Risk Scenario


A company’s failure to communicate important information to survivors in the wake of a deadly shooting exacerbates a tragedy.
By: | October 6, 2015 • 12 min read
Risk Scenarios are created by Risk & Insurance editors along with leading industry partners. The hypothetical, yet realistic stories, showcase emerging risks that can result in significant losses if not properly addressed.

Disclaimer: The events depicted in this scenario are fictitious. Any similarity to any corporation or person, living or dead, is merely coincidental.

No One Here Gets Out Alive

All is not well in the home of Gretchen and Peter Mansfield. Gretchen, 41 is a sales manager for Durham, N.C.-based pharmaceutical manufacturer BioRealm. Her husband Peter, 44, lost his sales job in mid-2015 and insecurity has been eating away at him.


A big part of Gretchen’s job is working with BioRealm’s SVP for sales, Brian Hatch, 35. Fit, good looking and very well compensated, Brian is Peter’s current nightmare.

Brian and Gretchen spend a lot of time traveling together, sometimes staying in the same hotel for days at a time. Peter, always the jealous sort, stole Gretchen’s work email password long ago and has been following her every move.

He’s read emails between Gretchen and Brian that left no doubt in Peter’s mind they were having an affair.

The last straw was when he picked up a voicemail from Brian that went direct to Gretchen’s email. Hearing Brian describe what he’d like to do with Gretchen the next time he saw her sent Peter over the edge.

At 11:10 am on September 15, 2015, Peter parked his family’s SUV in the parking lot of the Durham location of BioRealm.

From the open windows of the car, Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” was blaring.

Peter wore a two-day beard, but there was nothing else in his appearance to warrant alarm.



As he walked to the front door, carrying a large black gym bag and a vinyl grocery bag, he caught the eye of Sandy Brick, Gretchen’s friend and coworker, whom he’d known for years.

Sandy always liked Peter.

“Hey Sandy,” said Peter with a smile.

He was in sales for years. He can do this.

“Hey Peter, what brings you here?” said Sandy.

“Gretchen forgot her lunch bag and her gym bag,” said Peter affably, smiling and holding up the gym bag as he did so.

He did this just as Sandy reached the front door. Not giving her action a second thought, Sandy swiped her security card to open the front door and allowed Peter in ahead of her.

“You know where Gretchen’s office is, right?” Sandy said.

“Sure I do,” said Peter with a smile that faded a little too quickly.

But instead of heading toward Gretchen’s office, Peter made a beeline for Brian’s office, in the opposite direction.

Peter half-jogged to Brian’s office pulling a Glock 9 mm handgun with a 12-round magazine from the grocery bag and an AK-101 with a 30-round clip from the gym bag.

Approaching Brian’s office, he heard his voice, that same confident baritone that Peter last heard on Gretchen’s voicemail. Peter’s rage went from burning red to white hot.

Now running, Peter burst into Brian’s office and shot him three times in the head with the Glock. Peter bit completely through his lower lip as he shot Brian, so intense was his anger.

Not knowing exactly what they heard, BioRealm employees turned their heads to see Peter, with blood running from his mouth, leaving Brian’s office holding the handgun and the assault rifle and heading toward Gretchen’s office.

Now it’s clear what’s happening. Screams begin to rise from the cubicles.

“He’s going for Gretchen!” a woman shouted.

Two men rushed Peter and he shot them down with a burst from the AK-101.

Gretchen poked her head out of her office at the sound of the second round of shots. She saw Peter coming at her. But it wasn’t like it was him at all.

His face was a grey mask and his pupils were pinpoints.

Gretchen’s right hand went up reflexively as Peter fired a 9 mm bullet through her hand and into her temple. Peter fired again and again, some of the bullets hitting Gretchen’s falling body and some of them ricocheting off of office fixtures.

In a half-jog, wiping spasmodically at his bleeding mouth, Peter moved back to the front door.

People attempting to flee the building scattered as he approached. Peter fired with the AK-101 as he neared the front door, striking at least half a dozen people as those more fortunate fled in a different direction.

The exit door was streaked with blood. A woman with sandy hair was propped against the door, dead.

Peter grabbed her by the hair and tossed her aside to clear his exit. The door wouldn’t budge. So he shot the latch to pieces with the AK-101.

