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Feb 2024

Diversity in action

Source: Asia Insurance Review | Oct 2023

Most (re)insurance market players in the APAC region at least pay lip service to the notion of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), although sometimes the tangible results can be hard to spot.
Not so down under, if the recent Australian Insurance Industry Awards are anything to go by.
For the uninitiated, the Australian Insurance Industry Awards are now in their 19th iteration and celebrate the best-of-the-best across the full insurance spectrum in the country. Initially launched and run by Asia Insurance Review, the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) took over the running of the awards some years ago – and they have gone from strength to strength.
Much of that strength this year was reflected in the battery of senior-level women who were in attendance either to receive awards or hand them out to the deserving winners.
A snapshot of the leading women that graced the stage included some names that will be very familiar to readers of Asia Insurance Review – such as QBE Insurance Australia Pacific chief executive officer Sue Houghton, Aon Australia CEO Jennifer Richards, CHU Underwriting Agencies chief executive officer Kimberley Jonsson, Suncorp Group CEO, insurance product and portfolio Lisa Harrison, SyncTechnologies CEO Carolina Dreifuss, Insurtech Australia CEO Simone Dossiter, Taylor Fry principal Win-Li Toh – as well as outgoing ANZIIF CEO Prue Willsford, host of the event.
A potential peek into the future of the sector also saw Finity senior consultant Calise Liu walk away with the Young Insurance Professional of the Year award, hinting at the depth of female talent coming up through the ranks to form the C-suite of tomorrow.
It is one thing to write about these leaders in the pages of a magazine. It is quite another to see them massed in one place at the same time – and this served to reinforce the image of the insurance sector in Australia as an outlier in DEI in APAC.
It has long been observed that the financial services arena is traditionally very male dominated and the insurance sector has generally demonstrated the same traits.
Around much of the world, including APAC, this continues to be true and so it is good to see that Australia is bucking the trend – and women in C-suite roles appear to be approaching parity of numbers with their male counterparts.
And while on the subject of parity of genders in the Australian (re)insurance 
sector, the new-look board of the Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation (ARPC) is also refreshingly balanced.
ARPC’s board is headed by its new chair Julie-Anne Schafer, who is joined by Mses Elaine Collins, Evelyn Horton, Eilis Hurley and Fran Raymond – all highly qualified professionals – in addition to five men.
It would be naïve to imagine that the DEI battle is over, even in Australia, but these are very positive signs.
Of course, there are strong DEI growth shoots visible in other major markets in APAC – particularly in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and India – but few other markets have yet made the strides that Australia has to date.
Undoubtedly, there is much cause for optimism. A 
Paul McNamara
Editorial director
Asia Insurance Review
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