Though likely the last person in the profession to refer to herself as an “elite woman”, Maxine Goddard’s insurance career has been a masterclass not just in breaking through the glass ceiling but also in bringing other women along with her.
Goddard (pictured) – who is SVP of strategic distribution & development, global markets, at Sompo International – will be chairing the upcoming Women in Insurance Summit 2023 in London and has been involved with the conference since its early days. Her first introduction to the event was about five years ago when she was invited to speak on a panel made up of CEOs, despite not being a CEO herself, she said, which even at the time struck her as quite a radical inclusion.
Book your tickets today: Registration for the Women in Insurance Summit 2023 in London is now open
“I’ve been a supporter ever since, and it’s exciting to be invited to be part of it again as the chair, and I look forward to meeting everyone who will be attending the Summit this year,” she said. “I’m delighted that Sompo International is a sponsor of the event because the collective energy in the room is always incredible and never tiring. There’s always something to learn and something to take away. And that’s without accounting for the power of networking on the day itself because so many lasting friendships are built during that event. So, I’m thrilled to be part of it again.”
Years of supporting diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) have enabled Goddard to develop a strong radar for the difference between a tickbox exercise and an authentic attempt to move the dial on creating opportunities for women in insurance. It’s a subject that’s very personal to her, she said, not least when you consider the challenge facing women in insurance – with women making up 50% of the profession but only 20% of senior leadership positions.
“We’ve got a lot to do and we have some very talented and outstanding women in our industry,” she said. “It really takes a lot of hard work, perseverance and tough skin, to get a promotion and to break that barrier to get through to the C-suite. I’m personally very engaged in wanting to be that champion, to be that voice. Because I remember where I came from and how important it is that we support others coming into the industry. We want new entrants not to be put off, to stay in the industry, and we want to help them do well and succeed.
“Knowing how to navigate the barriers, the hurdles, that famous glass ceiling requires a village. And I’m happy to be part of the village of like-minded supports, mentors, coaches, sponsors… I thoroughly enjoy it and it is much needed because women across our industry do struggle to be seen and heard.”
Whether it’s imposter syndrome, bullying and harassment, feelings of isolation and exclusion, gender discrimination, childcare and caring responsibilities, ageism, menopause, the gender pay gap, or returning to work after a career break – there’s a lot for women in insurance to talk about. That’s why Goddard is pleased to be leading a speed networking session at the upcoming Summit aimed at helping delegates expand their networks and make new connections.
“It's a wonderful way to bring people together,” she said. “Most of us find it very challenging to walk up to a complete stranger and introduce ourselves and be memorable. Speed networking effectively takes all the overthinking away from that. It’s a superb way of building new business acquaintances quickly, effectively, and forming lasting relationships… It’s an adrenaline rush, you don’t have to think about it, you literally have 10 minutes to talk about yourself and an area or topic that might be of interest or concern to you.”
Goddard’s number one piece of advice to those who might be wary of throwing themselves into the session is that there is “nothing to worry about”. This isn’t about selling yourself or what you do, she said, it’s about exposing yourself to other people’s ideas and perspectives – and then moving on to the next topic very quickly. It’s astonishing what people can achieve in just 10 minutes, and the connections they can build just by learning about each other.
“The way speed networking is designed doesn’t give you the chance to overthink things,” she said. “Everyone there is in the same boat, everyone is there for the same reason. It encourages you to talk to someone different; someone who you might not otherwise have the chance to talk to. And great things can happen from there.”
Looking back at her career to date, Goddard noted how important networking has been to her professional and personal development alike. Networking gives you an immense amount of social capital, she said, it allows you to build a professional network both within your organisation and crucially also across the wider industry through cross-industry networks. Citing how “exponentially beneficial” networking has been to her personally, she highlighted how it has helped her amplify her name across the industry, and given visibility to the changes she is looking to drive across the sector.
“Because it’s so powerful, I strongly encourage others to embrace it,” she said. “This industry is so vibrant, it’s like Hotel California – once you’re in it, you just stay in it. It's all about people and relationships. There’s no doubt that, on a professional and a personal level, it’s hugely beneficial when you network. Quite simply, the more people you know, the more opportunities will come your way. And it’s so rewarding in terms of breaking down barriers and widening your relationships across the industry.
“I love listening to different perspectives, including those different to my own. Sharing ideas and listening to others' fears and concerns, and their various experiences and different outlooks is exponentially valuable. It's a key factor in our growth as individuals, in our careers but it's also very beneficial for the industry - it promotes innovation, it gives a sense of community, and I think it’s a fantastic tool for retention. Networking is a brilliant channel, in my mind, for all sorts of opportunities, because it opens doors that wouldn't otherwise be accessible… So, I always encourage others to embrace it.”
Sompo International is a sponsor of the upcoming Women in Insurance Summit in London. Registration is now open and you can book your tickets today.