Trailblazing women in Zurich Ireland

International Women’s Day (IWD) 2024 takes place on 8th March, and as part of Zurich’s continued commitment to gender balance and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), we would like to take the opportunity to mark the occasion by showcasing women in leadership roles within our business. 

In 2023, 40% of women in Ireland held senior management positions, which is up from 30% in 2022, according to Grant Thornton’s research into women in business in the global mid-market.

Ireland performs well when compared to our counterparts in the UK, where 33% of women hold senior management positions. In the US that figure stands at 31%, however nationally and globally, there is still work to do to bridge the gap towards parity for all genders.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) is #InspireInclusion. To truly include women means to openly embrace their diversity of race, age, ability, faith, body image, and how they identify. It means building governance and accountability on how our practices support empowerment and development to tackle such items as the gender pay gap and senior representation.

At Zurich we all help to inspire each other. Zurich is committed to gender balance and this year as we celebrate IWD, we are delighted to share some inspirational stories from female leaders within our business.

Catriona Curtis is Team Coach in the Direct New Business Team and has worked with Zurich since 2008. She believes its vitally important to have women in leadership positions and that women are currently under-represented in that area. “By having more women in leadership positions, we can benefit from increased diverse perspectives, experiences and skills which in turn can drive innovation and enhance employee engagement and collaboration. By empowering more women to take on leadership roles, we can break down gender barriers, create a more inclusive work environment and drive better business outcomes.”

Siobhan Corbett is Chief Underwriting Officer for Zurich Insurance. She agrees that it's important for companies to have a lot of diverse views and opinions. “If you want to properly assess something or figure out the best strategy, you need to make sure that you get all perspectives, and having women there is as important as any other diversity factor,” she says.

Siobhan argues that if you have women in leadership positions it's more representative of society. “If Ireland is 50% women, then our leadership should be 50% women to reflect the reality of the population.”

Championing leadership

Sarah Pierce is Head of EEA Oversight at Zurich Insurance. She has worked at Zurich for 15 years, and during that time has progressed in her career to her current leadership position. She believes that diversity of a leadership team should reflect an organisations customer base, employees and prospective employees.

A key part of Sarah’s value set is to be an authentic leader as this is what inspired her. She adds: “It's so important for any leader, particularly female leaders, to support, encourage, champion and sponsor each other. And when it comes to coaching other females, it’s about bringing others along a journey to help them reach their full potential without personal gain.”

Catriona talks about the “fantastic” female mentors she has had throughout her career at Zurich and the invaluable experience and knowledge she has gained from them while being encouraged and supported in her own career. “The female leaders within Zurich are role models and inspire and motivate other women to pursue leadership roles through witnessing what is possible,” she says.

Aoife Costello is Head of Strategic Execution in Zurich Life. She also sees the positive impact of inspirational role models. “We see the impact that this can have for girls and young women in all walks of life – from business, to sport, to the arts. ‘You have to see it to be it’ is so true and as a business, it’s important that we have a diversity of thought, experience and background, and a leadership team that reflects our people and our customers. Men and women bring different strengths and combining these strengths supports better decision making,” she says.

The phrase ‘You have to see it to be it’ clearly resonates with Siobhan too who says she was entering into a leadership role at the same time as starting a family. “Seeing other women who also had a young family and were able to do the job – not just technically but they are some of the best people we have in our leadership... It made me think if they can do it then maybe I can too. It gave me the confidence to back myself.”

Sarah agrees that we need more women supporting and championing other women. “It can be challenging for women to even feel like they should be in a leadership role. Research shows that women’s confidence levels differs to men, that’s why we need strong female leaders to empower each other and inspire confidence.”

Career progression

When it comes to its commitment to encouraging women to progress to leadership roles, the consensus from Aoife, Catriona, Sarah and Siobhan, is that Zurich is to the fore in this area in terms of supporting progression and career development.

Siobhan points out that we need more women in leadership to understand what motivates a woman to pursue a leadership role.

Caitriona says: “I have benefited from many opportunities throughout my career, most recently being selected to participate in the Zurich Achieve Programme. Zurich is committed to providing opportunities for employee’s who want to progress their career and actively encourage participation in further training through courses such as Advancing Women in Leadership in Financial Services.”

Aoife adds: “Zurich has some really strong female leaders who are paving the way and who show us how to be good business leaders and are also great supporters of other women.”

Sarah reiterates that she feels fully supported and encouraged in Zurich. “We are always looking forward in terms of what we want a leadership team to look like and we listen and strive to create the conditions for all employees to succeed, regardless of gender,” she adds.

Zurich is committed to creating a diverse team at all levels of the organisation and that includes leadership positions. “Part of this is creating the right environment, making sure that we support both women and men with family friendly policies and a recognition of the life stages that are unique to women”, Aoife says. “We encourage women to develop their talents and think about their careers from an early stage so that they are ready to take opportunities when they arise.”

Creating an environment for diversity and inclusion

When it comes to advice for others considering leadership roles, Siobhan maintains you can probably come up with a list of reasons why you can't do it a lot quicker than a list of reasons why you can do it, so it’s all about confidence and belief.

For Sarah the advice is simple: “Go for it, be confident, be true to yourself and your values. Have the confidence to put your name in the hat. That's the only way to find out if you're going to get a role.” She points out that even if you aren’t successful, you will learn from the experience, get valuable feedback and be in a better position when other opportunities arise.


“Zurich is a fantastic company to work with and an organisation that has given me incredible opportunities to grow in both a professional and personal capacity. I have worked closely with many inspiring female leaders throughout my career and hope that I can also inspire others to progress their careers and believe in their own capabilities,” Catriona says.

Aoife adds: “International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to take a moment to celebrate our collective achievements and also to recognise that although we have made great progress towards achieving equity for men and women there is always more to do.”

Every International Women’s Day, we get the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our female leaders, but every day we work towards parity for all genders. At Zurich, this involves providing our people with the right tools, resources and encouragement to help them develop their leadership skills, enabling flexible work, tackling stereotypes, and supporting discussions to educate and engage people around this important topic.

Sign Up Here

For promotional offers, news, updates and access to exclusive reports from Zurich

By pressing the submit button you are providing your consent to receive email communications from Zurich Life and other Zurich Group Companies.
See the Zurich Privacy Policy for your rights and how your personal information is used.

Indicates required field

...  Sending Response, please wait ...

Your response has been successfully submitted.

An error has occurred attempting to submit your response. Please try again.