Women’s rights pioneer Catharine MacKinnon puts #MeToo in perspective

By Louie Castoria, Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck, LLP

Nearly four decades before #MeToo, and one year before Harvey Weinstein’s first film was released, Professor Catharine MacKinnon pioneered the movement to treat workplace sexual harassment of women as sexual discrimination, in her groundbreaking scholarly book, Sexual Harassment of Working Women (1979).

Flash forward to May 22, 2018, when Professor MacKinnon, the Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan and James Barr Ames Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School,, presented a stark but hopeful assessment of women’s rights worldwide at the PLUS Foundation’s Women’s Leadership Network event, “Abusers and Accusers: How Women Leaders Are Changing the World.” She termed #MeToo “the largest movement against sexual abuse in the history of the world.”

Professor MacKinnon is a long-term visitor at Harvard Law School since 2009. She has visited at Yale Law School (she earned her law degree and Ph.D. in political science there), Stanford, Chicago, Basel, Hebrew University (Jerusalem)), Osgoode Hall (Toronto), Perth (Australia) and other law schools, taught political theory in Shanghai, and has been awarded writing fellowships at Cambridge, England, in Berlin, and at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, now at Stanford. From these vantage points, and as a practicing lawyer and activist, together with her work at the International Court of Criminal Justice at The Hague, Professor MacKinnon has not only seen progress toward equal treatment of men and women, but has led that progress. In 1986 a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court adopted, in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, in which she was co-counsel, her then-novel theory that workplace sexual harassment can rise to the level of illegal sexual discrimination. Today, employment practices liability, including sexual harassment, is a major force in insurance marketplace and the legal profession.

Her advocacy and activism are not limited to the workplace. Professor MacKinnon’s prosecution as lead counsel in Kadic v. Karadzic, representing Bosnian survivors of Serbian victims of sexual atrocities, established that the use of systematic rape as a tool for destroying people is a form of genocide. She is a strong supporter on site in India with Apne Aap, an organization that protects women, some as young as ten years of age or even younger against being sold into, or to escape from, lives of prostitution. (She donated her PLUS honorarium to Apne Aap. For further information visit apneaap.org.) She pioneered the Nordic Model for abolishing prostitution—decriminalizing all people used in prostitution, and strongly criminalizing the sellers (pimps and traffickers) and the buyers. This approach is being adopted in other countries as well.

The sold-out event began with an interview I conducted with Professor MacKinnon to highlight some of her trailblazing achievements in advancing women’s rights and enhancing women’s lives, then shifted to insightful and varied questions from the audience. Audience questions included people in the news, such as former Minnesota Senator Al Franken and Stormy Daniels, and international issues.

Power was a unifying theme throughout the conversation. Professor MacKinnon recognized long ago that sexual harassment and abuse involve sexualizing the power of those in power, and who want to stay in power. When asked how those in power should help advance sex equality, she recommended two steps: to seriously listen to what women say, and to promote the many qualified women to positions now mainly occupied by men. She also advocates for transforming hierarchical models themselves, thus changing the definition of power in society.

During the reception that followed many attendees took the opportunity to talk individually or in small groups with Professor MacKinnon.

Clyde & Co hosted the event and reception. My firm, Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck, LLP, planned the event and worked extensively with Professor MacKinnon to develop the presentation.

Inspiration from Inga Beale: Trust, Diversity and Inclusion

By Angie Biancalana, RPLU, ASLI, Great American Insurance Company

Over three centuries ago, insurance was born. While it has withstood the test of time, the burning question today that rocks our industry is:

How do we attract and SUCCESSFULLY grow our insurance businesses?

On May 3, 2018, the PLUS Foundation’s Women’s Leadership Network, along with the Midwest Chapter Committee, had the honor and pleasure of hosting Inga Beale in Chicago. Insurance professionals gathered and were captivated by the CEO of Lloyd’s of London, listening to her story. She touched on how even decades ago, insurance was drastically different.  Today we need to change and evolve with the times.

Beale focused on three key themes – Trust, Diversity, and Inclusion.

