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The powerful voice of women

03 August 2020 Myra Knoesen
Olivia Smith

Olivia Smith

Christine Rodrigues

Christine Rodrigues

Precious Nduli

Precious Nduli

Julie Retief

Julie Retief

Natasha Maroun

Natasha Maroun

Jane Creswell

Jane Creswell

In celebration of Women’s Month, FAnews spoke to a few women about the significance of Women’s Day, what Women’s Day means to them, with some advice.

A time to reflect

“Women’s Day is a wonderful reminder of why we ought to celebrate diversity. We work hard with or without recognition. We have compassion and many more amazing attributes,” said Olivia Smith, Marketing & Communications Officer at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS). 

“I always reflect on Women’s Day quietly. Not only does it provide the opportunity to celebrate and remember those women that stood up for themselves, their families and their fellow citizens, but it also reminds us to look to our side and to acknowledge and recognise that many others live with struggles every day, yet continue to carry on with life,” said Christine Rodrigues, Partner at Bowman Gilfillan. 

“Women’s Day for me is more aligned to the fact that women in business are just as successful and influential, and when given the right tools can become unstoppable. It’s important to guide young women and motivate them along the same path resulting in strong, powerful female leaders,” said Jane Creswell, Regional Sales Manager at CIB. 

‘Women’s Day is not only a day to celebrate this momentous occasion that moved our country forward, but a day to acknowledge and celebrate the strides being made by women today in all sectors of society. It is not only a day to reflect on the progress that has been made, but also understanding that we have more to achieve,” said Precious Nduli, Executive Head of Technical Marketing and Vitality Drive Engagement at Discovery Insure. 

“The essence of the day for me, centres on the self. You need to put time aside to re-centre and re-balance your mind and energy levels. Be good to yourself and come up for oxygen every now and again and celebrate the privilege of being a woman. I am a woman. What is your superpower?” Asked Julie Retief, Senior Manager at Auto & General Insurance. 

Overcoming challenges

“Women are, and have always been undervalued. We need to celebrate those women who have made their mark in this world, whether they are famous or just dear and special to us. Whatever and whomever they are, we should be proud to be women,” said Natasha Maroun, National Head: Jewellery, Fine Art & Specie at Bryte Insurance. 

“The challenge I have had to overcome is to accept that some may attempt to use my choices in life to justify their behaviour. No one knows anyone else’s story, and even if you do, it does not give anyone the right to judge another’s choices. Each person, be it male or female, lives with struggles and challenges and tries to live their life as best as possible. We should accept this and give everyone room to live their own life,” added Rodrigues.

“There is a common misconception that women can’t tackle tough discussions or deal with conflict, we are seen as being too emotional. This is an over-generalisation. I also find that we are given the more “admin intensive” tasks to do over our male peers. Just because we are good at something doesn’t mean that we enjoy it any more than our male counterparts; responsibility in all areas should be equal,” added Creswell.

“I have learnt that prejudice is what feeds some people’s illusions of superiority, or in many cases, inferiority. You should choose who you work for or do business with carefully, on good old ‘do unto others as one wants to be done unto oneself’ principles. You should go where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated - the choice is always yours,” said Maroun. 

“This industry is filled with extremely hard working people, who, in fact promote women empowerment. I am very fortunate to have worked with so many respectful men and women. Sadly, we’ve all been discriminated against in one way or another, but let it motivate you to go the extra mile and show your worth, earn respect and strengthen your resilience,” said Smith. 

“Representation and seeing people who look like you in places that you aspire to is very important, and I think that remains a challenge for women in general, because of the lack of representation, particularly in senior management. In order to be considered for senior opportunities you have to work on the right projects, with the right people who can vouch for your credibility,” said Nduli. 

Encouraging words of advice

“Treat every woman as if she was your wife, mother, sister or daughter. You would never allow someone close to you be bullied, harassed or prejudiced so why would you let anyone else be treated in that way? I encourage everyone to live their best life, whether you are a man or a woman. Everyone’s life has a purpose and it is your responsibility to find it and realise it,” said Rodrigues. 

“Set boundaries from the offset, let people know what you are about. If you aren’t happy about something, speak up. A lot of the generalisations that exist, exist because a lot of women out there still don’t speak their mind enough. You need to behave and portray what you believe is fair and let your fellow female colleagues allow themselves to follow suit. Allow other women to witness that it’s acceptable to question the status quo,” concluded Creswell. 

“Find your career goal early on in your career. Network and go to industry events and meet different people in the industry. This will help you define that goal, get your foot in the door and find a mentor and surround yourself with people who want you to thrive. The only way for change to come is by helping more women up that corporate ladder and making a difference. My advice to young females starting out a career in insurance, firstly, the sky is not the limit, your belief system is - believe that you can be dynamic and powerful and believe that you can make a valuable contribution and then ensure that you live it - everyday! In all your interactions – work on your personal brand and remember stay relevant and reinvent yourself often,” concluded Retief.

“Have a moral compass that is unwavering and only deal with people whose integrity is never in doubt. Learn to be independent and work independently. Know when to collaborate and surround yourself with those who know far more than you in complimenting disciplines, and together, you can make magic,” concluded Maroun. 

“Find yourself a good role model and remember to lead by example. Use your God-given talents, work ethic and joy to change people’s views on life,” concluded Smith. 

Writer’s Thoughts:
Let us use August, and not just Women’s Day, as an opportunity to think about and celebrate being women; how strong and unique we as women are, how far we have come, the journeys we have all walked and the paths we are destined to be on. Please comment below, interact with us on Twitter at @fanews_online or email me your thoughts [email protected].

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