International Women’s Day: choose to challenge

Women's day

This year’s International Women’s Day is all about challenging the status quo to help make changes for a gender equal world. I don’t know about you but this and last year has had a different set of challenges going on, which could push gender issues off the radar.

That would be a shame though because a lot of women are working hard to hold down a job as well as keep a family unit going. Now, I know many have partners who are in the same boat, but it’s women who still face inequality in the workplace. And it is our role as team leaders and senior management, to provide more flexibility and opportunities.

From my own experience, I’ve had the chance to work flexibly from home for the past two years. My partner and I wanted to move to Napier for a few reasons, including bringing up his daughter in his hometown. That was scary for me, as I didn’t want to leave my job in Auckland at AA Insurance. I had worked for many years building a career in a company that I loved and worried I would lose that and would need to make some difficult decisions.

But not at all – AA Insurance was so supportive and encouraged me, never making me feel like I was of any less value in or out of the office and could continue to contribute as I did when in Auckland. This really reinforced for me the commitment the company makes to help women manage their careers and families.

Over the last 12 months there has been even more pressure on many of us to juggle life at home and work through this pandemic.

We need to work hard to make sure that women can do that easily with a supportive employer. Trying to work somewhere in your home where you appear to have it all running so smoothly, brings another level of pressure.

The reality is, ‘smooth’ is not always the case.  A ball flies over the computer, a note is passed to you over your camera, the dog decides to start barking so you need to go and check quickly, or there is something really ‘urgent’ that needs to be done in the middle of a call or Skype meeting, like show you a new trick or dance move. Having flexibility means you’re able to pick up children from school, attend their school events, and do your own job, at a time that works for you.

It is important for companies to embrace more flexibility that encourages work-life balance for women. We should all have leaders and colleagues that understand these challenges and feel  empowered to do what we need to without judgement or fear of losing our role or not being able to have a career as we don’t fit the normal ‘corporate type’ in the office.

I was once very reserved and scared to speak up sometimes, feeling intimidated. One way that I managed to build confidence was through a strong female mentor who really helped me see that I did have a place at the table with some very experienced managers providing different perspectives.

Having been at AA Insurance for 24 years now, I have seen the company evolve to where we are now, and while I have not felt gender bias strongly in our workplace, I’m aware it can exist.  And it is really important that, especially in this ‘year of challenge’, for those who experience gender inequality or see it first-hand, to challenge it - be it quietly or with a roar - because without a challenge there is no change.

My hope through this International Women’s Day is that we continue to appreciate and accommodate to these challenges that our female colleagues face and really be a role model for other companies.

Cherie Barratt

Head of Claims Services, AA Insurance

About AA Insurance

AA Insurance is an independently operated, New Zealand-based joint venture between the New Zealand Automobile Association (NZAA) and Vero Insurance New Zealand Limited (VINZL). Since 1994 we have demonstrated trusted expertise in home, contents and car insurance in New Zealand, and in 2018 introduced commercial small business insurance. We underwrite our own policies and sell direct to New Zealanders. Our 860 staff look after almost 470,000 customers with 930,000 policies.

We proudly partner with Eden Park and have been consistently recognised by: Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Brands (11 consecutive years since 2011) and Quality Service Awards for Car, and Home and Contents Insurance (since 2015), Kantar Customer Leadership Index (since 2019), Canstar Blue Most Satisfied Customers (2011-2018), and the Colmar Brunton Corporate Reputation Index (since 2015) that recognises New Zealand’s most successful companies. Last year, AA Insurance was also named Consumer NZ People’s Choice award winner for car, home and contents (since 2019).

AA Insurance has an A+ (Strong) Insurer Financial Strength Rating given by Standard and Poor’s (Australia) Pty Ltd. For further information visit aainsurance.co.nz.

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