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Men play a role in supporting diversity efforts


NEW YORK — Men must play a significant role in creating opportunities for women in their companies, senior insurance executives said Tuesday during a panel discussion at Business Insurance’s Women to Watch conference in New York. 

Four male executives shared their thoughts during the hour-long event moderated by Lori Seidenberg, owner and CEO of P.O.C., a Denver-based risk management and insurance consulting firm, and a 2015 Women to Watch honoree. 

Ms. Seidenberg opened up the discussion by noting that women make up half the labor force and occupy more than half of the managerial roles, but the majority of board directorships still go to men. 

“I think it’s important to push women up in the organization,” said Michael Chang, CEO of global risk solutions at Endurance Specialty Holdings Ltd. in New York. ”It can’t be done the way it was done in the past. We really have to do stuff differently than we did historically.” 

David Bidmead, president of global clients with Marsh L.L.C. in New York, citing research by Mercer L.L.C., stressed the importance of overcoming inertia in order to bring about change.

“We need both men and women to recognize together that there are benefits in having women triumph, both economically and personally,” he said. “The actions an organization takes need to be fact-based and data-driven. They need to be based on proof of what’s working and what’s hurting.” 

Robert Schimek, executive vice president and CEO of commercial with American International Group Inc. in New York, pointed to the disparity in the number of women in leadership positions compared with the number of women who first come into a company. 

“Somewhere it breaks down,” he said. “We allow it to break down. An organization has to take ownership of that and take leadership all the way from the beginning until they reach a level where they can pull up themselves through the organization.” 

Mr. Chang said he takes a personal role in encouraging diversity, and he encouraged executives to see “a plethora of candidates.” 

“When HR comes to me with a list of candidates,” he said, “and I see it’s a list of — no disrespect intended — five white males, I say, ‘You gotta go back.’ I know there are talented candidates out there that are diverse, that are women ... It starts with me, the CEO of the division. If I don’t believe diversity is important, whether it’s gender or racial, then who else is going to believe it?” 

Dave North, president and CEO of Memphis, Tennessee-based Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc., said his “aha” moment in the insurance industry regarding diversity occurred six years ago during the Women to Watch conference where Gloria Steinem was speaking. 

“I sat in that audience, one of very few men,” he said. “I knew I had this figured out. My organization is 73% female, I’m surrounded by some of the smartest women in the industry — none of whom reported to me, by the way. But Gloria Steinem … stood on this stage ... and spoke directly to me for 45 minutes and said what I’ve heard for a career, but she said it differently. It spoke to me about unconscious bias."

Even hiring managers can be subject to unconscious bias, Mr. North explained.