“We need people to trust us,” she explained. “We are selling a promise to pay when things go wrong. That trust needs to be there. And that means that every single one of us has to work on this aspect, and particularly as leaders, we’ve got to show true authenticity when it comes to trust.”


She talked about how a commitment to diversity will attract individuals with a healthy complement of thoughts, ideals and strengths, and welcome ideas that can only help growth and success. She also noted how inclusion ties everything together. As Beale put it, “…if we can get the inclusion piece right, it will help rebuild the trust that much of big businesses have lost with the people all around the world or many parts of the world.”

If my reaction is any indication, her ideas will resonate across the industry and will light a long-lasting fire.

I graduated with a Finance degree during the financial downfall of 2008/2009. If I was qualified for a job, I applied and applied AND applied. Student loans were not paying themselves. I was fortunate enough to accept an underwriting role. Why not? My grandfather was a door-to-door insurance salesman and my mom is an underwriter. It was familiar to me. Fast-forward nine years: I’m still here, and for a reason. I like underwriting; I thoroughly like it due to the lifelong learning, fast-paced environment, and vast array of interesting people. It definitely wasn’t my plan as a Finance major, but I am so glad I took that first job!

As an early career professional with just under a decade of experience, my growing concern is: How can I get my generation and generations after me to enter the insurance sector? How do I attract them?

Our industry gets a bad rap with words like ‘boring’, ‘desk job’, ‘cold calling’. Instead, I believe the buzz words should be ‘second family’, ‘never a dull day’, ‘meeting new people.’ We need to embrace Inga Beale’s idea of diversity and inclusion to bring fresh, new ideas and demonstrate the wealth of personal and professional opportunities in our sector.

We need diversity, trust, and inclusion, because if we have those, it can be a start of something great. I imagine insurance will last another three centuries; let’s just hope it’ll be even more successful than the first three hundred years.


Post author Angie Biancalana (left), with Lloyd’s of London CEO Inga Beale and Jim Stewart of Pioneer Special Risk.

Angie Biancalana is a Senior Cyber Underwriter at Great American Insurance Company in Schaumburg, IL. She serves as the Future PLUS Representative for the Midwest Chapter and is a member of a Future PLUS task force working to address the workforce shortage in insurance, specifically professional lines. (Future PLUS is the young professionals’ group at PLUS, for members aged 35 or younger.) She has been a PLUS member since 2015 and earned the RPLU designation in 2016.


Stephanie Lynch, First Future PLUS Member to Register for 2018 PLUS Conference

The PLUS Conference is a destination event for the professional liability insurance industry, bringing practitioners from around the world together for 3 days of learning, networking and a healthy dose of fun. Two weeks ago you may have seen a profile of Harvey Heller, the first person to register for this year’s Conference. Today we share another attendee profile:Stephanie Lynch

Stephanie Lynch, RPLU is AVP Treaty Reinsurance for Safety National Re in Morristown, NJ. She is the first Future PLUS member to register for the 2018 PLUS Conference, and shared some of her reasons why its an event worth flying across the country to attend.

Why is it a priority for you to register for the PLUS conference?
The PLUS conference is a whirlwind of ingesting information from esteemed panelists, meeting with brokers and clients, and networking to build strong connections with other professionals in the industry. It is a busy few days, but with so many professional liability industry people in the same place at the same time, you’re bound to have a positive and productive week.

What are you most looking forward to about the 2018 PLUS Conference in San Diego?
Interacting with existing clients and potential new clients, networking with industry peers and leaders, reflecting on the past year in the market and looking forward to the next. I also gained a lot of insight from last year’s keynote speakers and look forward to the 2018 keynotes. PLUS puts together a great event, packed with information and networking opportunities and it’s always a great way to kick off 1/1 renewal season!

Why is it important for young professionals to attend the PLUS Conference? 
It is a great opportunity as a young professional to find yourself amidst many great industry leaders for a few days. You have the chance to do a lot of networking as well as learn about various issues and trends in the professional liability market, which you can then take back to your desk.

Join Stephanie in San Diego this November for the 2018 PLUS Conference. Full event details are available by clicking the graphic below.