International Women’s Day: Risk Management Issues to Watch

A 2013 piece on the role of women in risk management remains the most controversial article we’ve ever run in Risk Management magazine and the one that received the most comments and letters to the editor, hands down. Many of those reader comments were…let’s just say less than kind or receptive.

Today, International Women’s Day, offers the perfect opportunity to revisit that article, Woman at Work: Why Women Should Lead Risk Management, and some of our more recent coverage of pressing issues like the wage gap and gender parity at the board level.

The significance of this conversation is ever clearer, given not only the political climate and regulatory concerns, but also the simple data about the bottom line. Just last year, the Peterson Institute for International Economics and EY found that almost a third of companies globally have no women in either board or C-suite positions, 60% have no female board members, 50% have no female top executives, and less than 5% have a female CEO. After analyzing 21,980 publicly traded companies from 91 countries and a wide range of industries, their report, Is Gender Diversity Profitable? Evidence from a Global Study, found that organizations with leadership that is at least 30% female could add up to 6 percentage points to its net margin.

“The impact of having more women in senior leadership on net margin, when a third of companies studied do not, begs the question of what would be the global economic impact if more women rose in the ranks?” said Stephen R. Howe Jr., EY’s U.S. chairman and Americas managing partner. “The research demonstrates that while increasing the number of women directors and CEOs is important, growing the percentage of female leaders in the C-suite would likely benefit the bottom line even more.”

While study after study comes to similar conclusions, a recent report from EY explored why businesses need gender diversity for the innovation to thrive. Five disconnects continue to hold businesses back from achieving gender diversity on their boards, the firm found:

  1. The reality disconnect: Business leaders assume the issue is nearly solved despite little progress within their own companies.
  2. The data disconnect: Companies don’t effectively measure how well women are progressing through the workforce and into senior leadership.
  3. The pipeline disconnect: Organizations aren’t creating pipelines for future female leaders.
  4. The perception and perspective disconnect: Men and women don’t see issues the same way.
  5. The progress disconnect: Different sectors agree on the value of diversity but are making uneven progress toward gender parity.

Check out some of our previous coverage of key issues regarding women in business and risk management specifically:
Equal Work, Unequal Pay: Risks of the Gender Wage Gap
The Wage Gap in the Boardroom
Is the Insurance Industry Improving for Women?
Boards Still Lagging on Gender Parity
Preparing for New Pay Equity Requirements

Employee Financial Stress Can Impact Job Performance

Employees stressed out by financial problems could be suffering from lack of sleep and are more prone to depression, heart issues and substance abuse than those with low levels of stress, according to a new study. This anxiety can also impact the workplace in the form of lost productivity, heightened risk of on-the-job accidents and absenteeism.

Most employees worry about their personal finances, with 25% of those surveyed indicating high or overwhelming financial stress. About one-third were assessed as vulnerable to living beyond their means and having serious debt, according to this year’s Stress in America survey, commissioned by the American Psychological Association.

The survey found that:

  • Nine percent of millennial women under age 30 reported overwhelming financial stress compared to 5% of their male counterparts.
  • Lower-income males (making under $60,000 a year) were more likely than lower-income females to report no financial stress, at 13% versus 9%.
  • Women’s stress levels seem to be impacted by the presence of minor children in the household, with 11% of women with minor children reporting overwhelming levels of stress, compared to only 6% without children. Men’s stress levels seem to not be significantly impacted by the presence of minor children, as only 6% of men with children in their household reported overwhelming levels of financial stress, compared to 4% of men without children.

Treatment for financial stress is becoming more common in the workplace. According to a report by Aon Hewitt, 89% of employers are very or moderately likely to implement or expand programs to help employees better manage their money as part of their overall benefits package. The report finds that sleep programs, financial counseling and personal coaching can help stressed employees.

Issues resulting from financial stress include:

California and New York Agree to $15 Minimum Wage

Yesterday, the governors of California and New York reached agreements with state lawmakers to become the highest-paid minimum wage states in the country with an increase to $15 an hour. A minimum wage bill passed the California legislature on Thursday, and Gov. Jerry Brown said he will sign the measure on Monday. Late that night across the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached a tentative agreement with New York’s top legislators to do the same with the state’s base wage.

According to the AP, President Barack Obama, who first proposed an increase to the $7.25 federal minimum wage in 2013, applauded the states’ actions and called on the Republican-controlled Congress to “keep up with the rest of the country.”

Currently, California and Massachusetts are tied for the highest state minimum wages at $10 an hour, while New York’s current rate is $9. Only Washington, D.C., at $10.50 per hour, is higher.

From the Department of Labor, here’s a look at how your state measures up:state minimum wage laws

Both California and New York plan to phase in the new rates, which will impact about 2 million employees in each state. In California, the increases would start with a boost from $10 to $10.50 on Jan. 1, and businesses with 25 or fewer employees would have an extra year to comply. Increases of $1 an hour would come every January until 2022, although the governor could delay these increases in the event of significant budgetary or economic downturns.

Cuomo originally proposed a simpler adjustment in New York: three years in New York City and six years in the rest of the state. Negotiations with local lawmakers who expressed concern the sharp increases would “devastate” business owners produced a more gradual approach. The AP reported, “In New York City, the wage would increase to $15 by the end of 2018, although businesses with fewer than 10 employees would get an extra year. In the suburbs of Long Island and Westchester County, the wage would rise to $15 by the end of 2022. The increases are even more drawn out upstate, where the wage would hit $12.50 in 2021, then increase to $15 based on an undetermined schedule.”

These changes come as considerable progress for the “Fight for 15” movement to raise minimum wages across the country. As Will Kramer reported in Risk Management magazine, debates over income inequality in the United States and the “Fight for 15” movement have gathered strength over the past five years. Many credit the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York City’s Zuccotti Park in September 2011 with spurring the increased focus on wealth and economic inequality, particularly the divide between the 99% and the 1%.

The impacts have been gaining further momentum recently. Kramer explained, “As of mid-2015, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles have begun phasing in a $15 minimum wage. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced Congressional legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. What was once considered inconceivable has become more and more commonly accepted as a necessary and even moral imperative for many American businesses.”

Check out more from Kramer’s article on the growing debate over income inequality and its implications for businesses in Risk Management.


Risk Link Roundup

These topical articles highlight some interesting and relevant issues in the world of risk and insurance; from how Uber could impact the insurance industry, to Deepwater Horizon lessons-learned, to supporting workers with chronic conditions to board integrity.

What Will Be the Uber of Insurance?

From Insurance Thought Leadership: Insurance is ripe for disruption, and, given the conservative nature of the reigning carriers and large brokers, it is a fair guess that a lot of innovation will come from outside the industry. There are a few of candidates that might be in the winner’s circle when the dust settles.

Gard: Six Takeaways from Deepwater Horizon

From Marine Log: P&I club Gard estimates that BP’s claims and costs from the Deepwater Horizon disaster are more than $70 billion. Gard lists six important lessons emerging from the 2010 incident and the ensuing litigation during the past five years.

Employers Urged to Accommodate Workers’ Chronic Conditions

From Business Insurance: When it comes to workers with chronic conditions, employers should focus on providing accommodations and support rather than managing a disease, an expert said during the Disability Management Employer Coalition’s 2015 conference in San Francisco.

Integrity? The Buck Stops at the Board

From Listed Magazine: Companies are quick to blame “rogue employees” when they experience an ethical failure within. But employees merely reflect a company’s true and actual culture, internal controls and practices—all of which point right back to the board