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Senior Vp and Director of State Relations
Reinsurance Assn. of America
Marsha A. Cohen held several management positions at insurers and reinsurers before she began her lobbying career at the RAA in 1992. While working at the RAA she created its for-profit education program as a separate profit center in 2001 and founded the Institute of Reinsurance Education last year. Before being named to her current position last year, she was senior vp and director of education. Among numerous industry activities, Ms. Cohen is a gubernatorial appointee to the New York and Virginia panels on homeowners insurance and treasurer of the District of Columbia Insurance Federation. In addition, she was the Assn. of Professional Insurance Women’s Woman of the Year in 2005.
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on your career and why?
A: "I had the opportunity to meet Myra Leigh Tobin, who was one of the first women managing directors at Marsh. She fought the battles for women who came after her. She is knowledgeable about the industry, has great people skills and always provided sound advice. It meant a great deal to me that someone like Myra believed in my capabilities. She would call and suggest that I might be interested in getting involved in various industry activities and I would take her advice on face value. Myra’s valuable advice has encouraged and enriched my career."
Q: What advice would you give young women entering the industry today?
A: "You need to take the time to learn insurance and reinsurance. Get your CPCU. Take the courses your employer offers. Educating yourself in the industry is a big factor in advancement and as well as in helping your clients. You need to differentiate yourself…. Networking within your industry is extremely important. If you have a difficult professional problem to solve, you need colleagues to discuss the issue. There are times you don’t want to go to your boss and say that you have a problem that you don’t know how to handle."
Q: If you had the ability to change one thing about the industry what would it be?
A: "The industry has got to change its image. The industry really does wonderful things, but we’re still always being criticized. I also think we need to do a better job of working together and creating workable compromises on issues. I think that it hurts the industry’s effectiveness and image when we don’t work together to develop viable solutions."
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.