A Candid Conversation with Young Leaders from Girl Up

Published: 22 Nov 2019

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Pauline Miller, Head of Diversity and Talent at Lloyd’s and Advisory Board Member of Girl Up opened the event by reflecting on her experience with Girl Up. She pointed out that although the insurance industry has made great strides in improving gender equality, the sector must continue to move the dial.

Helen O’Sullivan, CEO of AXIS Speciality Europe SE & AXIS Re SE at AXIS, was first to take to the stage, giving the audience and insight to the impressive initiatives that Girl Up are carrying out across the world, empowering women and girls to start a movement for social change. Girl Up was founded by the United Nations Foundation in 2010 and works to give girls the resources and platform needed to transform themselves, their communities and the world around them. From educating indigenous adolescent girls on their rights in Guatemala to donating bikes to young girls in Malawi enabling them to travel to work and school, Girl Up is helping to build a world where gender equality takes commonplace.

Sara Eghtessadi, Claims Specialist at AXIS Capital, facilitated the panel discussion between Lucia Kirchner and Phoebe Sennett from Girl Up and Katherine Gansallo, Claire Butler from AXIS Capital and Dax Gulmohamed from Axis Speciality Europe.

The debate began by discussing why the panellists chose a career in the insurance industry and the biggest challenges they faced. A reoccurring theme arose: each panellist found it difficult to be their authentic self. Katherine admitted to feeling as if she had to work harder due to her ‘black tax’ (being both black and a woman). Dax explained he constantly had to defend his interests to his family, who wanted him to pursue a career as an accountant or doctor. When the panellists were asked: what would you tell your younger selves? They agreed unanimously, always be yourself.

The panellists then went on to discuss failure. No one actually wants you to fail, they reminded the audience. The fears that many young people have when developing their careers are of course warranted, but most people around you want the best for you. The importance of being part of an organisation that recognises the mental strain the young generation feel under was highlighted, stressing the need for organisations to build environments based on freedom, trust, and care.

Katherine and Dax then described the initiatives that AXIS Capital and Lloyd’s of London have already put into place, such mentoring opportunities, flexible working hours, agile work, dressing for your day and networking opportunities. Such measures are vital in creating an inviting space for young people and an environment where genders are equal.

Gender inequality, as Dax observed, “is something that we can take control of.” He noted. “Choose to be thoughtful, rather than thoughtless. As it seems sexism, doesn’t come from a place of ill intent, but rather thoughtlessness in everyday life.”