Networking is critical for women to succeed in the insurance industry, according to Maxine Goddard, global head of sales, operations and planning at Zurich Insurance.
“Spend at least 30 to 40 per cent of your time out there interacting, networking and forming communities, groups and clubs,” Goddard advised. “We really see the difference between the women who get involved and those who avoid interactions. This industry is all about building connections. Men tend to do that naturally, but it’s critical for women to do it too if they want to succeed,” she added.
Goddard is a dedicated mentor and sponsor who currently has 12 mentees under her wing. She offers advice, listens to their concerns, and challenges their thinking, as well as bringing them to events and making introductions to people in the industry.
“I live for mentoring,” she said. “There are always people who want to do more so I want to help them and see them progress. As women, we need to invest in ourselves and talk to others so they invest in us too. Find mentors and sponsors. Build a community and network. When you take these steps, they work in your favour.”
Coming from a background in project management, Goddard originally joined Zurich’s U.K. location 12 years ago as a program manager on climate change. She went on to set up Zurich’s mergers and acquisitions unit from scratch and gradually progressed through the company to her current role in which she is responsible for strategic initiatives from business transformation to planning customer and broker development.
Goddard has encountered gender-bias during her career, but she has never allowed it to hold her back.
“We need to be brave to deal with some of the biases that we have within the industry,” she said. “Now there is a focus on gender parity so everyone knows it is important to be fair and to call out bad behaviour.”
Although the industry as a whole is making a conscious effort to bring more women onto boards, Goddard would like to see middle managers do more to support women within their ranks.
“Women need to support each other because we can do so much more when we do it together,” she said.
Goddard is the national chair of the Zurich U.K. Multicultural Network and a leading committee member of iCAN, the insurance industry’s multicultural network which aims to raise awareness of different cultures and beliefs.