International Women’s Day 2021: We asked our team what it means to be a woman

Written by Catherine Pearson

On the 8th March 2021 we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD), a day dedicated to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the globe.

The theme for this year’s IWD is ‘Choose to Challenge’. As the official IWD website states, “a challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change”. By questioning the norm and calling out inequality, we can accelerate gender parity. By learning the history of women’s role in society, we can celebrate the achievements of women that have brought us to today.

Here at INSHUR, we #ChooseToChallenge inequality, call out bias and question stereotypes to create an inclusive and supportive work environment and do our bit to create an inclusive world. One of our values is ‘we’re always learning’ and so we take opportunities like IWD to learn about and reflect on the position of women in society.

Our Talent team has created a standardized process to make decisions based on skills and ability and hiring managers are encouraged to recognise their unconscious biases and use inclusive language. The team ensures that the hiring panel is presented with a diverse spread of candidates and pays attention to proportional representation throughout all stages of our hiring process.

We also have a range of benefits for our team centered around their personal and professional growth and wellbeing, including flexible working, a generous learning and personal development stipend and 13 weeks full pay parental leave regardless of gender. To discover our open roles, visit our careers page.

To celebrate IWD 2021, we chatted to some of our team about what it means to be a woman, self-talk, how INSHUR challenges gender bias and female role models. Here’s what the team said:

 

No alt text provided for this imageOlaosebikan Ajayi, Business Analyst

Describe what it means to be a woman in 3 words.

Resilient, Ambitious, Confident

If you have ever felt uncomfortable as a woman in a certain situation/setting, what would you tell that past version of yourself now if you could?

I would say ‘go for it’. No intimidation, I am deserving of my success.

How does INSHUR support you at work and challenge gender bias?

By creating family friendly policies, implementing company-wide policies that promote equity and organising ‘Always Leaning’ sessions to educate all employees on biases.

Who encapsulates what it means to be a woman for you and why?

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She will be the first female World Trade Organization Chief from March 1st, 2021. She is an economist and international development expert. Ngozi has steadily built her career over the years working for 25 years at the World Bank and rising to the No.2 position of Managing Director. She has received numerous prestigious awards & honorary degrees showing that women can get a seat at the table if qualified, given the opportunity and necessary support.

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Kulsoom Jeffreys, Head of Projects

Describe what it means to be a woman in 3 words.

Fierce, Graceful, Bold

If you have ever felt uncomfortable as a woman in a certain situation/setting, what would you tell that past version of yourself now if you could?

Have no fear. Move fiercely and gracefully in the direction you believe.

How does INSHUR support you at work and challenge gender bias?

We have a strong female voice in the leadership team and KPIs to improve the gender balance at work. We also have open conversations about tackling any inequalities.

Who encapsulates what it means to be a woman for you?

My mum. She is all of those words. Fierce, Graceful, Bold – and a nice person to top it all off!

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Bojana Ninkov, People Operations Partner

Describe what it means to be a woman in 3 words.

Powerful, Resourceful, Courageous

If you have ever felt uncomfortable as a woman in a certain situation/setting, what would you tell that past version of yourself now if you could?

You will never regret doing the right thing. Follow your gut.

How does INSHUR support you at work and challenge gender bias?

INSHUR is incredibly thoughtful and inclusive. I feel like my voice matters and I have a lot of autonomy. I feel truly supported and like I can accomplish anything I set my mind on.

Who encapsulates what it means to be a woman for you?

This is super challenging – there are loads of really amazing and inspiring women out there. One that comes to mind right now is Michelle Obama. She is extremely diplomatic, inspiring and courageous.

No alt text provided for this imageShalonne O’tey, Auto Liability Specialist

Describe what it means to be a woman in 3 words. Resilient, Confident, Wise

How does INSHUR support you at work and challenge gender bias?

INSHUR has done a commendable job in its efforts to challenge gender bias by emphasizing inclusiveness and diversity across areas and functions. Also, INSHUR has been very supportive during these challenging social times in their willingness to accommodate employees with many unexpected needs as we all navigate this new normal.

Who encapsulates what it means to be a woman for you?

My Mom, who is a breast cancer survivor and who has always been my rock and my greatest cheerleader and supporter, even when she was the one who needed it most.

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Catherine Pearson, Content Specialist

Describe what it means to be a woman in 3 words.

Brave, Tough, Trailblazing

If you have ever felt uncomfortable as a woman in a certain situation/setting, what would you tell that past version of yourself now if you could?

I really felt ‘different’ when I joined some male colleagues once for a social event after work. A collection of small things struck me, like how they took longer strides as we walked and I had to rush to keep pace, how they kept all the playful banter within the men in the group and how they challenged each other to a game of pool and not me. It felt like I’d joined a group of lifelong friends as an outsider, but the truth is we all knew each other for the same length of time and there was only one factor that set me apart.

If I could go back and talk to myself that day, I’d say, “you have just as much right to be here and have fun as they do. It’s also not your responsibility to try harder to ‘fit in’. You’re welcome to communicate your discomfort (now or later), or leave. There’s no pressure”.

How does INSHUR support you at work and challenge gender bias?

It’s a progressive workplace and I feel people are comfortable approaching the subject of gender bias, learning their own biases and making change to include everyone.

Who encapsulates what it means to be a woman for you?

