The Singapore International Reinsurance Conference has always been able to welcome a diverse set of delegates but has struggled to reflect that diversity on the stage. Singapore Reinsurers’ Association’s Mr Marc Haushofer and Women in Reinsurance’s Ms Aisyah Muhammad Fuad sat down with Middle East Insurance Review to discuss how this year’s conference will address these shortcomings.
Singapore Reinsurers’ Association chair Marc Haushofer emphasised that for many years, the Singapore International Reinsurance Conference (SIRC) had attempted to achieve some diversity in the make-up of the speaking panels at the conference.
“We would spend considerable time seeking out and approaching women across the industry to feature in our sessions, but without much success, while in contrast it would take just a few minutes to fill up a panel with male practitioners,” he said.
He noted that a large part of this could be attributed to the dearth of women in leadership roles within the industry, and those who are in executive leadership roles might not want to participate for various reasons.
“Perhaps it could be because SIRC had tended to focus on strategic, technical topics for which we sought executives in strategic, operational roles rather than those in secondary support functions, in which women are better represented in the leadership ranks.”
“In any case, I wish more women would be prepared to step out of their comfort zones and grasp the opportunity presented at the SIRC, in whatever capacity they feel comfortable with,” he said.
Ms Aisyah said, “Maybe there are women, but who need some encouragement to step to the fore. I think it has to take a concerted effort to achieve more balanced gender representation on our panels.”
She suggested a softer approach, slowly but surely to coax women leaders to stand up in front of the crowd.
Putting words into action
To set this in motion, this year, the SIRC will feature a panel specifically addressing gender diversity in the (re)insurance industry. However, Ms Aisyah said that this was just a start and that it had to be more than just this one panel.
“Women across the industry must be encouraged to participate more actively and vocally in the broader industry discussion, in all aspects of the industry, including the strategic, technical issues.”
She said that the gender diversity topic is not only important to women, but for men as well.
“Nowadays, when you talk to younger insurance practitioners, they are also concerned about work-life balance. They recognise the need for dual incomes, and they also want that closeness to the family. Values have changed over the pandemic, and it is relevant to both men and women.”
While the topic of gender diversity and inclusion may be polarising, she said that from her experience, it does not have to be.
“It’s about hearing different people’s experiences. And while women might have certain unique experiences, we also cannot make it a forum exclusively for women, because the industry is not only made up of women. So, at Women in Reinsurance, we find that there needs to be more frequent dialogue on these issues, and SIRC being the industry event that it is, would be an ideal platform where this topic is addressed,” she said.
Youth versus experience
Gender diversity is not the only talking point to be on the agenda at the SIRC. Now, more than ever, the voices of younger practitioners are becoming more important, and the industry must reshape itself to adapt to the changes in society.
“For instance, work life balance wasn’t really an issue when I was starting out in my career,” said Mr Haushofer. “During COVID, we all had experiences that we never had before, and we should not be disrespectful of those experiences. Every one of us had encountered different experiences in our life and careers, through which we have learnt valuable lessons, developed life-skills and character traits and inculcated our core values.”
From the perspective of a leader and person of seniority, Mr Haushofer believes that his duty is to build up the next generation and to build a work environment that is acceptable to them.
“This includes diversity, of course, but also much more. The challenge is that we are living in an extremely fragile world that could change at any time, which could lead again to new experiences and challenges for each of us. So, it is even more important that we don’t fail and give each other the support needed to be successful and happy,” he said.
Hence, the SIRC also hopes to serve as a conduit to help foster conversations between the younger practitioners and senior members of the industry, through interactive roundtable sessions that are being co-curated with different groups within the industry.
“These sessions will allow people to be more open about why things are the way they are, or why things need to change,” said Ms Aisyah. “There will at least be a recognition of where each decision comes from.”
“In my generation, the word ‘respect’ meant a lot. It was used frequently when I was younger, but not as much today. These days, ‘empathy’ or ‘tolerance’ are perhaps more relevant,” said Mr Haushofer. “Respect felt like a one-way street, whereas empathy is more inclusive and it connects people. I believe very much in the importance of empathy as a leader.”
To facilitate this multi-generational conversation and make the SIRC a more diverse and inclusive event, the SRA will also be offering complimentary tickets to younger insurance practitioners, with the aim of providing them with wider exposure to such major industry events. Further, it is hoped that this could help stimulate fresh new perspectives in the discussions that occur around the event.
Registrations for the SIRC can be made on the 18th SIRC website at https://www.sirc.com.sg
. Only fully vaccinated delegates with full passes will be admitted onto the conference floor, even if they will only be attending meetings. Meeting guests may wish to contact their business partners or hosts to share their discount codes.
The SIRC website also contains links for overseas delegates to make reservation for guest rooms at Marina Bay Sands Singapore at specially contracted rates during the event, which is scheduled to run from 31 October until 3 November 2022 at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. Industry practitioners can also find details of the various partnership and meeting facilities packages for the event on the website.
Asia Insurance Review (AIR), MEIR’s sister publication, is the official media partner of the SIRC for 2022 – with regular updates on the progress of the work of the SIRC executive committee featuring in AIR’s various media.
As in previous years, the Asia Insurance Industry Awards 2022 gala dinner will be held in Marina Bay Sands on the evening of 31 October to coincide with the start of the SIRC. M