2016 Diversity & Inclusion Awards: Diversity & Inclusion Leaders

Winner: Catherine Hernandez-Blades, Aflac

With a diverse customer base, Aflac strives to mirror this diversity within its workforce and, in turn, effectively communicate the value diversity brings to the company. Catherine Hernandez-Blades is a driving force in promoting Aflac’s diversity among employees, customers, partners, stakeholders and potential candidates. Hernandez-Blades organized a media blitz to help tell the story of Aflac’s diversity to a larger audience. She skillfully pitched two African American executives to discuss the company’s overall diversity on national television and in top-tier media. She obtained major news coverage that highlighted the executives as Aflac’s first African American women to reach their respective positions, as well as the company’s diverse workforce comprised of 67 percent women and 40 percent minorities.

Hernandez-Blades developed strategies to measure return on Aflac's reputation and implemented these within her department. Aflac’s corporate communications team uses modeling technology and hard data to shape and implement strategies to drive communications messaging and distribution, ultimately helping achieve measurable return on reputation results. This places a focus on often-overlooked areas like diversity, corporate philanthropy and other aspects of CSR frequently viewed as add-ons rather than necessary aspects of business planning. For her commitments to promoting diversity in the workplace through her partnership with Aflac’s diversity and inclusion department and the LAGRANT Foundation, Hernandez-Blades received the National Diversity Council’s 2015 Most Powerful & Influential Woman Award. This award is given to women who have not only achieved personal success, but have also made it possible for others to more easily follow in their footsteps.