Empowering Insights from Everywoman in Insurance Forum

Written at Jul 31, 2023 2:24:35 PM by Kathryn Ellis

I was lucky enough to have my application to join the Everywoman Leadership Breakfast accepted.  The topic for the breakfast was ‘Enacting your ESG agenda’. Now there are two things to note at this stage, I have no idea what distriBind’s ESG agenda is, and I am new to leadership.  So, at 8.30am I was already feeling very out of my depth.  But this was set to change. 

The breakfast was inspiring, the women around the table had so much knowledge to share and were from so many different aspects of Insurance.  Everyone's experience and agenda were different, and no one was shocked that I had no idea what our ESG agenda was.  In fact, two women there had also started out small (in subsidiaries of big corporates), so their input of how their agenda formed and developed as time went on, was incredibly insightful.   

Breakfast was done and we made our way through to join with the delegates attending the ‘All of Us’ Forum for the day.  I was pleased that I could offer this opportunity to all the women working at distriBind, and thankfully 4 of them were able to join me.  

After a beautiful introduction from founders Max and Karen, Mary O’Connor, CEO Howden CAP, gave a compelling insight into why women are ‘the answer’ and why women should be unapologetic in getting to where they want to be.  We need the cohort of women sitting in the room at this event to be successful, because we all have the same desire to be successful and to be leaders because we cared enough to be there.  Mary left us with 4 pieces of advice, I’ll summarise before my blog gets too long:  

1 – Be like Hamilton, take the shot, don’t wait until you are 100%, you will miss 100% of shots you don’t take.  

2 – Find the space, go where the problems are, that’s where you will add value and where you have opportunity.  

3 – Develop a network, networks are powerful  

4 – Don’t be pigeonholed.  Cultivate the role you want in you need to. Do your day job, but also support yourself by supporting others.  

Fantastic advice, and yes, I added everyone I met on LinkedIn and grew my network by 15 with 7 still pending in one day.  And I truly believe I could reach out to them for support should I need to.  

Julia Giannini, Head of Environment and Climate Action, Bupa and Hannah Hutton, Head of Onshore Energy, Arch Insurance were deliberate in their discussions around ‘Big Data’ and sharing this data.  Most organisations now collect and store data, but they don’t always use or share the data they collect.  It is our job to source the data we need and share the data we collect with the relevant people.  We should upskill our workforce to be able to achieve this as it is everyone’s responsibility and we shouldn’t have a specific ESG business plan, it should just be our business plan.  

Next Up was Marcia McFarlane, SVP, Technology Stable Leader, Marsh.  Marcia delivered her first keynote at this event and was down to earth, honest and inspirational.  She discussed stepping outside your comfort zone, learning on the job, creating safe spaces and being an ally.  A theme that ran throughout and that I have learned a lot about in a very short space of time.  I’m excited to implement some of Marcia’s ideas and tips into my own career.  Create a personal brand, take risks, have accountability for yourself and for others.  Marcia took us into a lovely coffee break with cookies and views from the 14th floor of the Howden building on Creechurch Lane.  The five of us from distriBind took this time to reflect on what we had heard and how we can apply this to ourselves, conversations around coaches, mentors and sponsors were key. 

Refreshed and ready to listen, a ‘Courageous Conversation’ with Nikki Williams, Jayven Sandy, Matt Terry, moderated by Seema Bennett was probably one of my favourites from the day.  I believe I really did learn how to become a better ally.  I think it's fair to say, the world is diverse and as Jayven said no two black women should be treated the same because even when she meets another black women in insurance, the chances of her being from Grenada in the Caribbean are very slim, most often it will be black woman from Nigeria, and even if they were to be from the Caribbean, would they like family guy and Disney like Jayven does?  Being an ally is about being an ally for an individual, not for a gender, a religion, a race etc. And there are very easy and simple ways in which we can all show we are allies to all.  Try it now...simply go and add your pro nouns to your email signature and LinkedIn profile.  

Nikki gave a great analogy and likened everyone to an onion.  When you peel the layers back, it might make you and the people around you cry, but its these things that make a person who they are.  Getting to know the people around you (and their layers) as more than just a face and a name is so important.  I hope distriBind is ready for all the amazing ideas I have to help make this happen within our organisation.  We already have an incredible culture, but there is always room for improvement and as the company grows, keeping the culture is so important.  

During this panel Matt also made a very good pint that we don’t have to everything at once, his role is focused on the gender gap, and he is unapologetic in this focus.  That doesn’t mean that there won't be other areas of focus and ongoing projects with other teams or for him in the future, but at Marsh they want to get this right.  It isn’t about taking privileges away, it's about giving everyone the same and there shouldn’t be a business case for it, but a moral case.  Be proactive, you have to care. 

To give you all some time to reflect and take action on the topics I've relayed, I’m going to leave it here, but watch out for part two in the next few days as I still have a lot to say from the day.  I haven’t covered the hot topic of Chat-GTP, what makes a safe or toxic environment or Queen Elizabeth 1. I bet you can’t wait.  

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Kathryn Ellis

Head of Communications