At Blue Shield of California, we’re an equal opportunity employer that embraces a diverse workforce. Accordingly, we sponsor a variety of employee resource groups (ERGs) designed to educate and support our people. One of these ERGs is the Black Employee Network. To give further insight into this group and how it has impacted our workforce, we asked four participants of our Black Employee Network to share their experiences with us.

WyDrecus Edwards, an assurance quality auditor, specialist, grew up in an underserved area of California and frequently felt less than based on how he was treated at school. When asked what it’s like to work at Blue Shield, WyDrecus shared, “Originally, I was told by an in-law that Blue Shield was hiring. I immediately loved everything about Blue Shield when I did my research. How much we can help members and how much we can grow individually within this wonderful company drew me in even more. Prior to working for Blue Shield, I would see how much people needed help with their insurance but there was no one to help them, so when I found Blue Shield, I saw a great opportunity to help all the members with every fiber of my being without giving up on them.”

WyDrecus continues that since coming to work at Blue Shield of California, “I feel supported in every way. I am surrounded by amazing people every day who do not mind helping whenever I am stuck. From my mentors to my managers, to even my director, I feel I am blessed with amazing and uplifting people every day.”

In terms of advice for those considering job opportunities at Blue Shield, he advises, “Find where you would like to grow within Blue Shield as there are so many careers here in different areas, then find those who will support you and help you grow. Never be afraid to take the next step forward as only the step backwards is comfortable, but the step forward is more successful and fulfilling.”

Beatrice (Bea) Shelton, senior manager of External Communications, single mother and caretaker for her mother shared also frequently feeling othered throughout her life. “Being a Black woman,” shared Bea, “you certainly show up in spaces where you know you have to potentially adjust the way you look, the way you sound, the way you’re acting.” But Bea recognizes that being a part of the Black Employee Network has helped.

“Part of my interaction since joining is to attend all the robust learning sessions, because again, when you are an other at work, it’s one thing to be part of a community, but it’s another to join an employee resource group that really supports your continued learning,” says Bea. She continued that, “Not allowing someone to show up as their full self at work is physically and mentally draining. You’re expected to produce, but then also having this need to speak the right way or show up the right way… am I being as productive as I really could be?”

Lola Combs, manager of Clinical Social Services, was raised by a single mom and put herself through graduate school. “I went to grad school and worked hard to become a social worker. In previous roles at other organizations, despite being highly educated, I was passed over for promotions. It hurt, because I felt like I almost had to carry my degrees and education in my pocket. I felt like, ‘I guess I’ll just be a front-line social worker until I retire.’ When I came to Blue Shield, after a short amount of time, they saw my skill set, they saw my knowledge and education, they saw all I could present regarding medical social work.”

Lola was first encouraged to apply for a position at Blue Shield by a friend who thought she had a lot of great experience. Coming into her job interview, she hoped that it would be a good fit for her and now she says, “I feel my senior manager is very supportive and desires for me to succeed and grow.” Lola is proud to be a member of the Black Employee Network.

For Leigh Purry, senior manager of Community Health, being a part of the Black Employee Network is how she pays it forward.

“I grew up in Hayward, CA,” says Leigh Purry. “That’s where it all began in terms of a diverse friend group. I didn’t graduate from high school because I got pregnant. Looking at the statistics of a young African American girl getting pregnant at the age of 18, having a baby at 19, divorced parents, life is in shambles, didn’t finish high school… I’m not supposed to be here.” Through Leigh’s support system, she finished school and then some.

For Leigh, taking a job at Blue Shield came down the mission-driven work culture and people, “I work on a team that shares the same passion, conviction and core values as it pertains to health equity, social impact, community health and population health.”

Leigh became a co-chair of the Black Employee Network in 2017 and is responsible for community outreach. “What the Black Employee Network has done for the employee base, just encourages me when I’m able to encourage someone else.” shared Leigh.

Leigh was first attracted to Blue Shield because of “the core values of the company. And once hired, my new team was truly a breath of fresh air.” She continues that, “I have a people leader who hears me, honors my perspective on critical matters, respects my leadership style, welcomes my humor and ensures there is an open opportunity to inclusiveness on various projects and conversations across the enterprise.”

When asked if she has any advice for those considering applying for a role at Blue Shield, Leigh advises, “Be yourself unapologetically and do not steer away from your core values and convictions. Essentially, do not settle just to obtain a new job. Make sure it means something to you.”

Lola states that joining an ERG has made her feel like, “Wow, these people can understand me, I feel more comfortable, I feel like I can show up as my authentic self.”

“As we grow in our lifetime, we take something from each person that we meet. So, as we are growing in this work that is continuously learning how to be diverse, how to be more inclusive, accepting one another without looking at just what’s on the outside, but really looking at what’s on the inside, I think overall we can grow together.” -WyDrecus Edwards

If you’d like to join a mission-driven company that values a diverse and inclusive workforce where employees are appreciated for their authentic and unique selves, skills and talents, we encourage you to look at our open career opportunities and apply.

Learn more about the Black Employee Network and our other employee resource groups at Blue Shield.