Twenty years into a career spanning HR, customer strategy, innovation and consultancy Fiona Macgregor meets us as Chief Technology and Innovation Officer in a sector you’d least expect: life insurance. Recognising that life insurance can be seen by some as a more male-dominated industry, TAL’s approach to D&I has been a welcome surprise to Fiona. Today, she’s a true advocate and shares how her team continues to strive for a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Fiona began her career in the HR space the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Craving a change of direction, she convinced the Innovation Director she had just been involved in hiring to bring her into his team. This move set her on a dynamic career trajectory in innovation.
After running her own consultancy business for three years, Fiona took a gamble and moved to the other side of the world to join TAL. It was a decision based on her motivation to join an industry “with a strong sense of purpose at its heart.” Having experienced the value of life insurance when she lost her father at just 25, Fiona feels deeply connected to TAL’s mission of supporting families during the most difficult time of their lives.
“It’s a very human and empathetic job we do. We’re helping Australians and their families; we paid out $1.62bn in claims last year. It’s a purpose I believe in.”
The diversity at TAL has also been a breath of fresh air for Fiona.
“Throughout my career, progression in terms of diversity has been frustratingly slow. I had thought by now we’d have been there and we wouldn’t need to write articles like this! But the broad representation of gender and cultures at TAL has really surprised me. When I joined the executive team, I was the only female. Now we have four women in the team - and we’re only going from strength to strength.”
After five years at TAL, Fiona offers her advice to other leaders when it comes to making strides in D&I.
1. Make pay equality table stakes
“Equal pay has always been a priority at TAL. I wouldn’t have joined if we didn’t have a big focus in this area. We’ve had a WGEA accreditation for five years. That’s so important for me. It’s hard to believe it’s not the case everywhere. Companies need to think broadly on pay – particularly continuing to pay super for those taking parental leave, which we do at TAL.”
2. Be deliberate about diversity: insist on women on shortlists
“Having focused on innovation throughout much of my career, I have an innate belief in diversity. Yet, being deliberate about diverse perspectives in your team takes effort. There’s an assumption that it’s quicker to work with people who are more similar. Maybe that’s true. But to reach the best answer - you must engage with a wide range of views.”
3. Nurture your diverse talent
“Australia-wide, we need to work harder to ensure our female professionals have development opportunities to progress to those senior levels. Shine a spotlight on female talent with programs to help women develop, network, and learn from senior leaders. At TAL, for example, we recently hosted an informal lunch and Q&A for all of our women in technology and innovation with one of our board members, Christine Bartlett (Chair of the Board at the Smith Family and former Chief Operating Officer Business Consulting Services at IBM).”
4. Be an ambassador for wellbeing
“I’d say this is one of our strengths here at TAL. I don’t have kids myself but I see the benefit of our parental policies in action and we’re encouraged to make these arrangements work for our team.
“We also have a big focus on health and wellbeing; it all links. Due to the nature of our business, we see the consequences of mental, physical and financial health issues - so our programs are holistic.”
Fiona says she is excited about the future at TAL and encourages women to rethink any preconceived ideas they may hold about a career in insurance. Insurance might sometimes carry a stereotype of people at desks punching numbers but this is clearly far from the truth.
“There is a lot that would surprise you - from innovation to the customer experience, to design and diversity… It’s really worth checking out. Further to that, we’re making strides in D&I when it comes to talent attraction and we’re seeing a broad range of people from different backgrounds and perspectives coming through our door. We make it easy for them to be themselves.”
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