Women power at Allianz New Europe

Women power at Allianz New Europe
What would be considered revolutionary in most traditional markets, has long been reality in Central and Eastern Europe: women not only make up a natural part of the work force, they are also part of all management levels. The Allianz companies in the New Europe division count twelve female board members, including four CEOs - barometer rising.
When Klaus Junker travels to supervisory board meetings of “his” Allianz subsidiaries in Bucharest, Warsaw, Prague, Budapest or Moscow, intelligent and professional women are often his counterparts across the table. In board rooms that overlook the rooftops of medieval town centers, traditional palaces or modern, post-communist office blocks, Junker and his colleagues meet female Chief financial Officers, heads of product factories or distribution and even CEOs, who are directly responsible for the development and growth of the companies at stake.
New Europe, together with Asia/Pacific, is one of Allianz’ most dynamic growth markets. For nearly twenty years now, new Allianz subsidiaries were created, new markets explored, new products introduced. Altogether, there are some 23,000 Allianz employees in the Central and Eastern European countries.
“Women have always been part of the core management in all the Central and Eastern European countries,” says Klaus Junker, head of Allianz New Europe for nearly two decades. “I don’t think there was ever a specific effort to hire women, the highly qualified women just simply were there and society was ready for them.”
Advantages of combining male and female approaches
Zuzana Kepkova joined Czech subsidiary Allianz pojistovna in 2001. She had already been board member at another major insurance company operating in the Czech Republic. At Allianz, she first took over the area of life insurance and also managed Human Resources. Today, Ms. Kepkova is responsible for the entire product factory of Allianz pojistovna, including all non-life and life business lines and covering retail and corporate products for individuals, small entrepreneurs and large industrial entities. At the same time, she is vice-CEO, taking charge, whenever the CEO is out of the office.
“To me, the discussion about women in management as being something extraordinary is a bit odd,” says Zuzana Kepkova. “At Allianz pojistovna, one third of managers are women and it feels absolutely natural. Many of them, including myself, have children and families. Our company understands the advantages of combining the “male” and “female” approaches to various issues and we make the best of this.” Olga Doan Role assignment is merit and skill-based
“Even the top job can be held by a woman” - in Eastern Europe this is often not just a statement, but reality. Olga Doan is CEO of Allianz Direct, a Warsaw-based company looking at innovative sales channels with teams in four other countries and plans to expand. Ms. Doan’s team consists of both women and men, “with no discrimination whatsoever, and any role assignment is purely merit and skill-based,” says Doan. Consequently the staff composition is roughly 50/50. While the business is strongly technology-based – something that is normally considered to be male predominated - her company employs women in senior positions ranging from IT analysts to call center managers, to project managers.
“I really don’t look whether the person I hire is a man or a woman, I look for the most qualified person,” she says. “But it is nice to have so many well-qualified women to choose from.” It seems like just a question of personal discipline to really look and consider the entire pool of applicants for a position – whether male or female.
“A natural cycle”
“Once the women are there in the top positions, this seems to become a natural cycle,” Klaus Junker reflects. “And it is interesting, but we really see this trend, this greater equality in the young and dynamic economies like Central and Eastern Europe including Eurasia (Russia & CIS). The young female professionals see the examples, they want the same opportunities as their male colleagues and they are given these opportunities.”
And even in the traditional society of Russia, more and more women reach top positions in the business world. In the Allianz Eurasia companies, three of the CEOs are women: Zhanar Kalieva (CEO of Allianz Kazakhstan), Nina Galanicheva (CEO of Rosno Health Insurance, Russia) and Natalia Shumilova (CEO of Medexpress, Russia). Olga Krymova “The world of finance isn’t a male world”
Rosno, the Allianz flagship company in Russia, has three women in the board of management (and three men). Olga Krymova is Deputy CEO and Rosno’s CFO – not at all a “soft skills” area. When Klaus Junker arrives for supervisory board briefings, it is Krymova, who takes his tough questions on any financial issue.
“I never viewed the world of finance as a male world; in fact I don’t look at work from a gender point. I suppose both my female and male colleagues spending long hours in the office often wish to have more time to stay with their families and children,” says Krymova. “But I am happy to be in Russia in such a dynamic environment, where I can do what I like to do, and be appreciated professionally with many more exciting years and opportunities ahead.”
“We can only gain from a more diverse culture”
Allianz is working hard to change the diversity patterns in the Group. A Diversity Council was set up a few years ago and Allianz SE Board member Clement Booth is making sure that there is progress.
“While we don’t have and don’t want to have a quota for women, we are trying to create awareness for diversity issues and to foster behavior that would increase the hiring of women or minorities. We do have target ratios for high potentials and this is essential,” says Booth. “We think our business atmosphere – even our business performance – can only gain from a more diverse culture.”
When looking at the trends in New Europe, Booth’s prophecy seems already true.

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