CAPE TOWN - Born in South Africa, Managing Director of Elite Risk Acceptances, Christelle Colman believes that investing in a strong personal brand can be utilised by women as a means to potentially bridge the gap created by institutionalised gender bias.
Colman said: “Your personal brand is the culmination of your life experiences, unique character, ethical standards, and personality.
It is how well you communicate this brand to the world that will ultimately differentiate you from other professionals, something that is particularly imperative for women who continue to face gender-based disadvantages throughout our working lives.”
Before starting Elite, Christelle was the chief executive of Europ Assistance South Africa for two years. Prior to that, she spent almost 10 years at MUA Insurance Acceptances
She was first a part of the executive team and then became the chief executive.
Colman made her mark in the industry at the age of 25 when she founded Thatch Risk Acceptances, specialising in a class of business no insurer was interested in underwriting and 20 years later the business is still thriving.
She also did a stint as Head of Personal Lines Underwriting at Santam, where she gained invaluable experience at one of South Africa’s largest insurers.
She completed a number of business leadership programmes at the University of Stellenbosch business school.
Colman said that her biggest challenge is finding balance.
"The single biggest challenge is without a doubt trying to maintain a healthy balance between work and family. This is a challenge that transgresses all industries and even country borders," said Coleman.
According to Coleman, the gender pay gap exists as there are official statistics to support it.
Coleman: "The effort in recent years to close this gap has been immense and I believe we will see a vast improvement in future statistics. It is also very important for women to remember the change is as much their own responsibility. You will be wise to invest in improving your negotiating skills and to know your worth,".
Coleman believes that SA has made huge strides with regards to equal opportunity but we still have some way to go.
"Certain industries are still very male-dominated and even perceived to be unsuitable for women. Fortunately, the insurance industry in SA seems to be transforming at a rapid rate and we are seeing more and more talented women in top positions. These women, I am sure are being paid in-line with their male counterparts," said Colman.
Coleman said that when she invested in her own personal brand in the media and on social media it led to her directly landing a job as the chief executive of the local arm of a global company.
"I believe that having invested in my own personal brand a number of years ago, combined with the drive to get to the top of my career, is what led to me landing a job as the CEO of a local arm of a global brand", said Colman.
Colman offers the 5 tips that you can use when building your own personal brand.
1. Think of building a personal brand as a marathon, not a sprint
Consider your personal brand an asset that you have to grow and refine over time. While this brand will naturally change as you mature over the years, it is vital to ensure that what you present to the world remains consistent with who you are. In this sense, you can build an invaluable asset over time, requiring very little financial investment.
2. Maintain your personal brand
Managing this asset with care is, however, essential. Your personal brand, which takes time to build, can unfortunately be ruined in a moment through one public blunder.
It is important to remember that everything you say in the media, write on a blog or share on social media, adds a little building block to your growing personal brand. Once a comment or statement is released into the public or online, it is very difficult to take back, so be sure that nothing you are communicating can be easily misinterpreted or misrepresented.
3. Uphold a level of professionalism
If your goal is to build a sustainable personal brand for professional reasons, it is advised to keep your private life private, at least to a degree. Stay clear of any potentially controversial political and religious comments, as well as emotional outbursts about things like bad service or failed relationships.
4. Keep it real
The most important aspect of personal brand building is authenticity and, as such, sharing a bit of well-curated personal information with the world from time to time can help in creating a more meaningful brand that people can connect with.
A well-placed post about a trip or family vacation, for example, tells the world you are interested in broadening your horizons with travel, and that family matters.
5. Remember: your voice, your power
Finally, once a strong personal brand has been established, it is important to be mindful that in addition to distinguishing yourself professionally, it also gives you a voice. Colman advises women to continue talking about the challenges they face in business and in life as women.