RSA scores an incredible treble in Elite Women 2024

Emily Fraser, Gemma Jackson and Sunita Gaddu triumph in the 2024 edition

RSA scores an incredible treble in Elite Women 2024

Diversity & Inclusion


This article was produced in partnership with RSA Group

David Saric, of Insurance Business, sat down with Emily Fraser, Gemma Jackson and Sunita Gaddu to discuss what receiving the IBUK Elite Women distinction means to them.

Every year, Insurance Business UK recognises women of professional excellence in the insurance industry who are breaking barriers in diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and actively working to dismantle gender disparity.

“This distinction makes me stop and reflect on everything that we have achieved with the help of the wonderful colleagues that I work with, and it motivates me to do more,” said Sunita Gaddu, RSA’s partnerships manager.

“For me, it means so much because it provides a platform for us to continue to highlight the important work that we’re doing,” Emily Fraser, the company’s chief technical underwriting officer, said.

“DE&I is something I’m so passionate about and to have that recognised, not just internally but externally, is credit to all the work we’ve done,” added Gemma Jackson, UK&I head of diversity, equity and inclusion at RSA.

Insurance Business spoke with each recipient to delve deeper into the meaningful work they’re doing to help transform the industry into an inclusive and equitable space for all.

Emily Fraser — championing neurodiversity awareness and acceptance

Fraser was first introduced to the world of insurance through a call centre job while studying geography at university, and this is where she fell under the spell of underwriting.

“Most people fall into insurance, but from day one, I was fascinated with underwriting and when I was finishing my degree, I knew that’s what I wanted to make my career in,” she said.

Having joined RSA 12 years ago, Fraser worked her way through the company’s underwriting departments before landing her current post.

“It’s a fabulous role because we get involved in so much, supporting our frontline trading teams across the business with a real focus on innovation, driving quality and enabling our traders to deliver customer winning propositions and service,” she said.

When thinking about the challenges for women in the world of work, Fraser said: “While the tide is changing, there remains a legacy issue of women not always being recognised for their technical skills. This means that you have to work hard to prove yourself and develop inner confidence to drive forward your own career, with less external validation than others might receive.

“Over the years, as my career has flourished, I have used this to build personal resilience which gives me the strength to seek out new challenges, but I wish I could go back and tell my younger self not to doubt myself and be more confident about saying out loud what I was capable of technically, instead of just talking about my leadership abilities. Now when I mentor women, I make sure to build them up technically and help them develop their inner confidence too, as this is key to having more senior women in technical roles within the industry.”

Outside of her professional experience, Fraser is most proud of her work helping to support employees with seen and unseen disabilities, neurodiversity, and mental health, through her role as executive sponsor of RSA Ability and as Intact’s group ambassador for neurodiversity.

“We’ve begun to create a community where people can share experiences and strategies, it’s proving hugely beneficial, including supporting colleagues’ mental health and driving changes to company policies and procedures,” she said.

“Furthermore, it enables people to feel more confident to speak with their leaders, who are now more educated on the topic, and advocate for adjustments, which, while often small, can have a profoundly positive impact and allow them to unlock their potential.”

Gemma Jackson — creating a safer space for all

Having started at RSA in a junior underwriting role before progressing to leadership positions, Jackson’s interest in DE&I expanded from a personal to a professional passion at the time of the global Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

“When George Floyd was murdered, I desperately wanted to be part of the change, to use my own privilege in a meaningful way to help break down systemic barriers,” she said.

“I’ve been head of DE&I for three years now, and I have definitely found my vocation. I am driven every day by how we can make things better for people,” she said.

Awards like these matter to Jackson: “Recognising women is important as it addresses historic underrepresentation,” she said. “Celebrating and promoting the achievements of women in insurance inspires others and demonstrates women can, and do, excel in this field where they are significantly underrepresented in senior leadership.

“Awards like this also create the opportunity to build networks across the wider industry and enables more prominent figureheads to become mentors across the sector. We can’t underestimate the importance of role models for our younger colleagues of all genders.

“I’ve had many inspirational leaders in my time at RSA, and these role models act as a catalyst for success. If I can pay that forward myself by inspiring others to achieve their goals, to take a leap into the unknown, then that underrepresentation becomes all the more visible.”

Jackson has been the driving force in developing the policies at RSA that positively impact women’s working lives. She’s also helped to ground DE&I in data at RSA through the ‘Count Me In’ census.

“We’ve developed an ambitious strategy to help spread the message of inclusion as a business,” she added.

“It’s a new step for the business with goals that take us ultimately to 2030. It includes a key set of deliverables that I am especially proud of.”

Sunita Gaddu — paving the way for people of colour

Gaddu’s experience with inequality came firsthand when working as a Special Constable in the West Midlands Police Force.

“It was at a time when there was very little gender equality in the police force, let alone any ethnic diversity as well. It was a very challenging role, but I learnt a lot about myself and was able to make a real difference in people’s lives,” she said.

From there she transitioned into the world of insurance, eventually becoming a partnerships manager.

Aside from nurturing her three children and helping to care for her mother as she battles dementia, Gaddu is also a co-chair of RSA’s Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage Employee Resource Group (REACH).

When thinking about the challenges facing women in the industry, Gaddu said: “I always see a challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow. I believe if you want to drive change, be the change. With limited women of colour role models in the industry to be inspired by, I stepped up to lead the REACH ERG, to help change that.

“Prior to joining insurance, I was aware of racism/microaggressions in the workplace and have challenged myself and others to call it out. I try to educate, stay positive, and carry on!  I’m 51 and I’m determined to keep growing and learning.”

Gaddu helped establish the Enable Me sponsorship program, which created executive sponsorships for 25 individuals, 14 of which are women of ethnic minority.

“Something I’m additionally proud of is helping to create listening groups where employees can anonymously give feedback on their personal feelings and to share their experiences among one another —the REACH ERG has grown to over 35 members now,” Gaddu said.

“I don’t think there’s enough ethnic representation in the industry, which means a lot of people might go unheard. I think it’s so important to create those role models within the business that people can feel they can talk to about all the great stuff that’s happening, as well as things that need to improve.”

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