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Women to Watch: 2007


Sherron Williams

Sherron Williams

Chief Underwriting Officer, Professional Liability Operations

XL Insurance (Bermuda) Ltd.

Hamilton, Bermuda

Age: 44

As the chief underwriting officer of XL Insurance (Bermuda) Ltd.'s professional liability unit, Sherron Williams oversees a team of 15 people managing the second-largest portfolio of business within XL's Bermuda operations. Ms. Williams--who joined XL as a trainee underwriter in 1991--regularly participates in industry events, sharing her industry knowledge and expertise with peers. Most recently, she co-chaired the 2007 Bermuda Professional Liability Underwriting Society Symposium, held on the island in June.

Best professional advice: "It was by my prior manager when I assumed this role...he said to me 'Don't forget the importance of empowering those who report to you.' Essentially, he was saying that often times you find a manager who is threatened by a (employee) who is smarter than them, more creative than them, has a better working relationship with key contacts...and as such feels that (he/she) shouldn't develop them further. Embrace those strengths and allow them to soar. I have tried to adapt that. I feel that I have a very loyal team. They are welcome to disagree with me. If they come to me with an idea, I say go with it. As a manager, that's probably the best piece of advice I've received."

Best about current role: "I like the fact that XL gives me a great deal of autonomy. We agree on goals, and then they leave me to execute. There is no one hovering over me, telling me what to do and...feeling as if you really are in charge of your destiny appeals to me to a great extent."

Advice to young women: "Work hard, be punctual, be consistent. But, I also say to them, 'don't forget that you are a woman, embrace your femininity.' Women bring unique talents to the workforce. Let us not forget that as we progress on. But, please don't use the fact that you are women as an excuse to why you cannot excel. That I do not find acceptable."

Lori Windolf Crispo

Lori Windolf Crispo

Senior Executive Vp

Bollinger Inc.

Short Hills, N.J.

Age: 47

Lori Windolf Crispo joined her family's Short Hills, N.J., insurance brokerage, Bollinger Inc., in 1985 and spent the next three years in a training program learning about personal lines, commercial lines and employee benefits. When Bollinger secured an exclusive sports accident and liability program with CIGNA Corp. in 1989, Ms. Crispo was tapped to manage Bollinger's new amateur sports division. Today the sports division has grown to 22 employees and generates in excess of $5 million in revenues annually for Bollinger. As senior executive vp, Ms. Crispo is responsible for operations and sales management of the division and is considered a leading female authority in amateur sports insurance and risk management. She has authored a number of risk management manuals for her clients and their members as well as a number of in-depth studies on sports safety. She also has created insurance and risk management Web sites for clients, was a featured monthly columnist for Lacrosse Magazine on insurance issues and recently launched a blog on sports safety,

Advice to young women: "For young women looking at career choices, insurance is an underdog industry that doesn't get the recognition it deserves. It may not have the cachet of investment banking or other professional careers, but insurance offers many rewards, especially to women. The primary benefit that I have seen (and experienced) is that you can have a high-level position, whether in an agency or on the company side, and still achieve a very good work/life balance. The job will be intellectually and creatively stimulating. It is a great career for those with good people skills who like the idea of developing very strong bonds with their clients; it is an equally great career for those who like numbers more than people--there is something for everyone. The insurance industry is a challenging and financially rewarding career path, and for motivated women, I believe there are fewer obstacles to getting to the 'corner office.'"

Professional role model: "I would have to say my parents are the ones who've inspired me the most. I admire my father's incredible discipline, his vision in leading our agency and his people skills--he knows every one of our 500 employees and is always welcoming. My mother is an influential member of our board, sets the standard for warmth and empathy, and is known as the creative voice behind the throne."

Early aspirations: "I had a variety of different dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up, from oceanographer to graphic artist, to writer, to French professor. Insurance never really factored into my idea of a future career, especially after working many summers during college filing and answering phones in our agency. Of all of those dreams, the one that has 'stuck' is the writing part. On any given day in my job, I spend a lot of time writing, whether doing reports, proposals, articles or--my latest passion--my blog on sports safety. I consider myself very fortunate to have a career that enables me to do something I love every day."

Kathryn Yates

Kathryn Yates

Communication Global Practice Director

Watson Wyatt Worldwide


Kathryn Yates has been helping organizations manage change, effectively communicate with employees on benefit issues and increase overall employee engagement. Ms. Yates focuses on the latest technologies to help employers communicate on retirement and health care benefits at a time when employees are expected to take on a more active role in their retirement and health care planning. Ms. Yates is a past president of the Council of Communication Management.

Greatest influence: "Perhaps not what you'd expect as there weren't a lot of women in senior positions when I began my career. Also, as the first in an extended family to attend college, 'career' wasn't a familiar concept. However, I learned from many sources good and bad. Learned patience from an impatient manager, learned the value of taking time in performance reviews from an otherwise bad manager who surprised me with the gift of time and attention. Learned the power of gracious behavior from both Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Olympic athlete) and Bill Norris (founder of Control Data Corp.) and I've more recently learned from younger associates who keep me fresh with new media. Dedication and perseverance I've learned from my daughter, an Olympic athlete."

