There should be no ceiling or obstacle to women succeeding in all areas and at every level of our industry. Somewhat fortuitously the pressure to achieve self-declared targets around gender-parity in leadership will open more senior doors to women in the short term. But the playing field was designed by men, to suit men, and is blatantly uneven. This needs to be overhauled with a particular focus on supporting parents through child-bearing and rearing years in an even-handed manner.
Managing Director, Willis Re
An Interview with Mr. Maurice Williams
YY LIM | JANUARY 2020
What’s one important leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Self-awareness is key. Know your weaknesses and try to address them – not easy as they have a habit of evolving. And you can only truly know them through honest feedback from those working around you. So invite feedback all the time, and encourage those giving you their views not to hold back !
Accept culpability when you have made a mistake, but don’t beat yourself up too badly. As long as your motivations were sincere and you learn
What are some important things that you are doing, that have contributed to your success?
Behaviours / attitudes are at least as important as work activity. We all aspire to work diligently and intelligently to generate value but consideration for others pays off in myriad ways. People instinctively and naturally reciprocate such that even reinsurance becomes enjoyable!
Who are your role models? / Who inspires you? and why?
The most inspirational characters for me are those who sacrifice personal comfort, privilege or potential wealth to create positive, inclusive change. I am sure there are many in our industry but it is easier to reference those who inspire on a wider stage - Gandhi, Mandela, Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg.
My parents have been remarkable role models throughout my life – always selfless, sensible and caring – I will never reach the high bar they have set but won’t stop trying.
What has been the biggest challenge you have encountered? How did you handle it?
Increased responsibility throughout my career never fazed me but a role change in recent years required a mind-shift and was far more challenging. It now seems plain as day that the change was positive for the organization and for me personally but the transition required patience and understanding on all sides.
What is the best or worst decision you’ve ever made?
Best: To join Willis Re obviously……
Worst: To bet on Ireland in the Rugby World Cup (well done Japan !)
What are the biggest opportunities you think are available to women today?
There should be no ceiling or obstacle to women succeeding in all areas and at every level of our industry. Somewhat fortuitously the pressure to achieve self-declared targets around gender-parity in leadership will open more senior doors to women in the short term. But the playing field was designed by men, to suit men, and is blatantly uneven. This needs to be overhauled with a particular focus on supporting parents through child-bearing and rearing years in an even-handed manner. Organisations do not have to work hard enough at re-integrating returning parents and ensuring their career trajectory continues upward because……….they are almost always mothers. As long as fathers are not being offered the opportunity to share in their children’s upbringing (through equal parental leave entitlement for example) and line managers continue to attach stigma or colleagues frown at fathers leaving early to do the school run, we will not achieve a sustainably gender-balanced workforce through all levels. Agile work patterns mean it is eminently possible to achieve this, but attitudes need to change, and organisations need to put their hands in their pockets to fund certain elements. Unfortunately we are not yet matching words with actions.
What does diversity mean to you in a practical sense?
That our workplace population reflects the society in which we sit.
What will we be surprised to know about you?
Discretion was never a strength so I’m afraid a lot of people out there will be aware of all manner of stuff that I couldn’t possibly comment on!