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Risk manager pay survey reveals significant gender gap

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Women in the risk management profession are paid significantly less than their male counterparts, a lingering problem that can be solved only by systemic change.

The median annual base salary of U.S. risk management professionals rose 3.7% this year, to $115,000, the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. said in its annual survey released this month.

While the survey of 1,145 risk management professionals found the group to be evenly split among men and women, men were paid a median annual salary of $130,000 while women received just $101,000. RIMS said generally greater education and experience on the part of men “explain at least some of the difference.”

The 89% of risk management professionals eligible for cash beyond their salary in the year ending June 1 received a median amount of $18,000. Men, however, received $22,000 while women got $14,000, according to the RIMS survey.

“I am not sure this is a problem that is specific to the insurance industry,” Jacqueline da Costa, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co.'s Palo Alto, California-based global risk program manager, said in an email. “I do feel like sometimes women (versus males) end up taking time off to stay at home with their kids or change jobs to something that is more flexible in order to accommodate their family needs, which might be a reason that there could be a difference in how long women and men stay in the profession.”

“This data says that we are not there yet, but that is changing,” said Nancy M. Mellard, Cleveland-based executive vice president and general counsel of the employee services division of CBIZ Inc. and national leader of the company's Women's Advantage Program, which provides mentoring and networking opportunities and recognition for women in the industry.

“When I look at the data, my first reaction is, "Why haven't we got past this yet?' I believe it doesn't reflect the work we are doing now and our effort will bend the curve and bending that curve will eliminate that gap, but it is going to take time,” said Ms. Mellard, who also was among 2006 Business Insurance Women to Watch honorees.

“Evidence in academic and real-world environment studies suggests that men will negotiate for a higher salary and women negotiate less, but when they do they are perceived as pushy,” said Kevin Miller, Washington-based researcher at American Association of University Women. “For wages and benefits, if women and men start at different salaries, this will compound over time.”

The group's efforts include sponsoring ongoing pay negotiation workshops with the city of Boston, he said.

Kristen Peed, Cleveland-based director of corporate risk management at CBIZ Inc. and president of the local RIMS chapter, said she used the RIMS survey and websites such as Salary.com and Glassceiling.com to know what to expect when she moved to a director-level position.

“I was able to come to the table knowing what my value should be because I had done research,” Ms. Peed said.

Nichole Barnes Marshall, Aon P.L.C.'s Chicago-based global head of diversity and inclusion, says incremental change will not close the pay gap.

“This will take a sea of change,” she said. “It's a process that will take some time and constant diligence.”