AIG brings women and business leaders together through golf
Through golf clinics and academies, the insurance organization encourages women in business to learn the game, network and have fun.
If Elke Vagenende could share some advice for women starting their careers in business, one of the top items on her list would include learning to play golf.
As the Global Head of AIG’s Multinational business, Elke has benefitted on many levels by learning the game: Being on the golf course gives busy professionals like herself a place to unwind and enjoy the outdoors. Also, playing golf has helped Elke widen her professional network, as well as deepen relationships with colleagues and business partners.
“During a recent round of golf with one of our broker partners, I was able to talk through some business challenges as we played,” Elke recalls. “Being on the green rather than in the office made that conversation much easier.”
Elke refined her golf game through the AIG Women’s Golf Academy, which brings together the global insurance organization’s colleagues, brokers, and clients in the UK for golf lessons taught by golf pros.
This is one of several ways AIG helps female business leaders network and grow their careers across the insurance industry. Through the AIG Women’s Golf Academy, those new to the game can learn how to play the game, and those more experienced golfers can hone their skills — all while meeting new people and connecting over a shared interest.
“Golf is a great sport to learn because it is more collaborative than a lot of other sports,” Elke adds. “You’re talking to the group that you are playing with — strategizing your next shot and deciding what club you are going to use. That’s really good in a professional sense because it paves the way for business discussions that can help bring in new clients, new business.”
Bonding and building your network through golf
AIG Underwriter Elle Ayton was thrilled when her manager referred her to the Academy. Recently joining AIG in her first professional position, Elle was able to interact with AIG’s female leaders across different business areas — women she wouldn’t have typically had the chance to meet in the workplace. As someone building her career, she sees these colleagues as role models and mentors.
“I'm playing with some inspiring women with many years of business experience who I can ask for advice and learn from,” Elle says. “In essence, the Academy has given me a seat at the table. I can walk into a room now with confidence and connect with colleagues on a much deeper level because my network has broadened being in the program, and I have more things in common to talk about.”
Other Academy participants have expanded their network outside AIG. For instance, Senior Underwriter, Georgina Pearham, who underwrites directors & officers insurance policies for AIG UK, joined the Academy hoping to get back into golf, not having played since she was a child. While working on her golf skills, she also deepened her relationships with key broker partners.
“At the Academy, I met a broker from a smaller brokerage house who I hadn’t met before,” Georgina says. “Our time spent side-by-side there led to us forming a friendship. Since then, we've seen quite a good submission flow from them, generating new business for AIG.”
In addition to the AIG Women’s Golf Academy, AIG spearheads independent golfing initiatives by region. For example, the Women & Allies Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) in both New York and Hong Kong recently hosted events aimed at teaching women how to golf and offering a platform for them to connect with others who want to learn the game.
Nathalie Dean, an associate general counsel who handles a litigation docket involving domestic and international policies for AIG, participated in the New York ERG event to begin her journey learning golf.
“I’ve passed on several networking events held at golf courses because I didn’t know how to play the game,” Nathalie says. “The ERG event piqued my interest because I don’t want to miss those opportunities.”
Even talking about golf has its benefits in the workplace, explains Lorraine McKay, assistant general counsel in AIG’s coverage litigation group and an avid golfer: “Being able to talk about a round of golf you played over the weekend or a golf tournament you watched on television is a great ice breaker before a meeting. It immediately builds rapport with the people around you.”
Also, the skills learned on the golf course can go beyond making the longest drive or hitting the perfect bunker shot.
“Golf is a game that requires more than a good swing,” says Anupama Chandrasekhar, senior director in the Project Management Office of Legal Operations. “It requires patience, strategy, good communication, and keeping your cool even if things aren’t going your way. These soft skills directly carry over to the workplace.”
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