Breaking Barriers and Embracing Diversity: Sima Ruparelia's Journey in Financial Services and DE&I

Brent Herman our consultant managing the role
Posting date: 11 June 2024

In a captivating conversation, Brent Herman, Director – Hanover Talent Solutions had the privilege of interviewing Sima Ruparelia, the Chief Actuarial and Risk Officer at PartnerRe and NED at British Gas Services Limited. Sima's remarkable journey in financial services is not just about her professional achievements but also her dedicated work in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I).

You can watch the full interview here and read a snap shot of the conversation below...

Defying Stereotypes and Embracing Extroversion

Sima begins by describing herself as an atypical actuary—extroverted and passionately committed to helping others and creating opportunities. This commitment extends to her personal life, where family plays a central role. Her journey has been marked by overcoming stereotypes and obstacles related to her profession and cultural background.

Resilience Born from Adversity

Growing up in Stoke on Trent, Sima faced racism that fuelled her resilience and determination to challenge adversity. She speaks candidly about rebelling against patriarchal norms within her Indian culture, both at home and professionally. Overcoming ingrained behaviours, such as the expectation to serve coffee in meetings, she underscores the impact of cultural upbringing on professional behaviour and the necessity of challenging norms to create meaningful change.

The Power of Allies

Sima discusses the invaluable support of allies in her career and personal life. She acknowledges her sisters, who supported her despite their own conformity to cultural expectations. Professionally, supportive colleagues and leaders provided platforms and opportunities, such as her first boss who introduced her to senior executives early on. Feeling valued and included by senior leaders boosted her confidence and visibility.

Overcoming Professional Challenges

Sima reflects on challenges like overcoming ingrained cultural behaviours and dealing with underperforming team members. She highlights the importance of exposing others to senior leaders and strategic projects, fostering empowerment and career growth. She mentions a mentoring program at her current workplace involving senior leaders mentoring employees, promoting mutual learning, and breaking down hierarchical barriers.

The Intersection of Intelligence and Support

Attributing her success to intelligence, clear articulation, and the support of allies, Sima acknowledges the inherent bias in the industry while noting that many colleagues have been supportive. She stresses the importance of grit, determination, and understanding one's needs to navigate career and personal life effectively.

Passion for Diversity and Inclusion

Sima's passion for DE&I is evident in her work. She runs the Racial Justice Working Group for ISC, supporting women and ethnic minorities, and emphasizes the intersectionality of these identities. She highlights challenges faced by various groups and her efforts to support individuals from diverse backgrounds, including socioeconomic status. Sima sponsors a scholarship at Loughborough University for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Authenticity and Resilience

Sima stresses the importance of being authentic and resilient in one's career, sharing personal experiences of overcoming challenges and having honest workplace conversations. She advocates for environments that encourage open dialogue and psychological safety, where mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities.

Challenges in Recruitment Practices

Identifying recruitment practices and the need for broader thinking in hiring and promotions as significant challenges in the financial services sector's DE&I efforts, Sima supports setting targets to drive accountability and progress in DE&I initiatives. She cites Zurich as an exemplary organization in DE&I for their innovative policies supporting families and equitable practices.

A Vision for Inclusive Workplaces

Concluding the conversation, Sima emphasises the importance of policies that support both men and women in achieving a truly inclusive workplace. Her insights and contributions to DE&I leave a lasting impact, highlighting the importance of continuous efforts toward creating equitable opportunities for all.

This inspiring interview with Sima showcases her resilience, intelligence, and unwavering commitment to DE&I, offering valuable lessons and motivation for anyone striving to make a difference in their professional and personal lives.

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