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International Women’s Day 2024 #Inspire Inclusion

Everyone everywhere can build on IWD’s achievements in forging positive change for women and girls worldwide – from equality in education to breaking the boardroom glass ceiling. Everybody can ‘inspire inclusion’ by embracing diversity of race, age, ability, faith, body image and gender identity.

Today we celebrate Irwell’s Head of Operations, Sophie Doel’s professional and personal achievements on International Women’s Day.

Sophie passed the bar and worked as a solicitor specialising in liability before joining Irwell.  She has extensive insurance experience in property, legal expenses, employment protection and commercial liability. Passionate about developing people and corporate culture, Sophie is the Complaints and Vulnerable Customer Champion, as well as the HR, Training and Development Lead at Irwell.

Outside work, she is mum to two girls, so on International Women’s Day it seems appropriate to ask about her journey from Harwood Park Primary School to Irwell’s Senior Management team and how she juggles being a working mum.

#IWD2024 #InspireInclusion

What do you most appreciate in your work environment?

The people make a workplace and I’ve made some lifelong friendships in each role I’ve worked in. Having people you trust, and who you can speak openly to and being entirely yourself with make the difference between somewhere you feel at home, and somewhere you know isn’t for you. Irwell is full of great people who I feel lucky to have met and work with, both personally and professionally.  

A typical day as Head of Operations

Hectic and no two days are alike! My role is all about providing operational excellence in every area of our business, from improving seamless client services, product development, claims procedures to mentoring. In one day, I can be in an underwriting review with senior management then training my team about Consumer Duty implementation before dashing across town to attend a BIBA event to network with industry peers. I love the variety and the challenge of spinning many plates!

What’s the best career advice you’ve been given? 

Always be the hardest worker in the room – there are going to be great people in any environment you find yourself in, but natural talent will only take you so far. Be disciplined, even when you’re not feeling motivated and eventually, you will outshine the competition and get where you want to go.

What career advice would you give to your daughters?

Don’t expect to love what you do all the time. The journey of getting anything worth having is tough; if it wasn’t, everyone would do it. But be happy – this is all that really matters and, if whatever path you’ve taken doesn’t bring you this, choose a new path as best you can.

What was your first job?

My first job was in a boarding kennels when I was 13. I worked all day every Saturday for £10!

Which woman do you most admire and why?

Judge Judy – I have always found her so inspiring to watch! She’s so intelligent and intuitive, I can’t imagine anyone outwitting her! I love that it’s clearly the ‘real’ her we’re seeing, she’s not putting it on for TV. She’s not afraid of anyone and quickly gets the measure of people.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You don’t have to be perfect. I am a real perfectionist which, although has maybe served me well in my career so far, as it makes me push myself that little bit harder, it’s tough to maintain in every facet of your life. Sometimes ‘good enough’ is ok; you have to know when to give yourself a break (something I’m still working on).

What advice would you give young women looking to work in Financial Services?

Grab every opportunity you can. Network and meet people, learn about the industry, the individual business and how it all pieces together. Look for a good Graduate Programme (like ours at Irwell!) to get your foot in the door, as you can often get a breadth of experience of different areas on these schemes, giving you the opportunity to work out where you will best fit.  

3 tips to working mums about managing the work-life balance

I’m not sure I am the best to answer this one, but I’ll give it a go!

1. Accept you’re sometimes going to be doing a better job of one thing than the other, and that’s ok. You can’t give 100% to two demanding roles all the time.

2. Remind yourself what an example you’re setting to your children. If they grow up and want a successful career as well as raising a family (which I accept, not everyone does!), they can do it.

3. Be kind to yourself and make time for little pockets of ‘you’ time. When children are young, these can be few and far between but it’s not selfish to take time to re-charge.

How does Irwell inspire inclusion?

We have a very diverse team here at Irwell – we are an eclectic mix of ethnicity and religions, new graduates in their twenties, employees who have been with us for almost 30 years and people from Brazil, Dubai and Denton. We even have City and United fans who work well together! My aim is to mentor my team to help them achieve their career aspirations and get them onto the Board if that’s their ambition.

March 2024