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Women in risk: be curious and understand your core value

#WomeninRisk celebrates influential in the risk management industry, and following the success of RiskMinds Insurance, we welcome Barbara Schönhofer to discuss her take on the challenges women face. Barbara is Chief Executive of Schonhofer Talent Advisory and Executive Search and founder the Insurance Supper Club (ISC) 10 years ago. The ISC is a business network for senior women operating in, or involved with, insurance and is affiliated with the CII’s Insuring Women's Futures (IWF) initiative; Barbara sits on the committee of IWF and leads the Careers in Risk part of the programme. 

Women in Risk How did you start your career?

Started from school into the school records department of Bromley Council.

What was your lightbulb moment, and what was your inspiration behind the ISC?

There have been many in my long career.  The first being that the world is there for grabbing it just take that first courageous step outside your comfort zone.

For setting up the ISC, it was the creation of a supportive business network that made me feel included.

Why do we see so few women in risk leadership?

It is a complex issue that is difficult to explain in a few sentences.  It is harder for women in the established markets which have traditionally been dominated by men.  It has been a comfortable club style business environment for many years with little incentive to do things differently in order to include women.  Today women are attaining better degrees, but the research shows they are still going into lower paid roles.

On top of this women are promoted for attainment while men are more likely to be promoted for potential. Positive business interventions need to be adopted by corporates to rise to this challenge to take more risks in promoting women for potential.  The risk industry needs to be much more proactive in promoting careers and introducing smarter working practices that speak to the model world.  As an industry this is the way we meet the customers needs, reach broader society and stay relevant.

What advice do you have for women starting out their career in risk (or finance/insurance)?

Be curious, get involved, network, understand your core value and get a sponsor to socialise your credibility.  Have courage and just do it!

What will the future of risk management?

It could be fantastic if we get the above right.  Women are naturally able to multi task and have learnt different behaviours to achieve best results.  Given a chance to demonstrate their contribution in a more significant way, they will enhance the industry.

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