Strong female leadership driving progress | Insurance Business New Zealand















“Women have taken a significant leadership role in driving change”

Strong female leadership driving progress

Insurance News

By
Bennett Richardson

The Women in Insurance Summit 2024 is a milestone for Lee-Ann du Toit (pictured), partner and national insurance lead at Deloitte, as she chairs the event for the third year running.

“For Deloitte, and for me personally as the firm’s insurance sector leader, we are very proud to be sponsoring this important summit again,” she told Insurance Business.

The confab offers an opportunity to take stock as well as turn to face new challenges and reconnect with peers.

“It is refreshing to have a dedicated day each year to celebrate the value of women leaders in insurance. It provides a much-needed platform to hear their stories, bring in new perspectives and create new friendships,” said du Toit.

For the industry, the summit will bring back memories of the tough situation it faced at the same time in 2023 following the twin disasters of the Auckland Anniversary floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.

“Last year, many of us were navigating the devastating impact of climate change due to floods, cyclones, rising sea levels and more, across our businesses and for some, in our personal situations,” she said.

“Now, in 2024, new challenges are on the horizon, including how to integrate evolving technologies like Generative AI into our businesses, the impact of hybrid and flexible work environments, the economic climate, how to achieve that elusive work-life balance…, and how to continue the conversation around climate change.”

Lee Ann du Toit will be chairing the event and facilitating the leadership panel at the upcoming Women in Insurance Summit 2024 in Auckland on February 27, thanks to event sponsor Deloitte, gold sponsor Delta, and silver sponsor NIB. Book your tickets today

Equitable representation increasingly in sight

Women have come a long way in insurance over the nearly three-decade span of du Toit’s career and today, are increasingly helping shape the sector as it confronts a complex range of issues that define the post-pandemic world.

“Women have taken a significant leadership role in driving change, transformation and a customer centric, inclusive insurance industry for Aotearoa. This is evident when looking at current and previous female CEOs and other leaders across the insurance industry in our country,” said du Toit.

Many insurance companies have a majority of women on their staff, and while representation drops at higher levels of management, these figures are slowly improving over time.

While not primarily an insurance firm, Deloitte recorded 52.3% female staff over all in 2023, up from 51.4% in 2022. At the partner level, the percentage is in the 30s but is on a steady rise with three out of the four new partners promoted in December 2023 being female.

“We have gender representation targets and gender pay gap targets that are set with the global firm, and that we report on, so these are front of mind when recruiting and when conducting promotion and salary rounds,” said du Toit.

“It hasn’t always been this way. There have been quite a few sobering stories of how hard it was for women to make their mark in the insurance industry in previous decades. It was truly a man’s world 20 years ago, so the progress is promising.”

A strong focus on representation and culture brings dividends

She attributes much of the change to policies that directly address the imbalances that were so prevalent in the past.

“This progress is likely attributed to an increased focus on female representation at all levels, with defined targets, and improved options around work flex supporting females and particularly mums (as well as new dads!) to stay part of the Deloitte community for longer,” she said.

Such policies filter through to strengthen corporate culture around gender balance. Better corporate culture through diversity is self-reinforcing as pioneer women who lead by example show incoming cohorts that female leadership is normal and valuable to the company.

Du Toit’s own career is an example of how a trailblazer can influence younger women in the industry, underscoring the importance of the culture dynamic.

Elri Pienaar, manager for actuarial services at Deloitte, explained how employees are inspired and feel like many of the tougher battles have already been won for them.

“My parents raised me to believe I was exceptional and can achieve anything I put my mind to, they never so much as mentioned my gender or limitations that my gender could possibly impose,” she said.

A few years ago, young women entering the workforce often faced a rude shock that the male edifice of corporate culture was not only present but still dominant in industries such as insurance. But Pienaar’s own ambitions at Deloitte haven’t been thwarted.

“My working years… is where I was the most blessed. Strong women like Lee-Ann had already paved the way for young ones like me. They managed to transform the organisation that I worked for to such an extent that I did not experience any feeling of being less valued or respected,” she said.

The result at such companies is an even playing field. It is a tribute to years of forward-thinking policy and the efforts of today’s female corporate leaders that the women now moving up the ladder don’t feel disadvantaged due to their gender.

“We received the fruits of their labour which meant we could grow as leaders and experts in our field as equals,” said Pienaar.


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