Inspiring Change in the Insurance Landscape

In support of International Women’s Day, Vanessa Jennings, the Head of Portfolio, shares the story of her career path in the insurance industry. Vanessa’s journey, starting from an entry-level position in 1995, showcases her determination, resilience, and commitment to breaking down barriers.

A determined journey

Vanessa’s story begins with her migration to Australia in 1995, where she embraced an entry-level position in a small brokerage. Within months, Vanessa found herself handling domestic and SME business, defying the industry norms that confined women to supportive roles. Undeterred by the scarcity of women in the room at insurance events in the ’90s, Vanessa saw this as a challenge to change the status quo.

Driven by a desire to build her life in Australia, Vanessa pursued the Insurance Underwriting Diploma and later the Insurance Broking Diploma. These qualifications not only equipped her with essential product knowledge but also earned her recognition as a serious contender for roles and promotions. Vanessa, now in a leadership position, encourages both men and women to pursue their career goals, reflecting the positive shift in the industry’s dynamics.

I’m proud of sticking up for myself and not giving up when knocked back from some of those roles on the first try.

As a mother, raising her sons has been one of Vanessa’s greatest inspirations. With her boys grown up, she finds joy in passing on her knowledge, keeping clients satisfied, and savoring a bit more time for herself.

Challenging the norms

Vanessa candidly shares the challenges she faced as a woman in the insurance industry. Initially considered a second choice for promotions due to her gender, she was often assigned “feminine” occupations. Despite being more qualified, Vanessa experienced a significant pay gap compared to her male counterparts. Undeterred, she sought out roles in traditionally male-dominated industries, challenging stereotypes and making her mark in the broking world.

Her persistence in pursuing management roles, despite initial skepticism, paid off. Vanessa takes pride in tackling large male-dominated industries, and ironically, most of her contacts in clients’ businesses are now women.

Inspired by the Best

Vanessa defines someone as inspirational if they excel in areas where she aspires to grow. One of her inspirations is Gail Kelly, the trailblazing CEO of Westpac and the first female CEO of a major bank. Gail’s ability to balance a successful career with raising five children resonated with Vanessa, inspiring her to pursue her own success in the industry. Other influential figures include Ita Buttrose and Margaret Thatcher, who left a lasting impact on Vanessa’s perspective.

Timeless advice

Reflecting on her journey, Vanessa shares invaluable advice she would give her younger self: “Investing time in myself is worth every second.” She encourages taking walks, lifting weights, and prioritizing self-care without feeling guilty about time spent for personal well-being.

Vanessa Jennings is not just a leader at Austcover; she is a trailblazer who has broken glass ceilings and continues to inspire those around her. Her story is a testament to the power of determination, resilience, and self-investment in achieving success in the insurance industry.