Article: How AIA Singapore is championing gender equity


How AIA Singapore is championing gender equity

Liu Chunyen, Chief Investment Officer at AIA Singapore lauds the insurance sector's near gender-balanced leadership but urges further action for genuine gender equity.
How AIA Singapore is championing gender equity

With near-equal representation in leadership roles, Singapore's finance and insurance sectors are among those leading in gender parity. However, for Liu Chunyen, Chief Investment Officer at AIA Singapore, the journey towards true equity continues. To achieve this goal, Liu believes it is crucial to reduce unconscious bias at work.

With 40% of senior positions held by women, AIA Group was one of only five Hong Kong-listed companies included in the 2023 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index. A veteran in the life insurance industry, Ms. Liu delves deeper into the challenges and opportunities surrounding female leadership in the sector in a conversation with us.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

What are your thoughts on the current state of the Singapore insurance industry, particularly regarding female leadership representation?

Singapore’s insurance landscape has been shifting toward a people-first approach, evidenced by its continued focus on corporate health insurance and the mental health coverage sector’s growth. This, too, translates to the industry’s progress in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I).

While Singapore still has room to improve in the acceptance of female leadership, its insurance industry sector has been more inclusive — with an almost equal number of men and women leaders overall. That said, I believe that more can be done to achieve true gender equity, and reducing unconscious bias in the workplace is key.

AIA Singapore boasts good gender representation.  Can you share the key DE&I initiatives behind this success, and how you measure their impact?

As a leading employer, on a local and regional level, we are guided by our operating philosophy of “Doing the Right Thing, in the Right Way, with the Right People — and the Right Results will come”.

Staying true to that ethos, AIA Group was one of only five Hong Kong-listed companies to be included in the international 2023 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index. Moreover, women hold 40% of senior leadership positions at AIA Singapore and the broader group.

Despite the headway we have made, we remain committed to making greater progress, to realise greater equity and inclusivity in the workplace. Be it through empowering employees to share knowledge and foster growth through our recently launched Diversity & Inclusion Network, or having policies in place to ensure equal opportunities for all.

Leveraging data, we are kept abreast of gender representation across all levels of our workforce and conduct employee engagement surveys to understand their views on our DE&I practices.

How does AIA Singapore integrate diversity considerations into its investment strategies, particularly within the field of sustainable finance? Can you share an example?

We place great importance on our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) integration and that of our investees. This focus guides our investment strategy, wherein we take a holistic approach that considers how companies incorporate ESG factors into their corporate strategies, in pursuit of sustainable returns.

That is why investee companies’ workforce diversity is also a consideration for our team. For example, we added Procter & Gamble Co (P&G) to our portfolio in Q3 2023, and this decision was motivated in part by our belief that P&G is strong in incorporating material ESG risks and opportunities into its corporate strategy. We were particularly impressed by the company’s diverse workforce — P&G boasts a balanced board, with 50% women, and has nearly half its management positions held by females.

You've had a distinguished career in the traditionally male-dominated insurance industry.  What advice do you have for aspiring female leaders, particularly those looking to break into leadership positions? 

Early in my career, navigating the insurance industry as an Asian woman presented challenges. Back then, female representation in senior leadership roles was limited, an observation that impacted me for years. Overcoming this perception – the feeling that Asian women weren't seen as first choices – required strong mentors and introspection before I confidently pursued an exciting opportunity in Hong Kong.

This lack of female representation at higher levels often stems from unconscious bias, our tendency to favour those who seem similar. To dismantle these barriers, we need proactive efforts to combat stereotypes and biases. Education and training for senior leadership is crucial; true equity requires commitment and action from the top down.

For my fellow female colleagues, here's my message:  Unconscious bias is not always deliberate. Be confident in your capabilities and realise your true potential. Remind yourself that while it is natural to experience doubts and insecurities, you should not let them define your worth.

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Topics: Diversity, #DEIB, #InternationalWomensDay

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