Five Questions With: Jenny Bautista

Late last year, Jenny Bautista was named diversity, equity and inclusion manager at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island. She came to the company after spending the past six years in a similar role at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts. Bautista shares what brought her to Blue Cross and her strategies when it comes to ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. 

PBN: What brought you to Blue Cross after spending nearly 10 years working with nonprofits such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts?

BAUTISTA: My years at Big Brothers Big Sisters helped inform me of what I wanted to do next in my career. The organization and my mentors there provided growth opportunities within diversity, equity and inclusion that set me on the right path. From those experiences, I knew I wanted to take it to the next level and make DE&I the center of my next professional chapter.

The opportunity at BCBSRI is such a great fit; it gives me the opportunity to be the driver of lasting and impactful change within the organization and also in the overall community. I am excited about being a part of the work that will advance health equity and the employee experience through the DE&I efforts of the organization.

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PBN: Is there anything specific that you are looking forward to tackling as you settle into your new role?

BAUTISTA: I am most excited in helping our Employee Business Resource Groups and our Diversity Council maximize their impact. The associates at Blue Cross play such a pivotal role in advancing the work of DE&I and I look forward to utilizing my expertise in guiding the way and unlocking their full potential.

PBN: Have any of your new co-workers come to you with ideas for furthering diversity, equity and inclusion at Blue Cross?

BAUTISTA: Absolutely! I have already spoken with co-workers, interns and executive leadership about this. Everyone is really excited to explore ways in which they can play a role in this work throughout the organization. I have already had really great conversations about potential opportunities to collaborate across functions at BCBSRI. I want my colleagues to see me as someone who is a good listener, thoughtful and a trusting figure to go to with ideas for collaboration.

PBN: What are some of the most effective strategies that you’ve found to ensure that DE&I exists in workplaces?

BAUTISTA: When thinking of the most effective strategies, I think these three practices inform each other and are crucial in ensuring a successful DE&I effort in the workplace:

  • Collecting data: Data ensures we can continuously build a business case for DE&I by providing benchmarks, which hold us accountable and pinpoint the areas that need the most attention. Once you have that, you’ll be able to get buy-in from leadership and drive continuous improvement.
  • Engaging leadership: The CEO, executive leadership team, directors and managers collectively possess power and influence and with their buy-in, support, collaboration, accountability and continuous effort toward DE&I, you’ll be able to move the needle. Leadership plays a significant role in shaping company values and the company’s strategy, so it’s important for there to be collaboration across all levels of the company to shape strategy.
  • Emphasis on equity and inclusion: This brings me to equity and inclusion. When leaders recognize both equity and inclusion within the company, you’ll find employees are committed, valued and empowered to utilize their role in advancing the work. The work of DE&I shouldn’t be the responsibility of a single function, individual or team; instead it is the responsibility of all of us.

Also important are education and professional development. At the end of the day, in order for us to carry out our vision of passionately leading a state of health and well-being across Rhode Island, DE&I will have to be ingrained into every corner of the company, not just for this year or the next five years but for generations to come.

PBN: Could you briefly describe some of the programming and training aimed at increasing diversity, equity and inclusion at Blue Cross?

BAUTISTA: Last year, we had 100% of employees complete an Unconscious Bias training and we are working to provide a library of resources to include learning about other important concepts within DE&I: intersectionality, micro-aggressions, allyship, privilege and so on.

We’re also working to understand areas of opportunity within our recruitment life cycle, improving language in job posts, diversifying our candidate sourcing partners and instituting new tools for measuring inclusion and belonging among our colleagues.

The EBRGs and Diversity Council play a critical role in providing continuous programming throughout the year. Diversity Week is the main program for associates, but throughout the year we have guest speakers, lunch and learns, volunteer opportunities and facilitated discussions around a wide array of topics and issues affecting our members and employees.

Elizabeth Graham is a PBN contributing writer.

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