Covéa Insurance is the UK underwriting business of the leading French mutual insurance Group Covéa and offers competitively-priced household and motor insurance, along with a range of commercial insurance products designed to meet the needs of most businesses, through a nationwide network of intermediaries. Regional distribution teams based in 9 regional offices offer brokers and insurance intermediaries direct access to senior underwriters. Covéa Insurance handles the insurance needs of over 1 million policyholders.
Covéa helping to inspire the female Leaders of tomorrow
Director of HR & Learning Lisa Meigh and Student Khadijah Hafez talk about their mentoring experience together
Gender equality has been a conversation that certainly over the past couple of years has had a big impact on social media, the views of the next generation and how companies handle future employment. With this in mind, Leeds Beckett University have created a brand new programme where they want to inspire the female leaders of tomorrow.
The six month Women in Leadership programme offers the chance for students to have a mentor – an industry professional who can help them get an understanding of the working world and guide them towards their desired future. Second year Psychology student Khadijah Hafez and Director of HR & Learning at Covéa Insurance, Lisa Meigh joined the programme and after a few workshops and a matchmaking process were eventually paired together.
Having originally only worked with the university through recruitment and going to a number of events, we were keen to get involved with the programme as it coincides with the companies initiative around gender and “the support of female leadership and developing skills and confidence to generate a better organisational balance” Lisa proudly explains, “the programme at Leeds Beckett is an inspired approach to developing emerging female talent. We are keen to support initiatives like these that will feed the pipeline of future female leaders into the industry. Our aim is to attract more gender balanced applications at graduate level, and help graduates understand what insurance companies have to offer and that we’re more than paying claims and managing risks. So this is an opportunity to open our doors and start to change perceptions.” As for a reason as to why she wanted to get involved, Khadijah explains that “I was very unsure of what I wanted to do until I enrolled on this programme. The programme also offered sessions in confidence building and this has always been an issue for me; I wanted to change that and believed a very specific and tailored programme like this one might help.”
There were no set rules into how the mentoring was to work, but between them Khadijah and Lisa arranged multiple telephone sessions and time where Khadijah could come to Halifax to visit our office. Khadijah says that “On my first visit, Lisa gave me a tour of the building; its décor is stunningly preserved and the offices are so homely! I was shocked to see how open and colourful the rooms were, I was expecting to see grey cubicles where everyone was locked away in their offices and there would be few people around. What I saw was a cohesive and open working environment where everyone was working together. There were no cubicles. Everyone was relaxed and friendly and it felt like a very productive and stress-free atmosphere.” Whilst at the office Lisa wanted to push Khadijah’s capabilities so created situations that would test her as she wanted to see how Khadijah could adapt and transfer skills she knew she had, to make the best out of the situation. “Lisa brought me up to the office and introduced me to the team who were having a group lunch, and then she said she had a meeting and took off, leaving me alone” Khadijah recalls “I didn’t want to sit awkwardly on the side-lines and fade into the background so I plucked up the courage to begin a conversation instead. When Lisa had returned, I had become comfortable with this group of people I had never met before and to this day, I am so grateful to Lisa for what she did. She admitted later that it had all been a plan to see how I would cope.”
Building and shaping a career after university can be difficult and knowing how to put your new found knowledge to good use is something that was worrying Khadijah. Studying psychology can give students a wide range of careers to go into and throughout the six month programme Khadijah and Lisa wanted to work on “confidence building and what we all think success would look like to us. For me, it looks like a career where I’m making a very personal difference to children’s lives and bettering them in any way I can” Khadijah explains, “the social and educational impairment children can have as a result of disabilities struck a chord and I endeavoured to learn more about the issues facing these children. The more I learnt, the more I noticed how prevalent learning disabilities were in my own community. Local schools have now also begun to cater for such individuals which I believe is a major milestone as special needs have not really been given the attention they require.”
With a keen interest in special needs Khadijah is currently speaking to Ravenscliffe School in Halifax about doing some work experience, an opportunity which has come about thanks to the school being a charity partner of Covéa Insurance. “We are finding a suitable time for me to visit. I’m really looking forward to spending time at the school and seeing first-hand how the teachers and staff support the students.” This opportunity and progression into a decision of where she wants to take her career is a step in the right direction, and Lisa is quite humbled by the whole situation and for being “a small part of the conversation with someone who’s at the beginning of their journey and evaluating their choices.”
After a successful year the programme will back in 2019 and Lisa says that “we’d love to be part of it again and run some sessions here [in the Covéa Insurance Halifax office] and help them to develop the programme.” Khadijah can’t speak higher of the programme as its “changed my life for the better; I don’t know where my life would be headed without it. I am now a stronger and more confident version of myself and for that, I am entirely grateful to Lisa and the Women in Leadership programme. I highly recommend the programme for the support, strength and courage it has given me. Without it, I never would have willingly stood up in front of a room full of people and given a very personal speech!”
It is so great to see such outstanding praise from the two sides that are involved in the programme, and it’s really positive seeing programmes like Women in Leadership being created and we are so proud to champion it. With hopefully plenty more years of the programme to go it’ll be exciting to see what the next generations of leaders can bring to the table.
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