Welcome to part 3 of our 5 part series! This series, tying in with International Womens Day, focuses on 5 successful women in the insurance industry.
The next of our 5 women is Aisling Hayes, COO at AXA Insurance.
Where did you start your career?
I joined Accenture (Andersen Consulting at the time) straight out of college where I had studied Engineering. The Accenture environment required quick learning, taking on responsibility at an early stage, and the opportunity to work both in Ireland and abroad across multiple industries with some great clients and great people.
How did you get to the position you are in now?
Hard work, results and a little bit of luck.
I started as software developer in Accenture and worked my way up to senior programme manager roles where I was responsible for both Business and IT transformation programmes in Pensions, Life Assurance and Capital Markets.
While on maternity leave for my first child I was approached by RSA Insurance and I just couldn’t turn down a fantastic offer that would help me take the leap from consulting into industry. I joined RSA as Head of Strategic Business Change and IT with promotion to Director following 3 years later.
The CIO role in AXA came my way five years ago as I returned from maternity leave on my third child. Just over three years ago my role was expanded to Chief Operations Officer in AXA with responsibility for direct customer sales, service and back office operations in the branch network and contact centre as well as Strategic Change and IT. It’s demanding but I love it.
Who is a key female role model for you and why?
The first female manager I worked for in Accenture when I was about 23. She was only a few years older than me, but she worked hard, was smart, tenacious and made a difference. She taught me so much and we’re still good friends. These days it’s hard to pick just one role model though. I see something that I admire in almost everyone, male and female.
What do you wish people would stop telling women?
That “You can’t have it all”. I’m not airbrushing reality, but I believe you can have it all, but just not all at the same time, every moment of the day. Control and flexibility in your schedule is key and a supportive and amazing husband and family is an important part of the formula too.
What has it been like to work and exceed in such a male dominated industry?
I never felt held back by being in the minority or the only female in the room. At times I admired how self promotion and confidence came so naturally to many of my male colleagues, but I was also quietly confident that I too had something to bring to the table. The industry honestly doesn’t feel that male dominated anymore. Things are changing. Women are judged by our skill now and not by our gender. In AXA Ireland the executive management team is 50% female and has been for the last three years and I have always felt supported here.
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