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American International Group Inc.


Chief Diversity Officer
American International Group Inc.
New York, N.Y.
Age: 49


Terri D. Austin, a graduate of both Columbia University’s School of Law and School of Journalism, joined New York-based American International Group Inc. as assistant general counsel in 1990. From 1995 to 2004 she served as senior vp and general counsel at AIG Domestic Claims before being named chief compliance officer for AIG’s Domestic Brokerage Group. She was appointed to the newly created position of chief diversity officer in January.


Advice to young women: "I have definitely been told on more than one occasion, 'That’s not going to work,' and while that particular iteration for an idea might not have worked, I continue to work on ideas and projects and initiatives until it gets implemented, and I think if you listen to the naysayers, you can sometimes become disillusioned and stalled, frankly, and I think you have to have confidence in yourself to know it is a good idea and it will work as long as you work at it. So, never take no for an answer."


Professional role model: "My very first role model was my mom. She was one of the most giving people I’ve ever known…. She was my original inspiration and continues to be to this day. She passed 10 years ago, but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her as the type of woman she was and the type of giving she did. It really was inspirational."


Early aspirations: "I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up and I did become lawyer when I grew up and no, I did not intend to enter this field. The irony is my mother worked in diversity. Subsequent to her nursing career, she was one of the very first diversity leaders ever and she did diversity before diversity was a buzz word in corporate America…. I remember thinking diversity was a touchy-feely field. While diversity may involve sensitive issues, these are important topics that must be addressed."


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