Building a Healthier World Starts with Inclusion

by LP Green, II

When your company’s mission is to build a healthier world, you think inclusively about your mission. There is full-throated sup- port from the top through CEO and Chairman Mark Bertolini and President, Karen Lynch, and throughout the company to ensure that Aetna’s workforce is reflective of the communities in which we live, work and play.

“Conscious inclusion is our focus at Aetna,” says Grace Figueredo, Aetna’s Vice President of Workplace Culture and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.” It’s about being intentional in building a culture where potential is realized and everyone thrives.”

The health marketplace is changing rapidly, and consumers take greater control over their health care. It’s impossible to understand – let alone meet – their needs without a workforce that mirrors the communities it serves. Aetna’s research found that 94 percent of women make health care buying decisions. How do you reach them effectively or understand their needs if you don’t have women in leadership positions?

An example is a two-year program that Aetna sponsored for African-American and Hispanic members with diabetes. By providing health information and a bilingual nurse educator, participants saw their hemoglobin levels drop significantly, lessening the likelihood of strokes, heart attacks and kidney problems. Aetna’s African-American Employee Resource Group (ERG) also uncovered several individuals who tested positive for colon cancer via a program offered specifically to the African-American community. Both highlight Aetna’s trailblazing efforts as the first health insurance company to actively invest in ending healthcare disparities in diverse communities.

Aetna also boasts initiatives aimed at the LGBT community. Recently recognized by DiversityInc as a top ten company for ERGs, its 11,000 volunteer and company supported employees drive business growth and consumer centricity. In 2015, Angle, Aetna’s ERG for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and ally employees championed an LGBT-specific marketing effort. Their contribution resulted in a campaign for LGBT consumers, learn more at:“Be proud. Be well.”

Within the company, Aetna‘s “Strategies for Success” leadership development program for women resulted in 67 percent of alumnae being promoted or in expanded roles. And most recently, Aetna specifically tailored the program for 60+ multi-cultural women in partnership with gold medal Paralympian, Bonnie St. John.“It is an honor to have been considered for this opportunity. The company’s support and investment in my development means the world to me.”Said Rose Hatcher, Aetna’s Director of Supplier Diversity, who as a tenured manager, was among the graduates. In addition, twenty-one African-American professionals also graduated from ELC’s Mid-Level Manager Summit, last fall. These individuals join hundreds of colleagues who are successfully building their careers at Aetna.

Efforts have not gone unnoticed. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation recognized Aetna as one of only nine companies, and the only insurance carrier, who has sustained a perfect score of 100 for the past 15 years in its workplace equality practices regarding LGBT employees. For the past seventeen years, the National Association for Female Executives recognized Aetna as only one of five companies invited into their Hall of Fame as a top company for executive women; and recently Aetna earned distinction with a perfect score from the U.S. Business Leadership Network for its disability inclusion policies.

A 163 year old company, Aetna broke tradition with the appointment of Karen Lynch as its first female president Last year, her success was celebrated as she was named to Fortune’s coveted list of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Women.”

“This work is about elevating the spirit of inclusion,” Figueredo says. “Connecting people’s hearts and minds with the work is how we deliver the best Aetna has to offer to the people we serve both inside and outside the company.”

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