March 4, 2019
Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion & Chief Diversity Officer at Anthem, Inc., Tracy Edmonds, was selected as one of four influential women in the Indianapolis community to serve as a panelist for the first Women’s Speaker Series of 2019. Guests learned about diversity and inclusion in the workplace and had the opportunity to ask questions and network with other like-minded professionals.
Tracy has several years of experience as an Anthem employee, so we wanted to know more about how her work has helped shape her both as a woman and as a professional in the field.
1) What is your perspective on the topic – “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Workplace”?
Not only is it the right thing to do to ensure that we have equity and that we are creating environments where diversity is welcomed and embraced, diversity, inclusion, and equity have a bottom-line impact to organizations. There have been many studies that demonstrate the impact of diversity and inclusion on the ROI and profits of organizations. When we feel valued as an individual and that we belong to a team or an organization, we are more likely to contribute, engage and offer our perspectives.
2) What obstacles have you faced as a woman in the workplace? What advice or techniques would you suggest to others?
I have simply viewed challenges in my career as opportunities for me to work smarter. I’ve always been fully aware that who I am – my race, my gender, my education, my cultural background, etc. – impacts how I’m perceived and engaged. My advice is to be self-aware, always authentic, and ask first how you may be contributing to any challenge you may face. Build your network of individuals who support you and can provide guidance, mentorship, and sponsorship in your career. Always focus on performing well and knowing your value. It’s also important to know that once you’ve done your best to address the obstacle, sometimes the best choice for defeating it is to remove yourself from the situation – and that’s okay because you own the decision on what’s best for you.
3) In a world in which men dominate leadership roles, please share when a man (or men) has acted as an ally in support of your advancement?
The manager who promoted me to vice president was a man. When I shared my career goals of being promoted, he told me what was needed to achieve it. I performed and was rewarded with the promotion. While I’d worked with and for men throughout my career, this experience was different in that there was active engagement and support for my career goals.
While many men are supportive of women, I have seen cases where men have been determined active allies in the development of women. They’ve recognized clearly where there were opportunities to advocate on behalf of a woman and they’ve put their voice in the room when critical talent decisions were being made and it made a difference. This active and visible support is a vital to achieving gender equity.
4) Have you had the opportunity to influence or inspire a young girl/woman to pursue a career or leadership role she may not have considered or been exposed to? How has this impacted both of you?
One young woman stands out as she was trying to determine where she’d like to go and what opportunities were best for her and she wasn’t receiving the support she expected from her leadership. Together, we worked on her career plan and she took her first step into a management role, was hugely successful, which led very quickly to a second promotion into an even bigger leadership role. For her, I believe the support, mentorship, and encouragement helped her fully believe she had huge potential and could contribute at even higher levels. For me, the payback was huge as I got to use my experiences in service to another individual and I added an incredibly talented and smart woman to my network. I’ve tapped into her for career advice and support too. I’m proud to call her my mentor and friend.
5) Final remarks or any additional insight you’d like to share?
We should never lose sight of the underlying issues that drive us to focus on diversity, inclusion, and equity for women, people of color, and other groups. Those issues are real and impacting individuals daily, but this work is really about all of us and the opportunity to be valued for who we are and what we bring to our families, workplace, and community. When we focus on respect for the individual, creating trust and a sense of belonging and value in the workplace, life is richer, everyone benefits, and organizations achieve their goals in a way that feels good.