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Blue Shield of California CEO Paul Markovich on Fostering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Markovich and other industry leaders gave the keynote at last week’s Insurance Diversity Summit.

Companies of all sizes need diversity, equity and inclusion strategies — ones that are designed to drive meaningful, sustainable change inside and outside of an organization. To make this happen, leaders and employees at all levels must have a chance to share their perspectives and best practices on how they personally commit to diversity within their own companies.

A panel of industry leaders discussed this during the keynote at the Insurance Diversity Summit, hosted by the California Department of Insurance in Los Angeles last week.

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Paul Markovich, Ricardo Lara and Linda Akutagawa at the Insurance Diversity Summit keynote

The keynote panel included California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and Blue Shield of California President and CEO Paul Markovich, and was moderated by Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP) President and CEO Linda Akutagawa. The discussion came on the heels of Commissioner Lara’s announcement of the launch of the inaugural Insurance Diversity Index, a benchmarking tool that enables insurance company leaders and consumers to understand how companies are progressing in respect to their diversity and equity goals in three areas: supplier diversity, board diversity, and community impact investments. Blue Shield of California earned a GOLD distinction on the inaugural 2023 California Insurance Diversity Index — putting the organization among the top 14% of insurance companies appearing on the Index.

Lara and Markovich had a chance to discuss the intent of this tool, and to share some of the initiatives they lead and support within their own organizations.

Markovich outlined the two non-negotiables that Blue Shield leans on to promote a culture of diversity and inclusion. “This has to start at the top,” he said. “It must be an authentically felt value. People have to experience it as mattering deeply to the CEO and to the board. Second, you have to get the system to generate a good result. It may feel good to personally intervene and make something happen, but that is not sustainable.”

Markovich added that Blue Shield has defined clear three-, five-, and 10-year representation commitments to increase diversity across all levels of the organization as part of its diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. “To provide the best service for our members, our employees must reflect the diverse communities we serve,” shared Markovich. Now in year three, Blue Shield is currently on track with these commitments. He also highlighted the important role the Diversity Leadership Council — diverse executives across the organization responsible for the vision and accountability — plays in driving and supporting diversity initiatives within an organization, like employee resource groups, and the valuable feedback loop they provide to leadership. Over 43% of Blue Shield employees belong to at least one employee resource group.

“Our vision is to make Blue Shield of California everyone’s professional home,” Markovich said. “No matter your background, you should see people here that look like you, sound like you, and you can relate to them, and they seem happy doing what they’re doing.”

Along with promoting diversity and inclusion internally, Markovich noted that this also plays a large role in Blue Shield of California’s investments — both philanthropic investments and who the organization does business with. Over the last three years, Blue Shield has contributed over $97 million to support health equity and domestic violence prevention through the Blue Shield of California Foundation. On the business side, Blue Shield will not work with suppliers, partners or vendors who don’t hit certain standards in diversity.

“We don’t compromise on that,” he said. “We are not helping anybody by compromising on that standard.”

To close, Markovich shared his hopes for the future. While many organizations are pulling back on their diversity and equity commitments, Blue Shield’s focus remains a key driver in achieving the organization’s mission of creating a healthcare system worthy of family and friends that is sustainably affordable.

“I hope this is more broadly embraced, and I would encourage all of us to think about judging people on the merits of what they do and what they say,” Markovich said. “It’s also easy to stereotype corporate leaders, but we’re more than capable of helping, supporting and providing leadership. It’s going to take all of us working together and having that same mindset.”

To learn more about Blue Shield of California’s dedicated efforts to diversity, equity and inclusion, visit

To learn more about our Supplier Diversity program and how to participate, visit