At Blue Shield of California, equity and diversity are paramount, as reflected in our leadership where more than 50 percent of our executives and half of our board members identify as women. This Women’s History Month, we connected with Liz Harman and Rob Shanahan, leaders of our Elevating Women employee resource group, as well as Beth Navarro, who is taking over as co-chair for Liz this month. Learn about the employee resource group’s impact and plans for 2024 as they mark a significant milestone this year celebrating their tenth anniversary at Blue Shield.

Q: How has Elevating Women influenced Blue Shield’s business strategies and contributed toward its success from a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) perspective?

A: It is hard for us to take full credit for anything, but if you look at what has happened in the company since our employee resource group has been here, there certainly are many things employee resource group members have influenced.

-Rob Shanahan, Marketing Operations Specialist, Marketing Operations, Labor

A: The focused intention towards creating gender equity has not only grown, as evidenced by our membership numbers, but also in the formation of other employee resource groups (a total of eight since Elevating Women and the Black Employee Network employee resource groups were first formed in 2014). Since then, Blue Shield established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team along with the Diversity Council in 2017 as a strategic initiative to reinforce and expand its commitment to creating an inclusive workplace that values and respects diversity in all its forms. To give context on the extent of participation, Elevating Women hosted more than 25 events last year with attendance totaling 2,600+ employees and 43% of Blue Shield employees belong to at least one employee resource group.

-Liz Harman, Operations Specialist, Consultant, Program Management and Strategy, Customer Experience

Q: Could you share a few of your community partnerships or provide an example of a collaboration between Elevating Women and a community organization that has had a positive impact?

A: We did a lot of fundraising for La Casa de las Madres to support those who have suffered from domestic violence and abuse. This population is predominantly female. We also had a focused event and fundraising for 3Strands Global Foundation to spread awareness and education surrounding human trafficking. It has been very powerful to learn and understand more about this issue. We have another event this year as a follow-up about how artificial intelligence can be used to prevent child trafficking, in addition to a book giveaway and speaking event by the author about mission-based work in a corporate environment.

-Liz Harman

Q: This year’s Elevating Women signature event was themed, Igniting Your Purpose. What advice do you have for those who are struggling to find purpose or passion in their work?

A: Employee resource groups are the key – at least they were for me to advance my awareness and abilities. They have truly supported my passions and drive. Also ask yourself the question, “What matters to me?” We work at a healthcare company, so at the very core, we want to connect people to care. When you participate in an employee resource group, it deepens that purpose even more. It is easy to get mired in the minutia of everyday work, but at the heart of it, we all want to help people, so our work already means something. Employee resource groups can help focus that ambition. If you have an idea or a nagging question that’s pulling you, be curious and follow it. Take action, step up and do it. Even if it is outside the scope of your work, it is okay to ask the questions.

-Beth Navarro, Retention Marketing Consultant, Medicare

Liz Harman, Theresa Boudreau, Antoinette Mayer, Zoher Karu, Jackie Ejuwa, Rob Shanahan, and Beth Navarro at this year's Elevating Women signature event

Q: What actions can leaders and colleagues take to create an environment that fosters passion and purpose for everyone at Blue Shield?

A: To me, the first thing that comes to mind is encouraging a curious mindset. Allow people to look for growth in their careers. Another piece of it, which Rob, Liz and I have talked about, is to truly incorporate employee resource group and diversity, equity, and inclusion work into your goals to make your work more meaningful. Promote employee resource group events. This work should not be something that is off to the side; it is truly a part of our day-to-day, and if treated as such, everyone will grow.

-Beth Navarro

Q: Do you have a personal story or an example that you could share where Blue Shield’s environment enabled someone to pursue their passions and grow professionally?

A: A year ago, I held a screening of a documentary called ‘Below the Belt’ along with a conversation with the director and producer, Shannon Cohn. The subject was personal to me because it shed light on endometriosis, which is something I have and affects one in nine women. There is no cure. The documentary followed four women’s journeys and showed the gaps in health care, ones I recognized from my own experience. I brought it to Elevating Women and Liz, Candace House, and Kellie Chung empowered me to put on the event. The response from attendees was so strong. Many people wanted to talk about this and had personal experiences.

The screening was just the first step. I found there are other roadblocks we could look into as a healthcare company to help women who suffer with endometriosis. So, I formed a taskforce within the health equity pillar at Elevating Women and our goal is to convene team members across Blue Shield to explore how we can better support those going through endometriosis treatment.

Feeling that support from Elevating Women around this initiative really opened my mind because this work is way out of what I do in my day-to-day. This taskforce is very passionate about the topic, and we are reaching out to other areas of the business to help. It is going to be a long process, but we have a ton of support. We are also looking to support educating providers about this disease.

It feels good that we can help make a difference in people’s lives and Blue Shield has been nothing but encouraging. This feels like an important step to creating a healthcare system worthy of our family and friends and sustainably affordable.

-Beth Navarro

Q: How has Elevating Women fostered an environment that supports the professional growth and development of women and allies as they follow their passions?

A: Professional development is one of the core focuses for Elevating Women, to help people have clarity in what they want in their career. We have had skill-building workshops, public presentation workshops, and networking events. This was how I got started originally, understanding that there are a lot of people willing to help each other out at work. Employee resource groups are really a place where people come together as their authentic selves to lift each other up. I've had a lot of unofficial mentorships through Elevating Women before the Blue Advisor program was formed, which is a Blue Shield mentorship program that pairs mentors with mentees for a six-month period of time. We plan on having a mentorship program specific to Elevating Women this year, and our signature event focused on manifesting your mission and having your personal core beliefs expressed through the work that you do.

-Beth Navarro

Q: What are some of Elevating Women’s plans for 2024 and how can individuals contribute to and benefit from these events?

We started a series last year called ‘Let’s Talk About It,’ which has really resonated with people. Here we educate and hold space for people to share stories on topics, including menopause and advocating for our own health. We are also going to be partnering with other ERGs on these to spread awareness and for people to share their stories, which has been very powerful.

-Beth Navarro

Fundraising efforts do not always match the size of our membership. We are Blue Shield's largest employee resource group, so we have a lot of opportunity to make a great impact. In 2024, we are really looking forward to harnessing the power of our membership and Blue Shield's generous matching donation and community time off program to really get out and make a difference in our communities.

-Rob Shanahan

If you would like to join a workforce where finding your purpose and passion in work is supported, please look over our available career opportunities and apply.