Brené Brown. She is a research professor at the University of Houston who has spent over twenty years studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. She teaches that vulnerability is the greatest indicator of bravery and stresses the importance of boundaries in a fulfilling life.

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Catherine Perez, Driver Support Associate

Describe what it means to be a woman in 3 words.

Persistent, Resourceful, Empathetic

If you have ever felt uncomfortable as a woman in a certain situation/setting, what would you tell that past version of yourself now if you could?

The only time I have ever felt uncomfortable as a woman was when I was a young intern. I was no stranger to being the only woman in the room and it was very intimidating. I would tell my past self to stand your ground, speak your voice and take up the space you deserve.

How does INSHUR support you at work and challenge gender bias?

INSHUR hires strong women who inspire other women throughout the company.

Who encapsulates what it means to be a woman for you?

It goes without saying that our mothers are, and will always be, our female figures of what a woman encapsulates. However, they are not the only ones. A woman who I admire is Sonia Maria Sotomayor, who is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. She overcame adversities during her youth and is now one of the most powerful women in the United States.

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Tina Phillips, VP of People, Talent and Culture

Describe what it means to be a woman in 3 words.

Strength, Power, Vulnerability

If you have ever felt uncomfortable as a woman in a certain situation/setting, what would you tell that past version of yourself now if you could?

I’d say to my younger self to not ever worry about fitting in, or alter my behaviour based upon what others want, say or think. I’d tell myself to stop apologising and stop comparing myself to others. I’d also encourage myself to build strong bonds with other women earlier, and do more in terms of lifting other women up, even today. And finally, to my today-self, I’d say to stop trying to do too much and stop being so hard on myself, look after yourself better; it’s not selfish, it’s necessary.

How does INSHUR support you at work and challenge gender bias?

By being receptive to a number of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives (including our diversity hiring goals) and open to learning about the issues that underrepresented groups, including women, experience in the workplace. Also by offering flexible working, by being a family friendly employer and by recognising there’s power in vulnerability.

Who encapsulates what it means to be a woman for you?

There are so many to choose from, it’s hard to pick! Michelle Obama on a world-stage scale for basically everything and Cindy Gallup for her leadership and attitude to everything from sex to money. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for just being a fearless, super articulate and relatable kick-ass and take-no-sh*t politician – we need more like her. In the UK, Lauren Currie OBE who runs Upfront, a women focussed ‘Couch to 5k’ confidence and visibility course and community which aims to uplift, encourage, elevate and educate women.

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Nicole Sanders, Product Marketing Manager

Describe what it means to be a woman in 3 words.

Free, Community-Based, Colourful

If you have ever felt uncomfortable as a woman in a certain situation/setting, what would you tell that past version of yourself now if you could?

About ten years ago I was presenting to an all-male audience at a bank with a male counterpart. Despite the relationship and content being my area of expertise, the questions at the end were directed at my colleague who was in for a very specific reason! My colleague (who admitted after that he’d been surprised as well) did his best to answer the questions, then I started jumping in. But afterwards, I questioned whether I’d done a good enough job on my presentation and whether jumping in had been rude. It was great to have the assurance from my colleague that my content was fine, but going back, I’d tell myself not to do anything differently and not be afraid to say ‘shall I take this?’ when the questions started flying in the wrong direction!

How does INSHUR support you at work and challenge gender bias?

I haven’t been here long so I haven’t seen the full-force power of challenging the gender bias but I appreciate these questions being asked and the fact there is a slack channel for the #women-of-inshur. I very much feel like an equal member of staff.

Who encapsulates what it means to be a woman for you?

For me, there isn’t really a blueprint for being a woman and I like that. But that said, I am always inspired by women who have become leaders and let their authenticity and personality shine. I like: Arianna Huffington, Oprah, Sophia Amoruso, Greta Thunberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Tao Porchon-Lynch, Jane Fonda, Beyonce and Amal Alamuddin.

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Anna-Maria Van Leeuwen, Head of Insurance Operations NL

Describe what it means to be a woman in 3 words.

Inner Strength, High Heels, Diplomacy

How does INSHUR support you at work and challenge gender bias?

A lot of support comes from the People team and my (male) boss who is the best. And by facilitating the women-of-inshur channel.

Who encapsulates what it means to be a woman for you?

The British-Lebanese lawyer Amal Clooney. She makes the most of her intelligence, feminine charm, compassion and her beauty.

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Anonymous team member

We had a team member who wanted to share her experience but would prefer to stay anonymous. Here is her reply when asked if you have ever felt uncomfortable as a woman in a certain situation/setting, what would you tell that past version of yourself now if you could?

The CEO of a business I worked at made a pass at me and asked me if I would have an affair with him. Aside from it being inappropriate, the way he asked made me think it was a sarcastic joke. So I laughed it off and thought nothing of it. In the following weeks and months, he started picking at little things about me in front of the office and making jokes about me (he was known for being a bully and there was no HR function). I eventually called him out on it and he stopped.

I didn’t make the connection between what happened until after when a colleague pointed it out and I didn’t even consider whether the culture of that business was right for me. Even though the experience itself was pretty awful, it taught me so much about making choices as to where to work and now I’m here, so I probably wouldn’t take any of it back apart from maybe recognising and confronting it quicker. Unfortunately experiences like that still happen today and it’s great to be part of a company where differences are celebrated.

Written by Catherine Pearson (Content Specialist)