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5 Questions for Elaine Sarsynski--Executive Vice President at MassMutual Life Insurance

November 3, 2006

Elaine Sarsynski
Executive vice president,
MassMutual Life Insurance

Elaine Sarsynski, executive VP at MassMutual Life Insurance in Springfield, Massachusetts, is one of the highest-ranking women at a Fortune 100 company. She has spent the past 30 years managing large organizations in the financial services industry and the public sector, and says that despite the finance industry’s image of being a male-dominated profession that would like to stay that way, it has become much more supportive of women. She recently spoke with Workforce Management staff writer Jessica Marquez.

Workforce Management: How has the industry become more supportive of women?

Elaine Sarsynski: I have seen the industry work hard to attract, promote and retain women in a meaningful way. At MassMutual, we do a variety of things, like offer true work/life balance to help support women at different stages of their careers. We have a day care center on site as well as a fitness center, a pharmacy and a dry cleaner.

WM: Companies often talk about work/life balance to show how they support women. But what beyond that is MassMutual doing to support women and make sure they are on a career path within the firm?

Sarsynski: Many of our women executives are involved in mentoring younger women and recruiting. For example, through our executive development program, which is an executive recruiting program to bring in MBA candidates, we hired six people, two of whom are women. We also hold women’s luncheons where 40 to 50 of us get together. We might talk about our strategy regarding our women’s advisory boards, which are comprised of women employees in local communities to help their offices find and attract female candidates.

WM: Is MassMutual doing anything to bring back women who have left the workforce?

Sarsynski: We absolutely want women, like me, who have that background. We do a lot to network with women and look for opportunities to reach out to them. For example, we reach out to the YMCA because some of our women executives are on the board. MassMutual also sponsors Women in Insurance and Financial Services, a networking organization to support women in the industry. Just over the past year, my group alone has hired 10 women who either left the workforce or were in a career change.

WM: Why is this important?

Sarsynski: Research shows that at some point in their lives, women will be the manager of the household’s financial decisions. We recently had a conference that addressed this fact: Women are the market to market to, and if you are not, you are going to miss not only 50 percent of your market pool, but the majority of the decision makers. Women make up more than half of the U.S. labor force, and 83 percent are responsible for financial decisions.

WM: Is there a danger of employers creating resentment among male employees by focusing so much on women?

Sarsynski: No, this isn’t 30 years ago. Today, I really believe that male and female colleagues care about each other and working as a team.

Workforce Management, October 23, 2006, p. 11 -- Subscribe Now!