As part of this year’s International Women’s Day, Avencia were joined by Robyn Mosley, Head of Finance National Markets at Markel International, to find out what impact bias has had upon her career to date, and how the insurance industry can ‘Break the Bias’.
Robyn, please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am an FP&A professional with extensive experience within the global Insurance and Investment Banking industries. I’ve worked in finance my whole career and I am currently one of two females in the senior leadership team within Finance at Markel International.
I’m incredibly passionate about gender equality. I was born and raised in South Africa and the education and opportunities available to young females over there are hugely stark in comparison to the likes of the UK. And whilst countries such as the UK have progressed a lot further, there is still so much more to be done across the world when it comes to driving gender parity.
It is important that as a society we educate people that anything is possible no matter their gender or other characteristics, and unfortunately, there is often still a perception as to what is deemed as appropriate for a certain gender.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Break the Bias’, before we delve into this, what does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day is not only a reminder that gender equality is not where it should be, but it is also a reminder that there is so much more to be done to combat all forms of inequality and prejudice. It’s an opportunity for us all to take a step back and reflect on our own personal biases, gain education on how society and businesses can improve and become more equal and ensure that we create equal opportunities for all.
What does bias mean to you, and what are your experiences of bias?
Bias in my eyes is not having the opportunity (or being allowed) to do something purely because of your characteristics – for example, your gender or race.
My experience of bias is that throughout my career I have always felt I’ve had to fight a lot harder to get a seat at the table and have had to really push myself outside my comfort zone to be heard in comparison to my male counterparts. I have had steep learning curves as someone who is naturally shy, and have had to develop thick skin quickly, just to ensure I give myself the same opportunities and develop in my career.
You have extensive experience working in the insurance industry, have you seen the industry become more gender equal?
I think there has been a lot of improvement within the insurance industry however, a lot of this change has been driven by catalysts within society, particularly within the last few years. I think as an industry we need to be more proactive with change.
Unlike the early days of my career, there are now multiple schemes in place to bring women into the industry and up the career ladder however, I do think there needs to be more support for getting women into leadership positions.
Many businesses are realising the importance and necessity of being more equal and diverse. They are truly starting to see and value the impact different backgrounds and perspectives can bring to a business.
At Markel, we run anti-bias training to ensure that we are breaking any potential biases during interview processes to help drive and build more diversity within our teams.
What are the main barriers for women starting their career in the insurance industry?
There are a lot of schemes in place to try and combat biases or barriers that may be in place at the start of a woman’s insurance career. From my perspective, a lot of barriers and biases come as women progress in their career within insurance.
What are the main biases women face when progressing their career in the insurance industry?
The FP&A market has a lot of peaks and troughs in terms of workload; some days are quieter and some days you could be working until late into the night. There is still a lot of biases and misconceptions around working parents and their ability to ‘keep up’ with workload. I know so many of my friends and colleagues that find it difficult to find the right balance between still getting exposure within the business and focussing on their responsibilities at home, and it can often be detrimental to their career. There needs to be more support and a wider understanding across the industry.
Another bias I have come across is the perception that often women don’t get on with other women (something which isn’t necessarily just insurance focussed). This is something that needs to be acknowledged and prevented. It is important that as women we empower and support one another, acting as each other’s champions and support network.
How can businesses/people ‘Break the Bias’?
Businesses need to provide more opportunities for women, particularly at the senior leadership level. This comes with wider understanding of the current biases/challenges in place and providing support and education on how to overcome these.
As colleagues, if you see biases taking place, call it out. If you catch yourself pre-judging someone, call yourself out. It’s important to take a step back and look at things objectively – don’t be afraid to question your own thoughts and actions.
I think it’s also important to equip yourself with the soft skills. Look at how others perceive you and how you perceive them. Do your research, speak to as many people as possible, educate yourself, and most importantly, harness differences.
It is important that as women, we put ourselves out there and are confident in our ability. There are so many times where I wish I had gone for that job or promotion, or even negotiated that salary a bit more – the worst than can happen is you get a no!
What actionable steps are you going to take to ‘Break the Bias’?
Everyone has certain biases and its important to recognise that and most importantly, recognise when you are being biased or biases are taking place. I am going to make sure that if I ever catch myself doing this, I will take a step back, reassess, and question why I am thinking in a certain way.
I will also continue to actively try and ensure that everyone feels welcome and has access to equal opportunities and the ability to have their voice heard in every meeting and scenario.
Avencia is passionate about driving gender parity in the insurance industry and we actively work with our partners to look for ways on how we can improve and drive impactful change within the sector. If you would like to find out more, or have a discussion with one of our team, reach out to email@example.com