Peter walked out to the parking lot, placed the muzzle of the Glock in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Blood splattered on the BioRealm sign adjacent to the front door.

Peter Mansfield’s final visit to BioRealm lasted all of three minutes and 25 seconds.

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Falling Short of Competence

BioRealm prided itself on having a state-of-the art emergency response and security system. In the wake of numerous office shootings throughout the country, the company installed swipe card security six months before Peter Mansfield’s shooting rampage.


Within 10 minutes of the attack, a text alert was sent to all BioRealm employees and their preferred emergency contacts informing them of the incident.

The text informed BioRealm employees to punch in a code number to let the system know they were safe and sound.

The text lacked specific detail, however, only informing employees and next of kin that an incident had occurred at the Durham campus and that BioRealm was working with local authorities to resolve any issues.

The texting system also failed to take into account any employees that might have gone into hiding when Peter Mansfield first opened fire.

Peter shot Brian Hatch down at 11:12 am.

At 1:10 pm, Angela Brighton, an event planner who assisted the BioRealm sales team, was still hunkered down in a utility closet on the first floor of the Durham offices. When the shooting started, Angela fled for cover, not having time to take her cell phone with her.

In her haste to pull the closet door shut, Angela lacerated her shin against the edge of a mop bucket. Traumatized and now dehydrated, Angela finally burst out of the closet at 1:15 p.m., overcome by claustrophobia and pain and crying hysterically. The building by then had been evacuated.

Angela suffered the surreal experience of walking through the BioRealm offices, seemingly by herself. In her shock, she saw a smear of blood on a corridor wall, and traced it with her finger, as if to confirm for herself that it was real.

The first person she encountered was a County Police Lieutenant, who looked at her in shock when he saw her.

“Ma’am, have you been in here the whole time?” the Police Lieutenant asked her.


“Nobody….nobody said anything,” Angela said, visibly distraught. “Nobody came looking for me. It’s like I don’t exist,” she said, clearly off-center.

Quickly, the Lieutenant got her a seat and ordered medical attention for her via walkie-talkie. No sooner did he have her seated when Gabe Crooks, an intern from Duke, walked up.

“I was in a second floor bathroom,” Crooks told the Lieutenant. Crooks was less visibly shaken than Brighton, but he was clearly upset.

“I’d like to go home now,” he told the Lieutenant.

In a nearby hotel conference room, BioRealm risk manager Nathalie Galbreath, company CEO Keith Ryerson and chief communications officer Roger Blinton were huddled over scratch pads, cell phones and laptops.

“How many are still unaccounted for?” Ryerson asked Galbreath.

“My latest information is five,” Galbreath said.

“That’s five employees that aren’t in the time and attendance system as being on business travel or vacation and who haven’t responded to the emergency text.”

“Dead and injured, again?” Ryerson asked Galbreath.

“Seven dead, four injured, one critically.”

“Text the families of the missing again,” Ryerson told Blinton. “Let them know that we’re still working with authorities to find their relatives.”

“Text them?” Blinton asked.

“Yep. Do it. It’s the fastest way to get to them,” Ryerson said.

Blinton gave Galbreath a look and then turned away to start texting.

The swirl of events continued.

Social media was alive with cell-phone footage of Peter Mansfield’s exit from the BioRealm offices, when he heartlessly yanked a dead woman’s body from the door and shot his way out.

A gutsy BioRealm intern somehow managed to follow him to the door, shooting video with her phone. She posted the video to Facebook within ten minutes of Peter’s death.

BioRealm’s attempts to comfort bereaved families and provide information to others continued to fall short.

Four hours after the incident, no BioRealm employee had reached out to families in person to tell them what was going on. Contrasting this failure was the excellent effort put out by local emergency responders, who placed personal calls to the homes of every dead or injured employee.

With frustration against BioRealm building to a peak, the grieving sister of a slain employee became outraged when BioRealm couldn’t give her a solid answer as to when she’d be able to enter the building to collect his belongings.

“What do you mean you can’t answer that?” she screamed at a BioRealm employee outside the Durham offices as television cameras recorded the moment.

