Wednesday 08 March 2023 - Company news

Celebrating International Women’s Day

By Vanesa Herrero

As Tokio Marine HCC celebrates International Women’s Day, we spoke to our newly appointed  CEO of Tokio Marine Europe, Vanesa Herrero, about her start in insurance, what it takes to make it to the top and whether or not insurance can ever achieve true gender equality.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be the CEO of Tokio Marine Europe!

IWD 2023

That’s the candid view of Vanesa Herrero, the newly appointed CEO of Tokio Marine Europe, and one of the latest women at Tokio Marine HCC to make her way to the top of the corporate ladder. Having joined the company in 2001 from a legal background, Vanesa was initially attracted by the diversity of the business and the international opportunities but before long, she found that insurance was much more interesting than she had dared to expect. 

With a focus on “always doing the job as best as I possibly could” and learning as much about the industry as she progressed, Vanesa found that by 2019, her career was advancing well. But she knew she wanted more and to get more, she had to give more. To that end, she undertook a Masters for women in leadership at the Esade Business School in Madrid and it was here that Vanesa started to realise what was possible for women and, more importantly, for her.

That Masters opened up a whole new world for me,” she says.

Suddenly I was surrounded by successful women and real high achievers in their fields. They were super successful but most of all, they were normal people, just like me. Seeing that helped change my perspective on it all.”

It was here that she also learned the power of networking, of sharing experiences, perspectives, ideas, challenges, ambitions and fears with people who were like her and who shared many of the same experiences in their careers.

All of that empowered me to believe that I could try to achieve more,” she says.

And achieve more she did. From her Masters, Vanesa was offered the position of Head of European Claims before eventually taking on her current role  last year. While Vanesa points to the consistent support and encouragement she received within TMHCC over the years, she is adamant that any woman who wants to get to the most senior positions, has to take personal responsibility for trying to get there.

It is our own responsibility to have a mindset to grow and advance and put it on ourselves to try to succeed,” she says. 

We have to find the opportunities to grow and learn and perhaps be less rigid in our thinking or approach. It is also important to learn to take risks and to understand the context in which you operate.”

That said, Vanesa does concede that even the most talented, determined and dynamic woman could find her ambitions truncated, not just because of a workplace culture, but due to the wider environment she is living in.

Things have changed a lot since 2001 and there are many more women in senior positions. But there is still a lot to do. We are at a historical point in time – we have made real progress on gender equality, however, to make any meaningful, lasting change, the whole of society needs to be aligned.”

While she welcomes this progress and the fact that equality of all kinds in the workplace is now top of the agenda, she does believe that full equality won’t be achieved in business unless the same is achieved in society at large.

Unfortunately, I don’t think gender equality will be a reality by the time I retire but I do believe businesses are genuinely working hard to improve. They see the benefits but for real change to take place, it has to involve everyone – men and women, private and public sector, government and wider society,” she says.

And as a woman in a senior position in insurance on International Women’s Day, Vanesa has this advice for any women with ambitions of making it to the top: “It’s the same advice I would have given to my younger self – try to be excellent in what you do, make yourself visible in the organisation, try to provide as much value as you can, take calculated risks and seek out the opportunities which will help you progress.”


Vanesa Herrero
Vanesa Herrero

CEO of Tokio Marine Europe