"Businesses need to recognise and reward women who are driving progress. And they need to do the deep cultural work required to create a workplace where all women feel welcomed, valued, respected, and heard."
- Nicola Dryden, Sedgwick chief client officer
Nicola Dryden, chief client officer, leads the CRM, marketing, and bid teams at Sedgwick UK. She has over 20 years of experience working in the insurance sector with a wealth of expertise in the management of strategic accounts, financial results, partnerships, new business deals, and contract negotiations. Nicola also has international experience from working in Canada and supporting deals in France.
Before entering the insurance industry, Nicola Dryden undertook a master’s degree at City University which gave her “a broad range of transferable business skills across finance, PR, marketing, organisational change, and business development,” she told WeAreTheCity.
After finishing her degree, Nicola took a “bold step approach” and wrote to the chief executives of all the big consultancy firms, asking them for a discussion about different roles and what they entail. “Off the back of this I met with most of the big consultancy firms and was offered a few different roles within a month,” Nicola told WeAreTheCity, but in the end, she chose to take on a role at Ernst & Young as part of the management consultancy team.
Following this, Nicola had the opportunity to move to Sedgwick. “At the time, I didn’t know much about the Sedgwick brand, but after initial conversations with the team I was immediately impressed,” Nicola told WeAreTheCity. Sedgwick offered her a “global, results driven” atmosphere with “strong individual business areas, and a market leading digital proposition.” But it was “really the people that attracted me,” Nicola confessed.
“Everyone I met was professional, open, and genuinely welcoming. Most importantly, they talked about Sedgwick passionately. It was everything I was looking for in company culture,” Nicola told WeAreTheCity.
Speaking about being a woman in the insurance industry, Nicola said that “women have made important gains in the industry in recent years, and this has been accelerated by the Pandemic and the rise of flexible working.” However, despite these important gains, Nicola felt that many boardrooms and leadership teams in the insurance sector remain “male dominated.”
Nicola told WeAreTheCity that her own experience in the industry has been positive which she owed to the support she’s received from her managers who have been fundamental to her development. This support helped Nicola progress in the industry and gave her opportunities for promotion.
Despite the benefits of this support, Nicola warned against underestimating the importance of “taking ownership of your own career progression.” She said it’s important to push hard “to ensure these opportunities present themselves and not just sitting back and expecting things to happen.”
“It’s important to push your case in conversations and increase your visibility through networking at events and other forums,” Nicola added.
As well as pushing your case, Nicola suggested joining groups such as the Women in Banking & Finance Group where she is currently a member. Nicola believes these groups are “incredibly important in bringing together women who have a broad range of views and opinions on different issues – to network and develop their careers.”
On the topic of networks, Nicola noted that Sedgwick has recently launched a women’s global colleague resource group with the support of the executive leadership team. This resource group aims to provide female colleagues with opportunities and support both on a personal and career development front.
In recent years, the insurance sector has seen progress in gender equality with data from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) showing that in 2021, 29% of board roles were held by women, up from 25% in 2019.
Yvonne Braun, ABI director of long-term savings and protection commented on this progress saying, “it’s encouraging to see the growing female representation at the most senior levels of the insurance and long-term savings industry.” However, she still felt more needed to be done to improve diversity more widely.
Nicola shares this opinion, telling WeAreTheCity that “equity should be embedded into all parts of the employee lifecycle and begins in the attraction and recruitment processes.”
She felt that businesses need to do more to educate younger people from all backgrounds by going into schools and universities to explain the opportunities that different careers can offer women, and people from diverse backgrounds alike.
“It must also be part of the culture of an organisation, where it is talked about at a senior level and taken seriously by all employees,” Nicola told WeAreTheCity, “and talking about it is not enough, leaders need to model the inclusive behaviours they expect to see throughout their organizations.”
As well as businesses being more transparent in sharing gender disparities and pay gaps – an FCA enforced initiative – Nicola thinks businesses should have clearer targets so gender equality can be tracked more effectively. She recommended that more businesses should pledge to the Women in Finance Charter; “to drive change, we need to challenge ourselves and set aspirational targets.”