What Makes a Diversity and Inclusion Champion?

A Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Champion turns talk into action. They are dedicated to supporting an accessible and inclusive environment, creating a diverse workforce that showcases the value of employees with disabilities. Len Beasley, Senior Accessibility Designer for Aetna, a CVS Health Company, is such a person.

When Aetna’s product design team decided they needed a leader on their team who had the background and passion for creating accessible products, they turned to Len. Len was instrumental in bringing in BIT candidates to help with their accessibility needs. With the team already impassioned for integrating accessibility into all its products and designs, they were quick to jump on what BIT had to offer. To date, of the six blind or visually impaired professionals brought into the Aetna fold, five have converted into full time employees, one of whom is now Len’s boss. “I love what she’s going to get done in 2020,” says Len.

The success of the team has inspired Aetna executives, who are now leading the charge in promoting accessibility and inclusion on teams from the top down. Their support has helped with budgeting and ensuring the product design team is consulted when integrating accessibility into all products. 

In true Champion fashion, Len was surprised and humbled by the award. “I wasn’t intentionally out to produce big results,” remarks Len, “I was trying to solve smaller problems because they were important to people I know.”

While Len was wondering “Why me?”, Mike thought it was an easy choice. “It takes someone to have a lot of sometimes uncomfortable conversations with all levels of a corporation,” says Mike, “It was refreshing to see someone like Len who was willing to continuously have those conversations about the value the BVI employees were bringing to the workplace and the products they are designing.” Len’s words of reflection after winning the award are a good lesson for other leaders. “I’ve thought a lot about it over the last year as I go about business and I’ve realized a couple of things: little things go a long way. A simple comment in a meeting can be built on to include more people in the work to make everything better – even if the meeting isn’t about D&I. Truly changing a culture to be more D&I, needs diverse people in your work weekly. There are way too many benefits to list – but not having them in your work means you’re missing something vital to whatever your doing and is often seen as lip service to your team members and your customers.”