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Pinnacol Board Chair discusses Women’s History Month

March 27, 2024
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Akasha Absher is Chair of Pinnacol’s Board of Directors. Absher is the co-president of Syntrinsic LLC, an IMA company, which is a national investment consulting firm exclusively focused on endowments, foundations, nonprofit organizations and the people affiliated with them. In 2020, Absher was named one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Colorado by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce and in 2020 and 2021, a Woman of Distinction by the Colorado Girl Scouts. We sat down with Akasha during Women’s History Month to discuss the current workforce environment for women.

What strategies do you employ to advocate for gender-responsive policies within your organization and within broader societal frameworks?

A good first step is to perform a pay equity audit. We are well past paying men and women at different rates for the same work, based on gender. Employers should also already supply resources for all employees to balance their lives, advance in their careers, and develop their skills.

Also, building a more diverse hiring pool is proven to drive better outcomes for businesses. It’s not about mandating who gets hired per se, but if you can broaden your pool of applicants, you will start to reap benefits. Diverse teams make better decisions. And representation in leadership can help with this. Having more women leaders attracts more women applicants. As Pinnacol’s female Board Chair, I hope my presence in this important role is seen by other women.

How do you believe the workers' compensation system in Colorado addresses the specific needs of women, considering factors such as workplace safety?

I do not always think women are considered as a cohort or individually when it comes to safety, but they should be. Women are increasingly moving into roles in sectors that were historically male-dominated.  The construction trades are a great example. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for many roles was designed for the male frame and could be ill-fitting on women’s bodies, raising risks for accidents or injury. Employers should be responsive to the needs of their specific employee base/workforce with a goal of providing tailored solutions to the extent possible. This can increase both worker safety and employee satisfaction.

In your opinion, what role does the workers' compensation system play in supporting women's economic security, from their early working years through retirement?

The workers’ comp system in Colorado functions in essence, like a safety net for workers, with Pinnacol taking on the riskiest and largest volume of policyholders in the state. The system steps in when workers are vulnerable, gets them healed to the greatest degree possible, and supports their financial needs until they can return to the workforce. The system also protects businesses from liability should an employee hurt themselves at work.

I can imagine young women entering the workforce who may not have a lot of savings or financial stability.  An injury, especially if you have a job that relies on your ability to do physical work, can be life-altering. But under the system in Colorado, if you suffer a work-related injury, your medical care is wholly covered and if you cannot work while you heal, provides wage replacement.  I can also imagine women small business owners who are just standing up a business for which a lawsuit could mean bankruptcy.  Having that protection for every business and every worker is vital.

Pinnacol Assurance assumes no responsibility for management or control of customer safety activities. Please ensure your business meets the requirements of all federal, state, and local laws, regulations, or ordinances related to workplace safety.

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