“Women tend to hold themselves back from applying for an opportunity because they think they can only do 80 per cent of the job description. We have to find a way to unlock that mindset,” said Nadine Tereora, CEO at New Zealand’s largest locally-owned life insurer, Fidelity Life.
“If we can correct that mindset of self-doubt, we’ll unleash some incredible potential,” she added. “Women hold themselves to a higher standard than males, by thinking of themselves as the under-dog.”
Tereora has experienced self-doubt first-hand when the role of CEO came up at her previous employer, Asteron Life which is part of Suncorp. Tereora had taken a side-step into of the role of executive manager following the birth of her second child, which allowed greater flexibility, so she did not anticipate taking the leap to CEO when the role became available six months later.
“It took someone to give me a good kick to put my hand up for that role,” she said. “The decision was pivotal for me. It took a lot of courage but it was one of the biggest turning points in my career.”
Tereora initially started her insurance journey at Sovereign where she gained a solid foundation in various aspects of the business, eventually taking on the role of senior operations manager. After having her first child, Tereora had the opportunity to join global insurer, AIA New Zealand, where she spent seven years, and worked her way up to COO before moving to Asteron. From there she made the move to Fidelity Life as CEO in late 2016.
Being a woman in the industry has not been without challenges and Tereora has often been the only female on the leadership team.
“It’s challenging in the sense that you can be pigeon-holed in terms of your capabilities,” she said. “There is an assumption that you’re going to represent the softer side of the firm so you sometimes have to really demonstrate your strategic agility and deliver results at the same time.
“Fundamentally, you have to have a really high degree of courage and self-belief so you don’t get caught up in the stigma of being a woman working in a male-dominated industry, but instead see it as an opportunity,” she advised.
Tereora believes that flexibility is key to maintaining a balanced working environment, so at Fidelity Life there is a deliberate strategy to provide flexibility to anyone who needs it, regardless of gender.
“Flexibility is not just about women. It’s an expectation of the way the world wants to work. It has to be a part of what we offer,” she explained.
Tereora is passionate about her industry and she hopes to encourage more women to join.
“I encourage any woman to bring your whole self to work and have courage in your convictions. You’ll be surprised by what you can achieve,” she said.