Best professional advice: "Don't avoid the details, but don't get caught up in them either."

Early aspirations: "I'm pretty sure I wanted to be a roller-skating singer movie star, but when the market seemed rather slim, I went into TV production. Insurance wasn't on my radar screen, however when I landed there I was fascinated by the blend of finance and behavioral science."

JoAnne Ybarguen Dorsey

JoAnne Ybarguen Dorsey

Vp-West Region Aviation Practice Leader

Wells Fargo Insurance Services of Nevada Inc.

Las Vegas

Age: 51

After 13 years as a commercial accounts manager and then manager of the account staff at Regal Aviation--a small Hillsboro, Ore., aviation agency--JoAnne Ybarguen Dorsey joined Marsh Inc.'s Phoenix aviation division as assistant vp in 2002. She was promoted to vp in 2004 and became manager of the division in 2005, overseeing accounts such as Portland International Airport, McCarran International Airport and other general aviation airports. In February 2006, Ms. Dorsey joined Wells Fargo Insurance Services of Nevada Inc. in Las Vegas. As its vp and west region aviation practice leader, Ms. Dorsey is charged with creating and growing the practice by coordinating risk transfer and risk financing alternatives for aviation clients of Wells Fargo & Co. and WFIS. In April, she became the west region's aviation resource, handling aviation insurance-related problems that team members of the bank or WFIS refer to her.

Greatest influence: "There is not just one person but several. The common thread with all has been their integrity and honesty with their clients and customers. I have worked for and with several different brokers in my 30 years of insurance, and the most successful business colleagues have been the ones that have always remembered that they work for their clients. They have listened, brought value and solutions to clients' problems and concerns."

Interest in aviation: "I was working at a midsize brokerage in Portland, Ore.--later purchased by Acordia, interestingly enough--as the personal lines/small commercial department manager. I had a friend call up and tell me about her friend's husband who was a headhunter in need of an interviewee for an aviation broker in the area. He could not get anyone to interview as one of the owner's reputation was not employee-friendly. I finally agreed simply because I was familiar with aircraft, having been around air shows and married to a pilot. After a half hour into my interview with one of the partners, I indicated that I didn't feel I was what he was looking for because I couldn't tell him from looking out the window at the ramp if one of the aircraft was a Cessna 172 or a Cessna 150. He immediately wanted me to interview with the other partner. They made me an offer...I thought I would be learning something new and different from everyone else and that it would set me apart for future employment. I accepted the position and I've never looked back and never regretted my decision."

Best professional advice: "Never stop learning. Always be open to more knowledge."

Carol A.N. Zacharias

Carol A.N. Zacharias

Senior Vp and Chief Counsel for Professional Risk


New York

Age: 51

After joining ACE USA in 2003, Carol A.N. Zacharias established a dynamic model of delivering legal services that is designed to benefit underwriting needs as well as offer value to policyholders. Based on a concept she adopted from an early role model, Ms. Zacharias has forged an integrated team of lawyers, regulatory compliance and state filings experts who work closely with marketing and actuarial experts to brainstorm problems, solutions, cutting-edge ideas and marketplace innovations. Ms. Zacharias has participated in leadership roles on several American Bar Assn. committees and subcommittees in an effort to promote the advancement of her profession in the areas of litigation, business insurance and executive management liability. She currently is the co-chair of the Insurance Coverage Subcommittee of the ABA's Committee on Corporate Counsel.

Greatest influence: "Two people. Terry Van Gilder, who started Chubb's D&O underwriting practice, and Ralph Jones, who managed it later. They were visionaries. They took chances. They had a vision of a team--not a typical underwriting team. Terry wanted a talented, hungry, hard-working dream team. He gave it to us to run. Early in our careers, we could do what we want, make mistakes, take charge and responsibility. We all were in the same boat and relied on each other as well as Terry. I really learned how to take risks and take chances and take charge in our little world. Ralph moved me away from being a technical lawyer. I'd bring in all of this work, and he'd push it aside and ask, 'Carol, what do you think we should do?' He moved me toward being a counselor, a general counsel, an adviser."

Advice to young women: "This would be advice to anybody. Find a leader to guide you and let you take risks you need to take to contribute to your field. To do that, you have to master two things: The technical. You have to become a technical expert to contribute. Two, counsel. Don't try to win. In law school, you're trained to win. But as a business lawyer, you have to blend insurers', insureds' and brokers' business solutions and make it all work. If you have a winner, you need a loser. And you have to work very hard as a team player. You have to understand that everybody puts something into the equation. You have to understand those people are all good people working very, very hard."

Early aspirations: "I wanted to be an architect and had applied to 12 colleges. But given my math skills, I decided that wasn't the best choice after all. So I went to a liberal arts college and then decided on law.... I wanted to be a medical malpractice defense litigator; I wanted to work with people who were bright and brilliant."

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