When the gender odds are stacked against you in business, it may take ruffling some feathers


“Regardless of what sector you work in, the only constant for our generation is CHANGE. There will be no slowing down of the technology and innovation boom”. So says Kate Middleton, who has the distinction of being the only female CEO of a major player in the Australian insurance adjusting and engineering industry

While sectors such as mining, technology and engineering have long been considered a male-dominant environment, Middleton – as the CEO of engineering and insurance firm Censeo – is amongst the women seeking to change this. Not only does the Brisbane Entrepreneur pride herself on being a modern-day tech culture leader, she is an advocate for women in leadership.

“The engineering and insurance industry shows a massive opportunity for women as we are natural networkers and know how to build a tribe,” she said.

“I think if women can get out of each other’s way and genuinely support each other, leverage relationships and build a pipeline of future female talent – we can achieve magnificent things in collaboration with our male counterparts.

“If we harness the relationship vs. innovation and solutions gap, then women can truly be at the leading edge of creating amazing technology-driven solutions for historical business and social problems.”

Since starting out her career at AAMI where access to the internet and email services was only available to her managers, technology has advanced and times have changed. Fast-forward to today, Middleton has achieved huge milestones in Censeo, with the highlight being re-privatising the once-embattled firm from its ASX-listed parent company just last year. While the company has faced its challenges in the business market, she has been at the forefront of restoring Censeo’s reputation and implementing innovative strategies to improve its business model.

The company recently announced their expansion into drone and radar inspections where they are integrating this technology into the engineering and insurance businesses. This technology is already being put to the test in the insurance field. Middleton explains that the main goal is to help solve the problem of expensive escape of liquid claims, which for most homeowners and insurers can be costly, requires multiple specialists and in some cases takes months to resolve.

Heading up a tech company in an industry where there has been gender imbalance comes with a great set of responsibilities and obstacles, Middleton admitted

“At the core of any success story is the inescapable truth, that it mostly comes down to persistence and a lot of hard work; particularly when the (gender) odds are stacked against you,” she said.

“Consistently looking for big business problems and having the courage to solve them (sometimes even ruffling feathers along the way) has definitely fast-tracked my career.”

In line with working hard and being persistent with your goals, mentoring is something Middleton believes can have positive outcomes in shaping your career.

“Throughout my corporate career, and now as CEO of both Censeo and employment services start-up Career Oracle, I have sought out and been matched with incredible mentors from inside and outside of my sector, who have helped me grow my commercial acumen,” she said.

“Most of my mentors have been male executives. I figure if I want to play with the big boys, I first I need to know how they think. It has also been critical for me to build strong relationships and establish a genuine support system.”

Kate Middleton, CEO of Censeo

When asked what motivates her each day, Middleton replied, “Necessity. If I don’t show up big and courageous every day; then where does that leave the business, my team and my clients? There are a lot of fiduciary requirements attached to being a leader and I take those seriously. I am also a big believer in embracing small failures (I mean, that’s how businesses and individuals grow)… but ultimate failure – for me, that is not an option. No one is coming to save me, so I get up, show up and level up every day! Legacies do not create themselves”. 

See also: Entrepreneur Kate Middleton on rescuing a company in free fall, shaking up the status quo