Our mandate as a reinsurance company is to promote financial inclusion within the COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) region and the rest of the continent. The West has an insurance penetration of around 7-8%. In Africa, it is still at 1%. One of my roles as the chief executive of a regional entity – indeed, one that was created for that purpose – is to develop inclusive products and services that help with integration. It starts with gender parity in the office.
I have been at ZEP-RE for 20 years, but I have been able to have the largest impact within the company since I became chief executive in 2017. It is not easy to get women into the business at a senior level through normal channels. The structure of our lives as women is split between work and home. Home life inevitably takes you out of the marketplace for jobs, but by the time your children have grown up, the appetite to move on has often evaporated. Most women in their 30s and 40s are raising a family. They’re comfortable and not out talking to headhunters.
As a company, we have around 110 employees, and it was a mission of mine when I was appointed chief executive to reach gender parity. The immediate problem we were faced with was that even though we told people that we had opportunities for which women should apply, and it was always something I mentioned when I spoke at conferences, women were not applying. What was the best way to fix this?
Around six years ago, I created the Young Professionals Program (YPP) with the specific aim of hiring more women – between five and seven a year. Since then, around 50 women have passed through the program. In each market we work in across Africa, we go to the universities and talk to the actuarial departments.
It is not easy to get women into the business at a senior level through normal channels.
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