At the FERMA Forum 2013 in Maastricht, we arranged a session for women called Ladies at Risk Lunch and the topic was ‘women on boards’. The thought behind a special session for women was two-fold:

1. Networking
2. Inspiring and educating

We had two great speakers who both have high positions and great experience with board work:
1. Janet Legrand, partner and senior elected board member at the law firm DLA Piper
2. Sanna Suvanto-Harsaae, full time non-executive board professional and business advisor at Scandinavian companies

Janet Legrand

Janet Legrand

Both ladies gave great speeches. Subjects they touched upon were: their personal journey to the board; how companies can ensure that competent women are identified; quota or not quota; a walk through the four different models in Scandinavia; what women should do if they want a board position (we should not sit and wait for the knight in shining armour but get out there and draw attention to ourselves); and more…..

Sanna’s presentation turned out to be a bit out of the ordinary, and this is what I actually wanted to share with you in this blog. The evening before the session I received an email from her in which she warned me that she might not be able to make it to the session due to an urgent matter in one of the boards she was sitting on.

My brain started: what to do? Can we reorganise the timing of the lunch, can we adjust the length of Janet’s speech, should we extend the introduction? What to do, what to do?? About 160 women had signed up for the lunch, and I wanted it to go well, of course.

Sanna Suvanto Harsaae

Sanna Suvanto Harsaae

However, all my worries would turn out to be completely unnecessary. Sanna proved to be one of the most professional business persons I have ever come across. She did not want to let us down – an agreement is an agreement – she did a video with her speech on her iPad at 5 o’clock in the morning on the day of the session! What dedication. So, with help from our great IT-guys we managed to show the video on a TV-screen to the 160 women with great success. Not only did Sanna sit in a hotel room in Stockholm at 5am and talk into an iPad, she also managed to speak to us as though she was with us in the room – with great passion, wit and dedication – and excellent timing.

Janet and Sanna’s performances inspired us all. They are two very professional – and very pleasant – business women. In fact, the session inspired Julia Graham, President of FERMA, so much that she has started a working group (Julia, Vice President Michel Dennery and myself).

We will explore the possibility of creating a forum where the diversity question within the insurance and risk management society is discussed through an environment with networking opportunities that will bring people and minds together, with mentoring possibilities and with events that can inspire – not only women but men as well.

See the next FERMA newsletter for more news on this working group.

Helle Friberg is a FERMA board member. She is Group Risk & Insurance Manager for Hempel A/S, Denmark.