“My brother is dead! Answer me!” she screamed as the employee, rattled, turned his back on her and headed back into the building, all the while on camera.

Television news producers edit the blood-spattered BioRealm sign into their coverage.

It took BioRealm executives until noon the following day to determine that their time and attendance system malfunctioned and that the five “missing” employees were actually in the building at the time the shooting occurred and had fled to their homes.

None of the five ever came back to work for BioRealm.

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No Quarter Asked or Given

Executives at BioRealm were prepared for an active shooter scenario, or so they thought. There was the aforementioned addition of swipe card security. The company was also banking on its text messaging system to get crucial information out to friends and family in a timely manner.


The company had created an evacuation plan and an emergency communications plan in case of an extreme weather event or some other catastrophe. The actual event, someone’s spouse entering the building and killing people, simply overwhelmed all preparations.

BioRealm’s risk management and emergency response management failures would prove costly in human and financial terms.

Keith Ryerson’s inability to realize the importance of speaking directly to employees and their families on the most notorious day in his company’s existence did not play well.

Coupled with the results of investigations that reported that BioRealm failed to adhere to its own crisis response policies, families that felt their loved ones were killed or injured due to corporate security laxity filed suit.

Also filing suit were 25 BioRealm employees who left the company after the shooting. They alleged that the company’s emergency management training and security measures were inadequate.

Included in that class of litigants were Angela Brighton and Gabe Brooks, the two employees who were left behind the day of the shooting.

“Let me get this straight. Nobody made any attempt other than a text message to reach you and no one came looking for you,” one of the attorneys handling the lawsuit asked Brighton and Brooks.

“No one,” Brighton said.

“No one, means no one,” said Brooks, whose usually sunny disposition was under a very dark cloud.

“Who allows a non-employee to enter a supposedly secure building carrying a heavy black bag?” another attorney representing the employees in the lawsuit said to one of his colleagues as they prepared their brief.

The reputational harm caused by social media sharing of the Peter Mansfield shooting video, plus the images of a BioRealm employee turning his back on a grieving family member also wouldn’t go away.

“We’re going to have to up investments in security,” Nathalie Galbreath told Keith Ryerson in a meeting two months after the shooting.

“I’m talking metal detectors on every door and armed security guards. I think it’s the only way we’re going to get any sense of stability in our workplace,” she added.

“Do you know what our legal bill is already from this?” Keith Ryerson said to her.

“Um, no, I don’t know what it is,” Nathalie said, not feeling very patient.

“How about $650,000 and we’re not even at trial with any one of five lawsuits?” Keith said.

Keith Ryerson put his head in his hands.

“Go ahead,” he said.

“Go ahead what?” Nathalie said, sharing his exhaustion and depression.

“Go ahead and order the metal detectors, order the guards,” Keith said weakly.

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Risk & Insurance® partnered with Black Swan Solutions to produce this scenario. Below are Black Swan Solutions’ recommendations on how to prevent the losses presented in the scenario. This perspective is not an editorial opinion of Risk & Insurance®.

1. Crisis Response and Business Continuity plans must coordinate with community police, fire and emergency medical agencies. In addition, pre-establish coordination with a local chapter of the Red Cross.  All organizations rely on community responders to assist in a crisis.  Yet most never proactively involve these same agencies in plan development and testing. If a crisis occurs, this can result in significant challenges related to cooperation and coordination.

2. Have a plan for testing, shelter in place and evacuation processes including a reliable means to account for every employee on premise at the time of the event. This information will also be invaluable for first responders involved in the search and rescue effort.

3. Have a secure centralized database for up to date information. This will allow for timely and accurate notifications to stakeholders.

4. Consider contracting with a specialized crisis call center to ensure you have a plan in place to accommodate mass inquires while providing a professional and compassionate response. Families will expect your organization to provide timely information and account for their loved ones who may have been affected by the crisis. The volume of inquiries and requests for information will often overwhelm your expectations and capabilities to respond.

5. Difficult news must be delivered personally. If the news is not good, make the effort to say it either in person or on the telephone – don’t text it.  Realizing you have to use the tools and contact information you have, do your best to connect on a personal level, no matter how challenging, when you must deliver bad news.

