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Dorothy Gjerdrum

Dorothy Gjerdrum

Dorothy Gjerdrum
Senior managing director, public sector
Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Age: 57

Dorothy Gjerdrum says her early background as a college art major has helped inform some of the ways in which she advises public-sector and higher education clients at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

Ms. Gjerdrum was led to the insurance industry after graduating from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a bachelor's degree in visual arts. From there, she went on to become an editor with the New Mexico State Legislature's Legislative Insurance Committee, and later became a risk manager for the New Mexico Association of Counties.

“I really give credit to my liberal arts education,” she said of her success in public-sector risk management work. “That really taught me how to think. It taught me how to ask questions and link things together.”

Ms. Gjerdrum joined Gallagher in 1999 and currently leads a 300-person team that provides risk management and insurance services for public-sector and higher education clients.

She also is a leading expert in enterprise risk management, advising government risk managers on how to use the ISO 31000 standard to implement ERM in their organizations.

Released by the International Organization for Standardization in 2009, ISO 31000 offers principles, a framework and a process for managing risk.

Marshall Davies, executive director of the Public Risk Management Association in Alexandria, Virginia, said Ms. Gjerdrum has “done an outstanding job” in helping to create an ISO training program for his organization.

“Dorothy is tenacious,” Mr. Davies said. “If she believes in what she's doing, she doesn't give up. It's hard to shake her off task.”

International expert

Ms. Gjerdrum is recognized internationally for her enterprise risk management knowledge, and is chairwoman of the U.S. Technical Advisory Group for ISO 31000 risk management standards.

The road to success hasn't always been easy for Ms. Gjerdrum. She said she changed companies twice in her career after being passed over for promotions that she had worked for — including one situation that included “pretty blatant sexism,” she said. Based on her experiences, Ms. Gjerdrum has worked to support women and promote diversity in leadership positions through her work at Gallagher.

“It's hard to be treated unfairly,” she said. “But sometimes, I think things happen for a reason, and good will come of it if you keep your head straight ... and keep moving forward.”

By Sheena Harrison