If we’re going to talk about diversity, we also have to talk about inclusion. Diversity acknowledges and celebrates the differences we all bring to the world. Inclusion is about picking up all of those differences and putting them to work together, and using them to drive designed and desired outcomes. You can’t have a fully integrated strategy unless you have both: diversity and inclusion are critical for success. We may have the opinion that “diversity” is a singular goal worth achieving, but when we don’t imbue those thoughts with our practices, we’re not fully committed to embracing our differences.
The musical “Hamilton” is a good example of this. The arts have a stated commitment to diversity, but one way that the inclusion piece brings it to fruition is through having traditionally white characters played by black people. We’ve seen that the audience’s understanding of the characters and the story transcends those visual differences.
Diversity and inclusion are critical at Aetna, particularly when we think about our consumers—they don’t all look and think the same way. Our employees must be diverse so that our strategies and services are diverse, leading to a practice of inclusion that allows our customers to receive the support that best suits them individually.
Internally, Aetna continues to reinvent itself to make the workplace more relevant and culturally transparent. We have 12 Employee Resources Groups (ERGs) that support the retention, development, and engagement of our African American, Asian, Hispanic, LGBTQ colleagues, and allies, employees who telework, individuals with disabilities, multi-generations, caregivers, families, and women—ERGs provide us with consumer insights and diverse perspectives to influence the way we do business. These groups also focus on volunteerism and community outreach. The interesting part about Aetna’s ERGs is that employees don’t have to identify as part of that resource group to belong. Our overall Diversity and Inclusion strategy includes a shift from tolerance to appreciation of differences, and our ERG activities bring that to life.
Aetna also uses the arts to drive diversity and inclusion. In our cafeterias and other communal spaces on our campus, we invite local musicians and artists to showcase their talents extending the reach of art in our daily work lives. We’ve also partnered with local theaters to bring artists to Aetna for two-way conversations with employees. This year, TheaterWorks in Hartford will bring a diverse panel of clinicians and cast members of the Pulitzer Prize winning production of “Next to Normal”—a piece that shines the light on invisible disabilities, and specifically bipolar disorder, for a discussion that will be live streamed to everyone at Aetna nationally. Moderated by Aetna’s head of Behavioral Health, we will engage in a conversation that exposes the stigma associated with mental disabilities in our workplaces, families, and communities.
In early 2017, the cast and director of “Cloud 9,” a production at Hartford Stage, joined Aetna to talk about some of the themes of the play. The talk, sponsored by Aetna’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group, addressed the gender identity themes of play. At the same time, a jazz band from the R.J. Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts played for the employees during lunch to reinforce our mindfulness initiatives, our support for arts education and STEAM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). Activities like these are about bridging communities, and finding solutions through the arts. These are just a few examples of how we use the arts to help celebrate diversity and inclusion.
We value art so highly because it brings a different perspective to traditional “training.” It helps to connect our employees to ideas in a creative and organic way. Not everyone responds and processes training in the same way. In order for everyone to get to the finish line, we have to meet people where they are. The arts allow this to happen, and will take them on the journey to where they want to be. The more we use the arts, the more we’ll reach innovation and imagination; the more people are able to come together without fear, be safe and comfortable, and express how they’re feeling.
You may believe in diversity, but you need to embrace inclusion to put those beliefs into practice. That’s a lesson people from the arts and business communities can take to heart, because ultimately, we’re all on the same journey together.