Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) employees recently gathered virtually for the company’s inaugural Belonging at Blue Summit, which celebrated Team Blue’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace.
In years past, BCBSNE’s employee resource group (ERG) Young Professionals Connect hosted a company-wide learning and development event. This year; however, BCBSNE invited all six of its ERGs to participate in the event planning.
By giving each ERG a seat at the table, BCBSNE provided a more inclusive experience and increased the depth and impact of the learnings offered.
The summit planning committee was made up of representatives from BCBSNE’s six ERGs:
- YP Connect, supporting YPs and their advocates
- Fearlessly You @ Blue, supporting LGBTQ+ employees
- Military Families United Together, supporting veterans and military families
- Building Leaders Like Us for Excellence, supporting Black employees
- Latinos Empowered to Achieve Their Potential, supporting Latino employees
- Possibilities, supporting disabled/abled employees
“Aside from the incredibly engaging speakers and activities – what I’m most proud of is the summit committee,” said event co-lead and BCBSNE Director of Diversity and Inclusion Jay Warren-Teamer. “The leaders of our ERGs came together to re-imagine the summit, and over the last five months, worked together to make this happen. Their enthusiasm to furthering DEI at BCBSNE is contagious, and the impact of the summit is proof of that.”
This week-long summit began on Monday, March 7. Over the course of the week, each of BCBSNE’s six ERGs hosted an event that highlighted their message and purpose and brought employees together for opportunities to grow personally and professionally.
The summit kicked off with a session on anti-racism featuring the vice president of Creighton University’s Division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Dr. Sarah Walker. In this session, Dr. Walker shared lessons she’s learned on Creighton’s anti-racism journey and how attendees could embody anti-racism in their own lives.
Employees went on to attend sessions where they had the chance to hear from BCBSNE employees, as well as guest speakers:
- BCBSNE’s very own Britton Battaglia, Sarka Talmadge and Kirstin Booth shared their stories with the military community and its impact on their career paths.
- CEO of the Latino Center of the Midlands Albert Varas shared the critical work of his organization in serving the Latino community and reflected on his personal journey with leadership.
- Amanda Irions, communications professor at Doane University, discussed how attendees could create their passions and find who and where they need to be.
- Meaghan Walls from Assistology discussed the importance of disability inclusion.
The summit finished with BCBSNE’s Kate Grafel and Amanda Riedl, leaders of Fearlessly You @ Blue, presenting on the exploration of the many aspects of personal and social identity.
“Our experiences are shaped by how we see others and how others see us,” said Grafel. “But underlying that is how we see ourselves. Recognizing the many facets of our own identities takes us a long way toward seeing others as their whole selves.”
Each session provided employees with a lens into a different identity, a different perspective and a different community.
At BCBSNE, DEI is a large initiative and plays a key role in organizational strength and productivity. While each ERG carries a different identity and spreads a different message, this doesn’t stop them from coming together to foster a safe, inclusive community for Team Blue.
“Each employee resource group may have a focus area, but one thing we all have in common is the passion for inclusiveness,” said event lead and BCBSNE Agile Project Manager Karah Thompson. “I am proud of all of our ERG’s and advocates who got together to make this happen.”
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