6. Prior to a crisis, identify and train organizational personnel who will interface with victims and families in a critical event. Understand the importance of self-care for those involved in responding to the incident and debrief them at the end of every shift.  Consider contracting with an organization to provide specialized training, as well as to provide guidance and support to those employees during the crisis.

7. Pre-consider strategies for establishing a family assistance center, typically at a hotel, where victim families can gather to obtain information and receive emotional support and psychological first aid. Families also have an opportunity to obtain information from responding authorities.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

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Employment Practices


Sexual harassment is a growing concern for corporate America. Risk managers can pave the way to top-down culture change.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 12 min read

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements opened up Pandora’s Box, launching countless public scandals and accusations. The stories that continue to emerge paint an unflattering picture of corporate America and the culture of sexual harassment that has permeated it for decades.


“The clock has run out on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace. It’s time to do something about it,” reads the official tagline of Time’s Up, one of the most vocal groups demanding change.

The GoFundMe campaign that supports the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund raised more than $16.7 million in less than a month, making it the most successful GoFundMe initiative on record.

Funds will be used to help victims of sexual harassment and assault bring legal action against harassers, as well as provide public relations consultation to manage any media attention such suits might attract.

The problem was never really a secret.

In surveys conducted since 1980 by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 40 percent of women and 15 percent of men consistently reported being sexually harassed at work.

In a sweeping meta-analysis of 25 years’ worth of research data, published in “Personnel Psychology,” an average of 25 percent of women reported experiencing sexual harassment at work. When respondents were given clear definitions of harassing behavior, that figure shot up to 60 percent.

The current climate is just now pushing awareness to the forefront. It was reported last November that law firms in the nation’s capital are seeing a spike in inquiries about sexual harassment cases.

Laura Coppola, regional head of commercial management liability in North America, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website is seeing visits to its harassment web page double.

There’s no question the costs to businesses can be staggering. Twenty-First Century Fox reportedly incurred $50 million in costs tied to the settlement of sexual harassment and discrimination allegations in its Fox News division, as well as a $90 million settlement of shareholder claims arising from sexual harassment scandals.

In June, the company disclosed in a regulatory filing that it had $224 million in costs during the fiscal year related to “management and employee transitions and restructuring” at business units, including the group that houses Fox News.

If time is indeed up, it won’t just impact Hollywood, Silicon Valley or Capitol Hill. It will impact every workplace, in every industry.

“It affects everybody,” said Marie-France Gelot, senior vice president and insurance & claims counsel for Lockton’s Northeast Claims Advisory Group.

“I think anybody in corporate America — at some point — has seen it or been aware of it or been around it.”

“This particular phenomenon is certainly at a much wider scope than we’ve seen in the last decade or so,” said Laura Coppola, regional head of commercial management liability in North America, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty.

“This is going to touch many industries, many segments, and many people.”

Employers are beginning to wonder if their workplace could be next.

“I think if you’d been asking [insureds] a year ago, ‘Are you interested in hearing about sexual harassment prevention?’ I think the answer would have been, ‘No, we’re good, we’ve got it,’ ” said Bob Graham, vice president, HUB International Limited.

“But I think now everyone’s saying ‘Sure, yes, we’d like to hear something.’ ”

Leading the Conversation

As American workplaces come under increasing scrutiny, the time is ripe for a large-scale pivot in the way employers manage risks related to sexual harassment.

The co-chairs of the EEOC’s select task force on the study of harassment in the workplace expressed it aptly in 2016:

“With legal liability long ago established, with reputational harm from harassment well known, with an entire cottage industry of workplace compliance and training adopted and encouraged for 30 years, why does so much harassment persist and take place in so many of our workplaces? And, most important of all, what can be done to prevent it? After 30 years — is there something we’ve been missing?”

Experts in the management liability field unanimously told Risk & Insurance® these issues should be elevated to the board level and the C-suite.

“Just as cyber liability shifted rapidly from an IT discussion to a board level discussion, so too will the harassment and discrimination discussion go beyond HR and be elevated to the highest levels,” said Coppola. It will become a corporate-wide, enterprise-wide conversation.

“It’s going to take some time to get to that board level, but it’s going to have to happen,” said Paul King, national practice leader, management and professional services, USI Insurance Services.

