Legal Departments Of The Year: Emphasis On Diversity Helps Cigna's Culture And Customers
"You are different. We support that."
Insurance giant Cigna, which has one of its two main offices in Bloomfield, stands behind the words on its website with a legal department devoted to diversity.
After all, the Fortune 500 company provides policies for customer from all walks of life. And so it makes sense to get a broad range of perspectives from its employees, says General Counsel Nicole Jones.
Of the seven top positions in the department's leadership team — located in both Connecticut and Philadelphia — are four women and two minorities. Overall, the legal department has 76 attorneys. Of that total, 44 are women and 56 minorities (counting both men and women), including African American, Asian and Latino.
The legal department handles a variety of matters, offering corporate leaders advice on government compliance, general business, public policy and tax and investment law, as well as handling litigation.
"I embody diversity. I'm African American," Jones said. "You want to feel like you can create an opportunity for someone else to blossom, so let's create that opportunity," Jones said. "People who come from diverse backgrounds might not understand the [potential opportunities] in front of them. It benefits the corporation by enriching the culture and the company's perspective and also, for me, it's a chance to create the opportunities that people were nice enough to create for me."
That commitment has earned Jones, and CIGNA, the Diversity Award in the Law Tribune's 2013 Legal Departments of the Year competition.
One of Jones' first opportunities came when she was cutting her teeth in the legal business. She recalls the kindness of an older law firm partner who pushed her to write better and taught her to be solely responsible for her work. Another time, she was given a chance to prove her mettle after interviewing at a telecommunications company for a job that required 20 years of experience. Jones had eight.
"I wasn't the number one candidate, but people took risks on me and that's tremendous," Jones said. "I found that all through my career."