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Celebrating the women changemakers across the insurance world

“Women look to each other for inspiration and guidance and the more we encourage young girls down this career path, the more we, as an industry, can achieve” Nikki Hookway – Senior Account Handler.

International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March goes further than celebrating the achievements of women; it’s increasingly a day that reflects the role everyone has in order to forge a more gender-balanced world. At Aston Lark, we want to know more about the inspiring women in our organisation, and how diversity in insurance has shifted for the better over the years.

First, we’re shining the spotlight on Alison Waters, Commercial Placement Manager, who shares her career journey and how she landed in the world of insurance.

‘Alison, tell us about your experience in insurance and how you came to work in a world that was, historically, dominated by men.’

Having left college at the age of 17 with no idea of the career path I wanted to follow, I began working in an admin role for an insurance company. Then a group of junior underwriters were starting their first set of CII exams and I was persuaded to join them. Even though at the time I wasn’t in an underwriting role, it interested me. After around two years of joining the business, I moved into the commercial team and there I stayed.

Still in my early 20s, I found myself working with a panel of brokers who were all male and who all (I felt) had a lot more experience than me. I quickly realised that as a young woman I had to really prove myself to be taken seriously. Meanwhile, I continued with my CII studies and worked hard to achieve my ACII qualification at just 23. This gave me the credibility to demonstrate that I knew what I was talking about in a heavily male-dominated industry. Being qualified also provided me with the confidence to back up my decisions.

I believe that women bring certain qualities to the workplace. Emotionally, we tend to be more empathetic, and we listen. We have ideas and see things from a different angle to our male counterparts. And this means we can bring a new dimension to a project or piece of work. The women I’ve worked with are fantastic at mediation and are often the people who can appreciate different viewpoints within a team environment. Personally, I’ve learnt most of my mediation skills by being a parent to two boys where I had years of refereeing sibling arguments, helping them to resolve issues and conflict – an ability which I believe I have used in the workplace on many occasions.

Women are also great at organising and planning, making efficient and effective managers and team leaders. They’re also particularly good at multi-tasking and balancing a variety of different priorities.

There is a saying that “Women have to try twice as hard to be thought of as half as good as men” and whether this is just a self-manifested perception or reality, I certainly felt this in my earlier years in the insurance industry.  But I do think the tide is turning and it’s noticeable that there are more and more women in senior roles across the whole scope of broking, underwriting and claims.

This, coupled with the fact that I work for an employer who firmly believes in inclusion and diversity, has absolutely helped me and my female colleagues achieve our potential without feeling inferior to our male peers – and we don’t have to try harder than them to be accepted or respected.

Next up we spoke with Nikki Hookway in our Commercial Insurance team…

‘Nikki, what does International Women’s Day mean to you, and why do you think it is important to have women better represented across the insurance sector?’

When I talk about the relevance of International Women’s Day, I always think back to my first job at 16. I remember walking nervously into the commercial department of a national insurance broker, terrified I wouldn’t fit in. My only perception of insurance back then was of men in suits and ties.

I was welcomed by a trainer – a young girl at the start of her own career – who showed me the system and processes for the admin team I’d be joining for the summer. I was then introduced to my team leader – also a woman. I was introduced to her manager – a woman. And finally, I met the director of the department – again, a woman. My perception immediately changed. Don’t get me wrong, 80 percent of the office were men, but these women were holding senior positions.

Fast forward two years and I left college with average A-Level results. This left me deflated and I decided to return to this broker until I could figure out what I really wanted to do. I applied for my first sales role and was interviewed by yet another female team leader, who ultimately offered me the job.

Insurance remains a male-dominated industry; however, my own experience has been nothing but positive in terms of the role models I’ve had around me, both men and women.

I am grateful every day for those ladies who coached, trained, and promoted me at the start of my journey. So much, that I’ve never wanted to leave insurance!

I still see these women taking the industry by storm – even though we’ve each moved on to new companies – and I hope I can continue down a similar route with my own career. I’m still only 32 and know within my chosen profession I have many opportunities ahead of me. Being a woman certainly hasn’t held me back (and that’s with having a child when I had only just turned 20), and Aston Lark continues to push my development every day.

Women look to each other for inspiration and guidance and the more we encourage young girls down this career path, the more we, as an industry, can achieve.

Women in insurance will help move the diversity agenda forward. As we all know, there are still many issues to be addressed and challenges to overcome, but as more women progress their careers in insurance, we believe it will provide better outcomes to clients.

Thank you for reading… We hope you enjoy empowering women this International Women’s Day!

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