“Risk management and HR cannot go down parallel paths, not understanding one another. Not anymore. There’s too much at stake.” — Paul King, national practice leader, management and professional services, USI Insurance Services

Risk managers, said Kelly Thoerig, U.S. employment practices liability coverage leader, Marsh, are well suited to lead this conversation, which means actively partnering with human resources, the legal department, the general counsel’s office and outside counsel.


“Just like the quarterback depends on the offensive line, on receivers, on the running backs, it’s not a one-man show,” said King. “This can’t be the risk manager operating in a vacuum; they have to be liaising with multiple parts of the organization.”

Added King, “Risk management and HR cannot go down parallel paths, not understanding one another. Not anymore. There’s too much at stake.”

Connecting with outside counsel can also be of great benefit to risk managers, said Coppola.

“[They can] provide a very independent objective view of what they see in the overall market and how their knowledge of the individual client’s best practices can be improved and enhanced to ensure that they are protecting employees and the organization.”

Brokers and carriers also may be able to offer insights and services. Unfortunately, that piece is often lost because risk management and HR are siloed.

“The [knowledge of the] services that come with the insurance policy end up with the policy — in a drawer in the risk manager’s office,” said Tom Hams, employment practice liability insurance leader, Aon.

“HR doesn’t know that they exist. Even if they’re just online blogs or something like that, they could be more meaningful to the HR department than they are to risk management.

“So it’s important to make sure that companies are aware they’ve got those tools and — more importantly — to share them internally.”

Expediting Cultural Change

The X factor that underpins every aspect of these efforts is culture, experts agreed.

“It’s not so much ‘does the company have best-in-class policies and procedures in place;’ I think many of them do. I think that a significant change needed is doing a full overhaul of corporate culture, and that’s no small feat,” said Gelot.

Paul King, national practice leader, management and professional services, USI Insurance Services

True culture change can only come from the top level. But that isn’t likely to happen unless everyone at the top understands what the scope of the exposure could be if it’s not addressed appropriately on the front end. And for that, money talks, said Thoerig, who will be presenting on the topic at RIMS 2018 in San Antonio.

“Nothing is more instructive than real tangible claims examples and settlement amounts. Arm yourself with … recent, relevant claims examples specific to the industry and the jurisdictions the company operates in.”

In addition, said King, HR and legal should be regularly feeding claims information to risk managers to share at quarterly meetings of the board and give specific updates around these issues.

Armed with that level of intelligence, top brass can set the goals that will drive all anti-harassment efforts, said experts, putting an emphasis on identifying and correcting behavior that could potentially expose a company to liability.

Better Training and Reporting 

The best anti-harassment programs are multilayered, said Hams, with each facet carefully tailored to suit the employee population, the industry and the organization’s goals. A clearly defined policy is essential, stating that harassment will not be tolerated and neither will retaliation against those who report it.

The policy should be clear that employees are expected to report harassment or unacceptable behavior. Hams said he’s seen companies go so far as to state employees who don’t speak up are in violation of the policy.

“At least it should give them pause to stop and think about what they might have seen before they click the button or sign the document,” he said.

Companies should consider how uncomfortable employees may be about speaking up. An open-door policy is a start.

But there should also be multiple reporting points throughout the organization, said Hams, and an anonymous hotline for those reluctant to bring the matter up with anyone in their chain of command, and a multilingual hotline as well.

An effective training plan will have multiple moving parts and should touch every level of the organization from the executive suite to managers and supervisors to the rank and file. Comprehensive training is especially critical for the managers and supervisors who might receive or investigate complaints.

Many large employers already have training programs that can be considered best-in-class. Small to midsized employers, however, may still be using the cookie-cutter compliance-centric training that has dominated the field for decades.

The goal of this training is to hit all the bases related to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, ticking off a list of acts or speech that would be considered illegal and affirming the company will not tolerate illegal behavior.

Overwhelmingly though, this type of training misses the mark. Studies have shown that this one-size-fits-all training is ineffective, especially when it’s a rote check-the-box exercise. Employees get the message their employer doesn’t take the subject too seriously.

Worse, it can even aggravate tensions, creating more discriminatory behavior from men who avoid working with women just to eliminate the chance of being accused of anything.

