Equal Playing Field has been fortunate to have many supporters over the last few years, and we take particular pride in the organizations who we have built true partnerships with in our quest to bring opportunity, equality and respect to #AnyGirlAnywhere. IGI Insurance is one of those partners who has gone the extra mile in supporting EPF both financially and physically in our world record attempts at Kilimanjaro, the Jordan Quest and most recently in Lyon.
So what do football and insurance have in common? More than you would think! We connected with Aaida Abu Jaber, Head of PR & Marketing & IGI’s Diversity & Inclusion Champion, to discuss her and her team’s experience at the Festival of Football and support of EPF over the past 3 years.
Firstly, congratulations on being part of the World Record Game in Lyon! As a team coming from different IGI offices across the world, how was your experience?
IGI has often used sport to bring our workforce together – which is not surprising given that it’s a fun and healthy foundation for teamwork and a different way to open dialogue, and also to unite and inspire beyond politics or workplace traditions. This was illustrated perfectly when a group of ten IGI women gathered in Lyon from London and Amman to break a Guinness World Record. The logistics and planning for this participation were a challenge, but the cause was worthwhile. With various football and fitness abilities, we were excited to join as we have experienced similar issues with gender disparity in the (re)insurance industry.
D&I efforts have become a priority for many insurance companies, which have started to understand that a diverse team and an inclusive culture are intrinsically linked to corporate success.
However, we were not expecting the heatwave! We were scheduled to play at 3pm when the temperatures reached 40C in Lyon, but we had to play double our time slot to keep the game going until delayed subs arrived. It was very challenging. One of our player’s trainers melted! But the whole experience inspired co-operation, teamwork, resilience, leadership, loyalty… and so much more.
IGI has supported EPF for 3 years now. Reflecting on the beginning, what did you hope coming into the partnership, and has it been realised?
Our belief in EPF’s mission made us support it in the beginning. The incredible cause and work of EPF are noteworthy and we wanted to help champion the cause of empowering women in sports, especially since the insurance industry faces its own share of challenges in the gender disparity issue.
Aside from it being fun and visible, working with EPF has given us tangible evidence on the best ways to encourage change. EPF has been breaking Guinness World Records since 2017 to highlight the gender issue, and IGI has supported all three successful world record attempts. We also regularly sponsor soccer clinics for underprivileged girls in remote villages of Jordan, where IGI is headquartered.
With events like the Women’s FIFA World Cup breaking viewer records, and the spotlight finally being turned on female misrepresentation in the insurance and reinsurance sectors, gender equality has taken centre stage. There has never been a more inspiring time for women to recognise their potential. This year’s Women’s World Cup challenged existing perceptions about the female game – viewers were watching and thinking of them as just football matches. I hope that soon female executives in the insurance and reinsurance industry too will be viewed as just senior employees. There is still a way to go before that is realised.
Can you tell us a bit more about IGI and your work on D&I in the PR & Marketing team?
We have been working on many initiatives at IGI to support diversity and inclusion. IGI has been a long-time supporter of equal opportunities for men and women in the industry and firmly believes that diversity is essential for the success and resilience of a company. IGI is an equal opportunity employer, embracing diversity and seeking talent, and it is proud to have a 50/50 ratio of men to women in its global workforce.
In 2018, IGI hosted - for the first time - the Lloyd’s of London ‘Dive In’ Festival for Diversity and Inclusion in Insurance in Jordan – where IGI is headquartered - and we will be hosting it again this year shedding light on safety in the workplace. The company has also recently partnered with ‘World of Letters’ and ‘Women as Partners in Progress’, a social enterprise looking to address gender imbalance in the work place. The group is funded by the US State Department and led by Arab women professionals to highlight gender imbalances in the workplace in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. We sponsor various market initiatives, such as the Insider Progress efforts and have partnered with the Insurance Supper Club, all in an effort to push this matter forward.
Finally, we are currently in the initial phases of pushing this matter and formalizing it at the Board level. A lot is on the agenda, but the process needs to start.
Gender equality is something that has truly brought EPF and IGI together. Equality in football is a slow burner, but how is progress in the insurance industry?
Empowering women at all levels in the workplace and providing them with the right skills to become leaders is vital if businesses are to be successful in the modern world. The insurance industry has a deep pool of female talent, but the market is not doing enough to promote or develop this talent, which should be utilised better at a senior and executive level. That being said, it is clear that the industry is taking the gender issue more seriously.
Schemes to improve D&I are filtering into normal working practises, with mentoring programmes, internships, graduate initiatives and similar initiatives all being introduced to improve cross-industry collaboration.
And it seems to be working. D&I efforts have become a priority for many insurance companies, which have started to understand that a diverse team and an inclusive culture are intrinsically linked to corporate success. But there is still work to be done. A study by the Association of British Insurers in February found that while gender diversity has improved at nearly all levels within the industry, only 27% of women currently hold executive positions.
The (re)insurance industry also needs to remember that diversity is not just about men and women, it means age, religion, disability, and more. Let’s hope we keep up the momentum and within a few years see boards and executive teams becoming more diverse.
How has work with EPF or the Festival of Football experience impacted your plans for the future? What can we expect from IGI in the coming years in terms of Diversity and Inclusion?
The goal of IGI helping to break EPF’s third Guinness world record is to make noise around the gender issue and help give it the attention it deserves. With a united front, women’s voices in sport and the insurance industry will be heard, and the support needed to exhibit serious change achieved.
When you look at the might of large companies in (re)insurance, we are a small fish in a large pond, and the resources we have are limited. But we work hard to be a good, profitable company. Part of being a good company is promoting ethical practices – and this is at the heart of our success. Our voice is strong in many regions where diversity is a problem. We will continue to strive to promote fairness and diversity in our offices around the world. We will do what we can. Imagine if everyone did that? Change would be almost instant.
What is your hope for #AnyGirlAnywhere?
We hope the #anygirlanywhere campaign initiated by the EPF this year catches momentum and becomes a strong movement to support girls everywhere on the globe in getting opportunity, equality and respect not only in football but in all walks of life, personally and professionally.
From our end, we will continue to support efforts to empower women in our region and internationally, and in our industry and beyond, to help in building a fair equal world.
Would you want to stay involved with EPF in the future?
Our now long-standing association with the EPF since its inception bonds us together to continue bolstering this relationship. The efforts and initiatives we worked on together in the past three years need to remain ongoing so that change is achieved and women in both sports and business get equality and respect.
We will be watching with interest future plans and initiatives of the EPF and will be happy to get involved in causes that promote equal opportunity for all.