Blog

Being Part of the Crowd

Nia Joynson-Romanzina
Insurance Experts' Forum, June 26, 2013

In a desperate attempt to kick-off my new life as a blogger I Googled "how to start writing a great blog?" Sad right? Having scanned through countless answers, what did I learn? Just write good content. Ha! Now why didn't I think of that? But what does that look like? And then it hit me: Every day I come across some gem of wisdom or knowledge that I am just dying to share. Sometimes they come from my family, sometimes from friends, other times from the office or at some event or other.

So many any of these golden nuggets just get stuck in my head, and finally I have the platform to whisk out these gems from my grey matter (or white matter as I am female - fodder for my next blog) and share them with you. So let the whisking out begin!

Back in May, I was sitting next to Geena Davis (yes of Thelma and Louise fame) at a dinner, and listening to her share some astonishing data on how girls and women are portrayed in the media. As the mother of two daughters (age 8.5 and 16), both of whom (despite parental "encouragement" to engage in more productive past-times) watch their fair share of TV/movies, I am painfully aware that what they watch influences their world view.

So what did I learn? Think crowd scenes in films and how many women are in those scenes. Seeing that women do make up roughly half of the world's population, around 50 percent would be a safe bet, right? Think again; Davis' Institute on Gender in Media sponsored the largest body of research ever done on gender images in media. It uncovered that on average in Hollywood films only 17 percent of crowds are female. Add to that finding that in American family films there is only one female for every three male characters.

The research also shows that females are missing from critical occupational sectors in entertainment media. A recently completed study on the careers of female characters in popular United States television and film, and found that with regard to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers, in family films, males hold 84 percent of all STEM jobs. That's a ratio of five male STEM characters to every one female STEM character.

No female leads or co-leads are shown with STEM careers. With the media perpetuating gender stereotypes and not supporting girls' visions of themselves as potential engineers, mathematicians, business leaders or even part of the crowd, how can we expect there to be a natural shift toward more women in leadership?

Incredulously, in the last 20 years, there has been no improvement in these numbers.

Furthering the Geena Davis and Gender in Media theme, I recently attended a screen of "Missrepresentation", a strong piece of filmmaking that hits you with the harsh message and reality of how women are objectified in the media. I hope to screen this film to parents and their teenage boys and girls later this year in Swiss Re, and plan to sponsor its screening at my eldest daughter's school (once she get's over the embarrassment factor). Anyway I digress (something I'm sure you, and I, will get to used as my inner blogger thrives). To find out more got to http://www.seejane.org/.

You might well be wondering how I ended up sitting next to Geena Davis and talking about Gender. Well, she was a keynote speaker at the 3rd bilateral U.S./Swiss conference on women in leadership organized by the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, Don Beyer and his incredible wife and journalist Megan. The impressive list of participating leading Swiss and American women in business and politics included leaders such as Swiss Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, Former Obama for America and White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, and Governor Madeleine Kunin former Governor of Vermont and U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland.

There were also leaders from the insurance industry present including: Carole Ackerman, Board member of Allianz Suisse, Vesta Bovair Head of Global Service Operations at Swissre, Deborah Broek Head of Investor Relations and Rating Agency Management at Zurich Insurance Group Ltd. to name just three.

George Washington University has been a partner in this initiative since its inception in 2010. Last year it published a Comparative Study of Gender Workplace issues in Switzerland and the United States (Feb. 24, 2012). This year it's report "Diversity Dividends: Advancing Women in Business Leadership" provided the basis for much of the conference discussions. The report explores new tools, coalitions and market influences that can accelerate market adoption of women in leadership. Many solutions involve changes in the workplace that would address the problems of work/life family balance including flexible work schedules, part time work arrangements, childcare and leave policies.

Nia Joynson-Romanzina is Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Swiss Reinsurance Co. Ltd. She is also a member of Catalyst's European Board and represents Swiss Re in the Harvard Kennedy School's Women Leadership Board. 

Readers are encouraged to respond to Nia using the “Add Your Comments” box below.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News' Women in Insurance Leadership program. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

Comments (1)

Nia Joynson-Romanzina you have nailed it. What an article. It was very good. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

Posted by: Claudia B | June 27, 2013 3:47 AM

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