One study even found that men were more likely to place blame on the victim of sexual abuse after they’d received that type of anti-harassment training.

Even at best, compliance-centric training will still fail, because it only addresses behaviors that violate the law. But there is a broad array of behavior that — while not quite illegal — shouldn’t be tolerated.

When this kind of activity is allowed to flourish unchecked, the environment becomes increasingly toxic for those on the receiving end. It also tells employees that the company will tolerate harassment as long as it’s not overly egregious. In that case, it’s just a matter of time before the company is faced with a serious claim.

“Nothing is more instructive than real tangible claims examples and settlement amounts. Arm yourself with … recent, relevant claims examples specific to the industry and the jurisdictions the company operates in.” — Kelly Thoerig, U.S. employment practices liability coverage leader, Marsh

In its 2016 report, the EEOC’s harassment task force recommended changing tactics, exploring alternative training models such as respect-based civility training — what some call professionalism training.


The theory is “if you train them to act in a professional manner, these things tend not to happen at all,” said Hams.

The EEOC also suggested bystander intervention training, which is designed to empower employees to intervene when they witness harassing behavior.

Experts agreed whatever training programs or modules a company chooses, it’s important the training material reflect the workforce and be continuous and regularly refreshed.

A certification scheme also should be put in place to ensure the training is hitting the mark. While the law does not yet require companies to prove the effectiveness of their programs, some suggest it’s only a matter of time before the courts catch up to the problem.

What’s more, said Coppola, it’s simply the right thing to do for companies that want to confirm they’ve created a culture where all employees can expect to be treated professionally.

Zero Tolerance

Gelot and others believe a zero-tolerance policy should be a key component of an effective anti-harassment program.

“There are many companies that have Harvey Weinsteins and Matt Lauers and Kevin Spaceys working in their midst and those people are tolerated. Employees know about them — it’s not a secret.”

Bob Graham, vice president, HUB International Limited

Particularly when the harasser is a high-level executive, companies may wrestle with the decision to look the other way or lose a key rainmaker. In a zero-tolerance environment — one that starts at the top — the decision would be clear.

“What we saw with Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose — they were terminated immediately as the accusations came out. That’s zero tolerance. That’s sending a message to all of the employees within the company that this is completely unacceptable, we won’t tolerate it, and [it] clearly sends a message to the public at large.”

Employers should promote a workplace culture where all forms of harassment and discrimination are unacceptable and reportable, said Gelot. That’s the only way to take the fear and the stigma out of reporting.

That said, the EEOC offers a word of caution on zero-tolerance policies applied militantly without regard for common sense. Employers should hash out the specifics of which acts merit immediate termination versus a warning.

Overzealous application of the zero-tolerance doctrine can backfire if an employee fears her coworker’s children will go hungry if she reports his lewd or sexist jokes.

Creating a Dialogue

As with managing any other exposure that touches everyone, robust sharing of ideas and best practices has the power to improve the risk profile of entire industry sectors.

Facebook raised eyebrows in December, making public its sexual harassment policy in full.

“I hope in sharing it we will start a discussion, both to help smaller companies thinking about this for the first time, and to improve our own practices by learning from other companies,” wrote Lori Goler, Facebook’s global VP of people, about the company’s bold move.


That level of disclosure is making some risk professionals uncomfortable. But others acknowledge the wisdom of it.

“Any time you can share best practices that’s probably a great idea, because no one has all the answers … or at least not all the right answers,” said Graham.

“There’s a reason they did that, and I think it’s for all the right, positive reasons. They want to drive the momentum that is going to reduce or even eliminate what we have seen in corporate America over the last 50-plus years. They want to lead by example, they want to be the model and rightly so,” added Coppola.

“I think we are at a perfect time in our economic environment that allows the evolution of equality in our workplace.”

Part of that should involve making the workplace more egalitarian, said Gelot, and figuring out “how to make female employees not feel ostracized by a ‘boys’ club’ atmosphere, and actively championing the ascension of women into senior rolls.”

“We can’t focus on the past,” said Coppola. “But we can work very hard collectively as a community, and within the insurance industry specifically, to move forward.” &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]