Amy Yao is senior vice president and chief actuary at Blue Shield of California. She joined the plan in 2006 and oversees the actuarial department and provides analytical support across the enterprise. Yao was recognized as one of the Most Influential Women in Business in 2014, 2015 and 2016 by the San Francisco Business Times.
Why health care?
I was introduced to the health care field by accident. When I graduated from the University of Connecticut, there were lots of insurance companies that were hiring. My first job was at Aetna, which is where I was introduced to the health care field. Today, I’m very glad I am in this industry. The most important thing is your health and without it you can’t do anything. It’s also a very exciting industry to be in because it’s so dynamic.
Who are women that inspire you?
I’m the type of person who wants to learn by observing others. I don’t just have one person that inspires me. It’s the women leaders that I interact with on a day-to-day basis that have the biggest impact. It’s women like Mary O’Hara and Kris Leslie, whom is a board member for Blue Shield of California. It’s inspiring to see how they conduct themselves and not only how smart they are, but that they are not afraid to speak their mind and weigh in on issues.
How can we/do you support the next generation of women leaders?
For me, it’s about returning the favor along the way. I received a lot of encouragement and feedback from women leaders and I believe that I have the same responsibility for the next generation. I have signed up for the mentor program and right now I’m mentoring a group of women, and I was one of the first people to join the Women’s Lead to Excellence Group at the company. Since I learned from other women leaders around me, I want to be a role model for the next generation as well.
What challenges do we still need to overcome to achieve equality?
A while back, I went to a CFO event where women leaders were invited to speak. The Dean of the Haas School of Business discussed a study that mentioned how career advancement comes down to your career gap. When some women start to have a family, there ends up being a gap in their career and that disruption can affect pay equity down the road. I appreciate what Blue Shield of California is doing in both paternity and maternity leave.
Women are still timid about standing up and raising our hands and taking a seat at the table. It’s really overcoming that fear and changing out mindset.
How has the Covid-19 outbreak changed/challenged the way you lead?
Covid-19 outbreak has reduced my capacity as a leader focusing on mentoring and developing
vision for the Actuarial team, but on the flip side, given me greater opportunities to see how Blue Shield, finance, and actuarial teams working together effectively responding to the crisis, the emphasis on great place to work and our people strategies have play a big role in Blue Shield’s success so far at dealing with Covid-19. I have always believed in extending trust when lead, now, I would like to bring it to another level going forward.