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Balancing the twin desires of raising a family while pursuing a rewarding career

By Debbi Wood
Head of Reinsurance Claims

One of the key blockers to the progression of women in business is balancing the twin desires of raising a family while pursuing a rewarding career.

But Debbi Wood, Head of Reinsurance Claims, is proof that both professional and personal ambitions can be pursued at QBE Re. Having joined 20 years ago, after a stint at Lloyd’s of London, Debbi now leads a team of claims professionals based in Dublin, London, Brussels, New York and Minnesota.

“The priority is ensuring the team work as one – wherever they are in the world – harmonising ways of working and ensuring that we can deliver a much more consistent and consolidated service to our customers,” she says.

It’s a big job but one that Debbi is more than prepared for, having held a range of senior claims positions in various parts of QBE before joining QBE Re. In hindsight, she believes returning from maternity leave was a pivotal point in her career.

“Coming back is really difficult when you've been out of the workplace for any length of time, for any reason, and people need support to make sure they don’t slip through the net and stop progressing,” she says.

“When I came back from maternity leave 15 years ago, I was given the opportunity to work one day from home, which was quite progressive at the time. To be able to negotiate my working patterns made life considerably easier.”

Things have moved on since then, of course, but Debbi believes there is still a huge amount of work to do.

“We have to make sure that while we promote women, there is also a pipeline of talent coming through. Just because there are women in senior roles, doesn’t mean the job is done,” she says.

“We need to focus on that mid-management level. We’re good at getting women into junior roles and training them, but that middle part of a career can be really hard for women to manage effectively,” she says.

It will take more than supportive HR policies to secure the necessary change, which is why Debbi and her fellow colleague Tracey Gibbons, Head of QBE Re Bermuda, have set up an internal Women in Reinsurance community to provide that extra support.

“Reinsurance is still quite ‘traditional’ in many ways so this is about providing a safe space where we can discuss issues that women working in reinsurance face, offering an educational forum and helping women create those necessary contacts and networks of support,” explains Debbi.

“It’s open to everyone who has experience working in reinsurance across QBE and we’d love to get as diverse a group as possible together to make some real change.”

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Your contact

Deborah Wood

Deborah Wood

Head of Claims