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‘Fireside chat’ kicks off Women to Watch conference

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NEW YORK — Fellow employees should be part of a company’s zero-tolerance policy when it comes to harassment and technology can be a recruiting tool, according to speakers in a wide-ranging “fireside chat” at the Business Insurance 2017 Women to Watch awards ceremony in New York Friday.

“I think women are making progress,” Brian Duperreault, president and CEO of American International Group Inc., told an audience of several hundred people.

Seraina Macia, CEO of AIG’s new technology subsidiary, Blackboard U.S. Holdings Inc., noted, however, that although 52% of entry-level positions in the insurance industry are held by women, “as you look through management ranks, women thin out,” adding that many women are in support functions or human resources.

Mentoring women, Ms. Macia said, can be different than mentoring men, and often involves working on things like confidence and assertiveness.

Mr. Duperreault said the recent wave of media reports concerning harassment claims may bring about some good by creating a more open environment in which more victims feel greater freedom to come forward.

He also said that a company’s zero-tolerance policy on harassment must not be only about management but about about men speaking up if they see a male colleague violating policy.

As the leader of AIG’s new technology subsidiary, Ms. Macia said she prefers the term “transformation” to “disruption” and believes Blackboard has an advantage as a startup with no legacy systems or culture to battle.

Mr. Duperreault said that in addition to helping the industry through its transformation, technology can serve as a recruiting tool for the industry if it helps generate interest among younger potential employees and new graduates.