The Malta Independent 19 April 2019, Friday

Women in Business: ‘Women, we can do it’

The Malta Business Weekly Friday, 8 March 2019, 10:00 Last update: about 2 months ago

The Malta Business Weekly catches up with GlobalCapital Health Insurance executive director Adriana Zarb Adami to discuss work challenges, gender bias and remaining passionate about the job over the years.

Back then there weren't many working mothers, how did society view this?

Back in the late 1970s, before I had children, it was only women who really needed to work who took on employment. However, I had just come back from living in Oxford for nearly six years, where women were encouraged to work, so when I returned to Malta I was eager to start working again. This was frowned upon by some, however, I was never a conformist and I genuinely enjoyed working and addressing the challenges the job involved. There was only one summer when I didn't work, and I can honestly say I drove my children mad constantly wanting to get out of the house; I needed a purpose.

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How did you juggle between your job and raising two young children?

It wasn't always easy, especially as my husband, Noel, used to work late hours and travel extensively. However, as with everything, you're only "too busy" for the things you don't actually want to do. The good thing about being in Malta is that family help was always at hand. My parents and my sister used to love looking after Kristian and Raina so it put my mind at rest. Initially, I only worked part-time until they were old enough to be independent.

What was your dream job when you were young?

I always wanted to work at an airport or as a flight attendant.  At the time, I thought it was very glamorous with a dynamic atmosphere that involved plenty of activity and meeting people from different walks of life.

You have been with the company for so many years that you've become known as Ms Bupa.  What is it that keeps you passionate about the job over the years?

I've been with the company for 28 years and I've never been short of a challenge or two.  I started working as a personal assistant to the managing director, slowly making my way up the corporate ladder until 2011 when I took control of Bupa in Malta, assuming full responsibility for the daily running of the company. Bupa has evolved over time, and so have I, but my mantra remains "the client is always king". Many clients have become personal friends over the years, and it is difficult not to invest emotions and become attached, especially since health is such a personal issue. Over the years, it has been interesting to see how medical interventions have evolved and it's rewarding to be able to offer innovative treatments, which were previously unavailable. Being able to provide solutions to improve our clients' health has been a key factor in my job satisfaction.

How do you handle gender bias on the job?

Although we still have a long way to go, I think progress has been made. I now sit on the Bupa Malta board and we're working towards achieving gender balance. Our team benefits from the breadth and depth of perspective brought about by diversity. Nowadays, gender bias tends to be inadvertent. I think education is key in addressing this situation to ensure we take advantage of everyone's strengths. Although I'm not in favour of gender quotas because I believe appointments should be based on merit (competence, experience and qualifications), it is crucial that business entities work towards ensuring a better representation in the boardroom.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

Being appointed executive director was definitely a high point in my Bupa career. I'm also honoured to be active on a number of other boards and charity organisations.

What are the challenges you face as a woman in your position?

I feel that as a woman I need to work harder and be well prepared. Deep down, I still feel we constantly need to prove ourselves, but along the years, I have become more assertive and confident and I don't hesitate to put my opinion across. 

What is the best advice you have received that you wish to pass on?

Nowadays, there are more women getting involved in business. Given a project, we are quick to shoulder responsibility, take ownership and deliver. Moreover, we are multitaskers. Women, we can do it, so get out there and get more involved. As Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg said: lean in!

Who is your role model?

I do admire Amal Clooney. She is a passionate and successful human rights' lawyer, who has retained her femininity and is always so beautifully dressed and impeccably put together. Besides, she now has twins and seems to juggle her family life and career somewhat effortlessly.

What do you do for fun / relaxation?

Travelling, socialising and dancing have always been high on my agenda. I am happy to put in the hours at work, but equally I dedicate time to family and friends. At the moment, however, my favourite pastime is spending time with my 12-week-old granddaughter Safira, who lives in the UK. Luckily, she is often in Malta and I'm also travelling more to be with my daughter and her family. And, if my son, Kristian, who spends half his time in the UK, joins us all for the weekend I feel fulfilled and complete.


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