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PUM One on One: Sara Oliver-Carter/Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion, Highmark Inc.

"As a diversity leader who is passionate about the positive impact of diversity and inclusion, I urge my team to continually align activities and initiatives with our business strategy, while setting measurable, realistic goals in partnership with the business." Sara Oliver-Carter

 

 

Sara Oliver-Carter is the vice president of diversity and inclusion at Highmark Inc., Pennsylvania’s largest health insurance company based on membership. In this position, she is responsible for managing the direction, implementation and alignment of Highmark’s diversity initiatives with corporate strategy. 

Sara is a results-oriented human resources professional with more than 20 years of business operations and human resource management experience. During her career, she has held a variety of positions in corporate staffing, employee relations and operations while serving as a member of various community boards.

Sara has a passion for diversity and inclusion and believes that diversity is integral to the achievement of sustainable business excellence in the Pittsburgh area. She realizes that diversity is critical to the success of the region, and she is committed to supporting the attraction and retention of talent through innovative diversity and inclusion efforts in both the workplace and community.

Sara has a bachelor’s degree in business communication and a master’s of science degree in professional leadership from Carlow University.

Sara lives in Pittsburgh with her, daughter and son-in-law, son and daughter-in-law, and is the proud grandmother of four.

 

PUM:  In your position as vice president of diversity and inclusion at Highmark, you are responsible for managing the direction, implementation and alignment of Highmark’s diversity initiatives with corporate strategy. What are some of your top goals and, specifically, your immediate focus for Pennsylvania’s largest health insurance company based on membership?

SOC: Today, many employers don’t often realize the value that diversity and inclusion can bring to their organization and how it can positively impact the bottom line. At Highmark, we believe it’s critical to identify how a diverse workforce differentiates us from our competitors and brings value to how we serve our diverse consumers. Our goals for placing a greater emphasis on the importance of diversity and inclusion across the enterprise are threefold.

Our first area of focus is business integration. We continue to execute strategies that embed diversity and inclusion into the way we do business by ensuring diversity supports the goals and objectives of the business. Secondly, employee engagement is critical. My team is responsible for growing a culture of inclusion in our workplace. This is accomplished by encouraging employee involvement in programs, activities and business initiatives that directly align with an enterprise strategy that ensures business and employee success. Lastly, building a culturally competent organization begins with education and awareness. We strive to ensure that our employees understand that inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but it’s the best thing to do for the business.

PUM: You are a leader who demonstrates a passion for diversity and inclusion, and you believe that diversity is integral to the achievement of sustainable business excellence in the Pittsburgh area. What sort of plans and strategic initiatives are you focused on in this region where it is reported huge disparities exist for African Americans and minorities in the city?

SOC: Challenging business environments require innovation. Original ideas mostly happen when diversity of thought is supported and rewarded in an inclusive organization. We continue to work to attract, retain and develop diverse talent. We are currently focused on an internal initiative to develop and mentor our diverse employee base. We listen to our customers and work to ensure we are reflective of our total consumer base. Internship programs and diverse professional organizations are particularly helpful ways to get in front of changing workforce demographics.

At Highmark, our targeted areas of impact when it comes to diversity and inclusion are the workplace, marketplace and our communities. As our business and consumer markets continue to evolve and become more culturally diverse, so must our strategy for providing the best service. We recognize the needs of our diverse customer populations and strive to continually increase our understanding of the multicultural markets that we serve.

        PUM:  What sort of diversity and inclusion efforts in the workplace and community is your team working on to help support, attract and retain talent to this region?

SOC: To remain competitive, businesses must evolve and adapt by creating strategies that maximize the potential of all employees. When everyone contributes and feels valued, the company is positioned to succeed. Diversity and inclusion are big pieces of our business and culture. We are committed to creating an inclusive organization that reflects, embraces and leverages the diversity of our workplace, marketplace and community.

We’ve created six business resource groups (BRG) that operate as inclusive networks of employees who leverage personal knowledge and experiences to enhance professional growth, promote cultural competency and positively impact the organization's bottom line. Also, we partner with community agencies, regional job networks and local colleges and universities to identify and attract diverse talent.

PUM: Highmark is recognized as a "Diversity Leader." What makes your company a leader in this arena?

SOC: Highmark uses its diverse employee population to better inform services that will make a positive impact on business performance. At Highmark, success has involved the BRGs. Through these groups, Highmark is able to gain special insights into consumer needs by generation, culture, gender, orientation and race. In the past, BRGs have helped the company by providing multilingual support at our retail store locations, which is a big advantage in the marketplace.

PUM:   As one of the top leaders in this region, what is some of the advice you share with your team about accomplishing and setting goals?

SOC: As a diversity leader who is passionate about the positive impact of diversity and inclusion, I urge my team to continually align activities and initiatives with our business strategy, while setting measurable, realistic goals in partnership with the business. We are constantly talking about gaining and maintaining sponsorship for success at all levels of the organization. By doing so, we send a strong message that diversity and inclusion really does matter. It provides the company with a competitive edge.

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