bateman explained. “To be successful, we need to have a workforce that reflects out customers and the communities in which we operate, so that we can fully understand their situations.”

Having pursued a career as a telco executive for many years, Bateman made a pivotal move when she changed directions to join the insurance industry just two-and-a-half years ago. Not wanting to be pigeon-holed in the telco profession, she decided to challenge herself to adapt to a new industry and bring her extensive marketing experience to the insurance world.

While she has been fortunate to avoid gender-based discrimination throughout her career, Bateman believes that women often have to prove their value within the workplace.

“The challenge for me has not been about proving myself because I’m female, but proving the value of the roles I’ve taken on and what I’m contributing to the business,” she said. “Women traditionally tend to be over-represented in support roles, so there can be a need to prove that those roles add value.”

As part of the drive to support both men and women, flexibility is an important value at Suncorp. Bateman has remote-working staff on her team, as well as those who prefer to work in the office. Technology enables the team to stay connected with Skype meetings.

“It’s important to recognise that men are parents too and that some people are caregivers to elderly parents or they may have volunteer commitments. We look to support and enable all people to realise their full potential,” she said.

Bateman advises women joining the industry to focus on connecting with the purpose of the company for which they work.

“People who are really successful are those who really believe in that purpose and find meaning in what they are doing,” she said. “In this industry it’s vital to be connected to the role that we play in people’s lives.”

Bateman is a finalist in Insurance Business New Zealand’s inaugural Women In Insurance awards.