As vice president of Corporate Citizenship, Antoinette Mayer leads Blue Shield of California’s efforts to become an industry leader in corporate social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and corporate reputation. In 2019, Antoinette and her team launched the BlueSky initiative to support youth mental health throughout California.
What brought you to Blue Shield?
My path has been non-linear: I started out in the financial world, working on executive compensation. It was during the “Occupy Wall Street” protests against the “one-percenters” in New York’s Financial District when I started wondering how I could better use my talents to create meaningful change.
I came to Blue Shield of California in 2013. Joining the compensation team with the aim that I could one day pivot to philanthropy and social responsibility. Blue Shield’s commitments to career mobility and to giving back to the community were a big draw for me. Long story short, the stars eventually aligned and in 2016 the right job opened on the Corporate Citizenship team. I jumped at the opportunity. At the time, we were a team of two who focused primarily on employee giving and volunteering. Seven years later, I’m proud to say we have grown our Citizenship team – and our company – into a force for equity and social and environmental change.
Who is a woman that inspires you and why?
Many women inspire me. What they all have in common is that they have broken down barriers, opened doors for other women, and been voices for change. We need people with diverse perspectives and lived experiences to inform policies. That’s why it’s critical to have women – particularly women of color – in executive board rooms. And once we are there, I believe in using power and privilege for social good.
What is an example of a recent, transformative accomplishment by your team that is making an impact on health care? How has it impacted those who did not have access to those services before?
In 2019, our Corporate Citizenship team launched our BlueSky youth mental health initiative. Together with collaborators in government and the nonprofit sector, we have been increasing mental health care access and equity for LGBTQ+ youth and youth of color. We know kids want to talk to people who look like them and are culturally aware. Because 90% of mental health professionals are white, we have been increasing the diversity of providers.
Just in the last year, we’ve seen a 16% improvement in the mental health strengths of the youth from marginalized communities that BlueSky has served. Mental health strengths reflect three critical and inter-related areas: social (how they relate to others), emotional (how they feel), and behavioral (how they act).
While we are still fighting a national youth mental health crisis, it’s promising to see the improvements and focus in this space. Stigma is being reduced, kids are expressing themselves, and we’re seeing improved outcomes in school. I’m really proud of our team.
Looking ahead, what is the most important work your team will do this year to advance Health Reimagined?
To reimagine health, we need to reimagine Blue Shield’s environmental impacts. There is so much opportunity to address the climate crisis. The healthcare sector is charged with protecting people and doing no harm. Yet, we are responsible for 4.5% of the world’s emissions which deeply impact people’s health. Blue Shield has the opportunity to serve as a leader in this space, and we are mobilizing to drive real impact both within our operations and across the healthcare industry. To that end, we are reducing energy associated with our facilities, partnering with our suppliers to identify ways to decarbonize, and examining virtual care and other climate smart models of care.
The climate crisis is a big, existential threat, and there is urgency. Without driving down emissions, we are going to see more health problems caused by climate change. There is so much to learn and do, and it is an area where I see the opportunity for Blue Shield to drive greater efficiency and innovation.
What’s most exciting to you about the future of the healthcare industry?
If you don’t have your health, you can’t find happiness or fulfill your purpose. But not everyone has equitable access to health care and creating that equity has become central to Blue Shield’s mission. It’s humbling to be part of the team that is driving that change. I’m surrounded by people who recognize our responsibility to the community, and I couldn’t be prouder to work for a company that values standing for what’s right.