8th March 2023

Celebrating International Women's Day - We interview Director Toni Vincent-Panich

Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity.

This International Women’s Day we have chosen to celebrate and interview one of our very own, WM Brokers Director Toni Vincent-Panich. Read below to find out a little bit more about Toni, what makes her tick, what challenges she has faced throughout her career and what women have inspired her throughout her life.

How long have you been at WM Brokers?

I joined WM Brokers (which was then called Woodward Markwell) in 2015, so its coming up to 8 years now. We have undergone some exciting changes in that time, with an MBO in 2018 and more recently our insurance division, who I work for, was purchased by our new owners, Global Risk Partners which has been great for our business and really enhanced our presence within East Anglia and the delivery of even better services to our clients.

Have you always been ambitious?

Yes, absolutely. I have always been career driven. Throughout my working life whatever role I have been in I have always wanted to progress. I undertook my first management role in my early twenties and my first directorship in my early thirties. I’ve never looked back, always focused on the future.

Tell us a little more about ‘yououtside of work

Outside of work I am a married mum of one teenage son and step mum of two young adults. I love the great outdoors, We have 3 dogs (yes 3). I love visiting new places in my motorhome and do this as much as I possibly can. I also love to bake, just ask my husband and the team here at WM Brokers who frequently benefit from my hobby!

What is your proudest achievement both professionally and personally?

According to statistics from the Association of British Insurers (ABI), within the insurance industry only 1 in 5 board level directors are female, so I am really proud to be a woman in this industry and a board level director for WM Brokers. The statistics also highlight that whilst our sector doesn’t have a problem attracting female talent – in fact, more women than ever are joining insurance, at a senior level there is a long to way to go. To achieve gender parity across the industry, there is a lot more work to be done.

Here at WM Brokers, we demonstrate a very different trend. We have 31 staff based here in our Ipswich office of which 61% are women, as are 37% of our senior management team here.

Personally, it’s a bit of a cliché but my biggest achievement is my son. He may be a grumpy teenager now but he is my absolute world and makes me proud every single day. It is really important to me that I am a positive influence is his life. I truly love being a mum – although I have to say these days I am starting to feel more like a free taxi service and a bottomless cash machine! I’m sure many parents of teenagers can relate to this!

Which women have inspired you the most?

Professionally there are so many women that inspire me, it’s too difficult to narrow it down.  Women that are prepared to work hard, push themselves out of their comfort zone to achieve their own life goals (whether they be personally or professionally) inspire me. To be honest, any woman that strives to be the best version of themselves and holds her own in this sometimes crazy world is inspiring to me. 

Personally, it is my mum. We very sadly lost her to cancer when she was just 36 years old (I was just 11 at the time). Her strength and courage to go through what she went through with 4 young children to look after is incredible, I don’t think I could be that courageous. Through every trauma is a life lesson, it has taught me to be very grateful for the life I have, to make the most of every opportunity but most importantly to never take life for granted. Tomorrow is never promised so live life for today.

As a woman what would you say have been the most significant challenges faced throughout your career?

I would have to say that one of the biggest challenges has been trying to juggle parenthood whilst still wanting my career, it was really tough, especially in the early years. At the time I worked for a business that offered zero flexibility and it was a very hard time. I do believe that progress has been made over the years and many employers do now offer more flexibility, we certainly do here at WM Brokers.

What advice would you give to a woman wishing to pursue a similar career path?

Believe in yourself, don’t let anyone tell you or make you feel that you are not good enough. Also, that you can have children and still have a career. It’s not easy and yes there will be sacrifices and lots of challenges, but if you can navigate through the constant juggling act (and can manage the mum guilt) you can do it. It really does help if you have an employer that supports you. This was one of my biggest challenges when I first became a mum and it definitely impacted my mental health and wellbeing. I am so thankful that our business is not like that, we are very forward thinking and very supportive of working parents.

What 3 words come to mind when you think about #EmbraceEquity ?

Inclusion – Belonging – Fairness

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Source – ABI