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Lulu Rasebotsa | How SA’s women can lead by resilience

Lulu Rasebotsa | How SA’s women can lead by resilience
24-03-23 / Lulu Rasebotsa

Lulu Rasebotsa | How SA’s women can lead by resilience

One of the big buzzwords that emerged from Covid-19 is ‘resilience’. But what is resilience exactly? As women, how do we know if we are resilient? And how can we use that resilience in our personal and business lives?

For me, resilience is not about how you fall, but how you get up. And the past couple of years has called on every ounce of resilience in me, the company I lead, and the insurance industry.

I joined Bidvest Life in October 2021. We were still firmly in the grips of the pandemic. In fact, Omicron hit us a couple of months later. As an industry, we were still coming to terms with the effects of the disease. We had seen civil unrest sweep the country, with KZN being particularly hard hit.

A few months later KZN was devastated by floods, the effects of which we are still feeling to this day. On a personal front, I had relocated from Botswana to Durban, changing houses, jobs and countries in a single life-changing step. Imagine my predicament - I’m black, but I don’t speak Zulu! I’m of South African descent, but the bulk of my experience has been a different environment, culture and work ethic entirely.

We are all facing a multitude of challenges and complexities in our own way, but at times like this we need perspective to embrace change and see it for what it is - opportunity.

Let’s talk about resilience.

So, what is resilience? I’ll tell you what it isn’t. It’s not putting on a superhero face at work while you’re falling apart on the inside. It’s not ignoring your mental well-being because you feel the need to get your job done. It’s not living up to the false expectations of others.

It’s about the ability to realise not everything is set in stone. Today, you must be able to move quickly to plan B. And if that doesn’t work, there are another 24 letters of the alphabet to go.

And that’s the thing: if you can adapt, you’re resilient. If you don’t, you’re not being strong - you’re being stubborn. And that’s not going to help you get anywhere.

As women, we’re famous for our resilience, even when we face intense demands from all aspects of our lives. Now we must redefine what it means to be powerful and resilient. It's okay to be vulnerable, but we must focus on managing our energy levels and resources to find harmony in all aspects of our lives.

So, how can we lead with resilience in uncertain times, both as women and collectively as an industry?

The importance of building diversity

At a business level, we improve our ability to adapt and evolve when we build diversity into our businesses and our products. We’ve been tiptoeing around issues like diversity, gender parity and access for too long. We can’t keep doing things the same way and still expect to be relevant tomorrow. We need a wider range of skills and viewpoints to deal with the barrage of challenges we are facing.

To build diversity, we must start by putting ourselves in the shoes of our stakeholders: our employees, our advisers, our clients, and our untapped audiences. Then we must embrace greater diversity in our workplaces. In our thinking. In our levels of representation in gender, religion, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation and education.

We must include female clients in the design process of insurance products. Listen to their needs and constraints. Appoint more female professionals to increase gender equality and build trust.

In the life insurance industry, building resilience means aligning better with customer needs and creating solutions around the lifestyle of the customer. It means bringing younger and underserved people into the insurance net, and simplifying insurance so that people understand what they need, what they have and how it works.

Right now, our world and our people need a resilience revolution. And we, as women, are perfectly placed to lead it.

*Lulu Rasebotsa is the CEO of life insurer Bidvest Life.

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