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President and Chief Executive
Disability Management Employer Coalition
Sharon Kaleta, co-founder of the San Diego-based Disability Management Employer Coalition, is known as a grass-roots leader. Through her DMEC work, Ms. Kaleta helped create an industry professional designation, the Certified Professional in Disability Management. She also worked for two decades as a risk manager in the restaurant and aerospace industry. During a portion of that time, she also managed benefits that included overseeing a self-insured and self-administered disability program, which became a springboard for her DMEC work.
Q: If you had the ability to change one thing about the industry what would it be?
A: "I think the insurance industry as well as employers in this country need to think about long-term objectives and be willing to put programs in place that don’t benefit them in the second quarter but in the second year. The industry moves too slow. It needs quicker implementation of new innovative programs. We spend too much time talking and analyzing things to death instead of using common sense to find avenues that work. Some will not work, but most will. Just do it."
Q: What advice would you give young women entering the industry today?
A: "Women need to work hard. I think there are so many opportunities now for women. The path has been paved by my generation and others so women have the opportunity to have their viewpoints heard. I would recommend women not be shy about taking risk or expressing their viewpoints in a professional way, and keep pushing if they first don’t receive a positive response and they know their concept has value. Deliver information in a way people will understand and allow it to go forward. Too often women give up. Don’t give up. Sometimes you have to say it over and over again. Also, always operate and conduct yourself from a point of ethics."
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your career and why?
A: "Without doubt I would have to say my mother—not because she had any knowledge of business, but rather because she had very strong convictions about how a person should view work and the possibilities life had to offer. She provided me with a clear understanding that I could do anything I wanted, I should never forfeit my dreams or goals and I should always give more than I received. Work hard, believe in what I was doing, operate always with integrity and be sure my actions would benefit and not hurt others. These are simply life ‘truths’ but have been invaluable to me throughout my career and especially when setting the structure for DMEC."
Business Insurance's report on "Women to Watch" is our attempt to identify some of the women who are leading change in commercial insurance, risk management, employee benefits and related fields.