“Engaged and motivated employees are fundamental to the success of any organisation, and we strongly believe that creating an inclusive workplace where employees of all backgrounds are treated equally and can contribute fully will help us achieve our goal and vision. It is my personal belief that embedding diversity and inclusion into an organisations DNA is something that requires commitment and focus from the management.”
This month we catch up with COO of Zurich International and sponsor of the Women’s Innovation Network, Reena Vivek, to find out what the company is doing with regard to D&I and gender balance policies.
WEPs UAE: Hello! Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role at Zurich.
Reena: Hi, I am Reena Vivek and I am the Chief Operating Officer for Zurich International Life Ltd. (Zurich), which is part of the Zurich Insurance Group. We are based in the Isle of Man, with branches in several countries, and we offer Retail and Corporate Life Insurance and Savings solutions to the markets in which we operate. I am based in Dubai and responsible for teams in the Isle of Man, Middle East, Europe and Far East. In my 20 year long career, I have worked in several markets including India, Europe and the Middle East. I have been in Dubai for nine years now and I really enjoy the multi-cultural environment and the opportunity to interact with people from so many different parts of the world!
W: So what measures does your company have in place to help with gender balance and Diversity & Inclusion in the region?
R: In Zurich, we consider our people as our most important asset, and recognise that the way to be at our best is to empower diverse talent, benefit from different perspectives and ideas that mirror our customers. For us, this isn’t just a nice to have, it is a business imperative.
Diversity and Inclusion for us starts from the top and permeates throughout the organisation. Our D&I strategy is set and governed through our Group Diversity & Inclusion team. Country specific initiatives are then delivered through business leaders, employees and human resources teams and the focus is on integrating D&I into our everyday practices. We have D&I Champions and regular country level forums that build awareness and understanding, and these champions have access to the wider global D&I network to share best practices and leverage internal pockets of excellence.
W: Your Women’s Innovation Network has made great progress since launch and we’ve had the pleasure of working with your team. How did it start and what are its objectives?
R: The Zurich Women’s Innovation Network (WIN) is part of Zurich’s D&I initiative. WIN comprises a global group of Zurich employees, both female and male, across all organizational levels and regions, who advocate a ‘level playing field’ for employees to contribute their best at work. Simply put, the objective of WIN is to build a better workplace – one that rewards merit and accomplishment above all else, regardless of gender.
WIN began as a networking organisation – connecting women across the group to exchange and learn from each other. Today WIN is a network with over 6000 members in 23 countries that is successfully bringing the topic of gender diversity to the table through events and actions. The Middle East chapter of WIN was established in 2016 and has since worked on several initiatives that focus on Cultural change, Career Development, Networking and Communication.
As the sponsor for WIN in the Middle East, I am very pleased to see the impact some of these initiatives have had on our employees and our business as a whole.
W: And what are some of the successes Zurich’s policies have prompted?
R: We have successfully implemented several policies that have contributed to making our workplace a better place. We have created mentoring programmes, improved our maternity/paternity policies, and embedded FlexWork. By implementing FlexWork, Zurich empowers its employees to optimise where, when and how they work with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints to improve performance and productivity.
We are very proud of our mentoring programme where we give equal opportunities to all our employees. We facilitate this programme to contribute to their learning, development and career growth.
W: What is the representation of women like at senior levels in your team and how do you encourage retention?
R: I am very pleased to say that 42% of our total workforce are women and within my senior management team, 47% are women. We have always had people-focused HR policies in place, and the WIN team engages with our workforce on a regular basis to collate feedback on these policies and suggest improvements.
FlexWork has enabled me to balance work and family life. I feel more energetic and productive. When I work from home, I save almost two hours of travel every day. I am able to meet the business needs by putting in extra hours or at flexible time when required, without the stress of having to worry about how I will commute back home after work, as I do not drive.”
– Testimony from Ingrid D’Silva, Underwriting, Zurich International
Based on one such recommendation, Zurich has recently enhanced the Maternity and Paternity Leave policies. The changes included an increase to the total Maternity leave entitlement to 205 calendar days, addition of two nursing breaks post-maternity return and providing staff access to our FlexWork program. There were additional soft benefits including access to car park during pregnancy for employees who are not eligible for car park, provision of stroller and lighter weight office equipment (laptops etc.).
W: How advanced is Zurich in its policies in this region in comparison to other regions globally?
R: The Middle East region operates under a Group governance model and policy framework. However, we localise our policies to meet the local regulatory requirements, market and employee needs. Our policies in the Middle East are tailored to meet the unique diverse nature of this market and focused on encouraging a high employee engagement. The success of this is demonstrated through the Organisational Health Index scores that we achieve in the region – which is amongst the highest within the Zurich Group and our industry peers.
W: And finally, can you tell us why is D&I important to Zurich right now and what else needs to be done?
R: Engaged and motivated employees are fundamental to the success of any organisation, and we strongly believe that creating an inclusive workplace where employees of all backgrounds are treated equally and can contribute fully will help us achieve our goal and vision. It is my personal belief that embedding diversity and inclusion into an organisations DNA is something that requires commitment and focus from the management and I am personally very pleased with the achievements of the Zurich WIN team in this area. That said, I do believe there is a need to look at the wider insurance industry and consider actions to improve the gender balance, especially in management and senior management roles.
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