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Business Insurance launches diversity and inclusion institute


NEW YORK — Business Insurance has launched its Diversity and Inclusion Institute aimed at finding solutions to the insurance industry's diversity challenge.

Nikki Pirrello, associate group publisher of marketing and conferences for Pensions & Investments and Business Insurance magazines, published by Detroit-based Crain Communications Inc., announced the launch of the institute at Business Insurance's 2015 Women to Watch awards gala Tuesday in New York.

The initiative takes aim at an ongoing diversity problem for the insurance industry, including the lack of female representation at the highest levels of insurance companies, she said, noting that just 12% of senior managers and only 1% of CEOs in the industry are female. But the institute expands the focus beyond women to also address the barriers for people of color, people with disabilities and other underrepresented groups in the industry, she said.

“Diversity truly matters on so many levels,” said Ms. Pirrello, who is based in New York.

The industry has a lot of work to do to attract, develop, mentor, sponsor and retain the next generation of insurance professionals, she said.

“Brokers and insurers have the twin challenges of attracting and retaining talent in competition with sexier segments of the financial services industry at a time when risk management clients are demanding more from their insurance service providers,” Ms. Pirrello said. “With 25%-plus of the current industry workforce reaching retirement age by 2018, the industry needs to attract new, qualified and diverse talent to fill these vacancies.”

The institute's mission is to advance diversity and inclusion in the commercial insurance industry to ensure it remains competitive and relevant. Institute partners will do this by discussing the business case for diversity and inclusion, building relationships, sharing best practices and developing research and standards to measure outcomes. The institute will also highlight companies that have successfully implemented diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Institute partners include Brian Little, senior vice president and head of human resources for Zurich North America in Chicago; Terri Browne, chief people officer for Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee; Joelle Murchison, vice president of enterprise diversity and inclusion at Travelers Cos. Inc. in Hartford, Connecticut; Holly Meidl, managing director and national health care practice leader at Marsh L.L.C. in Nashville, Tennessee; Carol Murphy, managing director at Aon Risk Solutions, Retail, in Wilmette, Illinois; and Joanne Wojcik, director of conference programming for Business Insurance in Denver.

“We are no longer going to discuss the need for change,” Ms. Pirrello said. “We are going to be part of the process.”

Corbette S. Doyle, lecturer on organizational leadership in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, and one of three winners of Business Insurance's Industry Impact Awards, commended the publication for creating the institute.

“What they are trying to do now, with an amazing array of sponsors, gives us an opportunity to arm each of our organizations with the tools — transparency, data and insight — that can help all of us become true meritocracies,” said Ms. Doyle, who was also named among Business Insurance Women to Watch in 2006.