Dawn Frazier-Bohnert had a vision — and sprung to action. As the first-ever global diversity & inclusion officer at Liberty Mutual Insurance, Frazier-Bohnert is working with a supportive team of senior leaders to challenge the status quo and make Liberty more inclusive than ever. And so far, she’s seeing results.
With the help of their women and allies employee resource group (one of six in a strong network of ERGs), the company expanded its parental leave benefits to 16 weeks for all parents. They also have strong gender and race and ethnicity collaboration initiatives. But Frazier-Bohnert’s not stopping there. She says that while the insurance industry is perceived as slow to change, many aspects of it are changing all the time — and she’s up to the challenge.
Liberty wins awards for Frazier-Bohnert’s non-stop efforts. So, how does she make it all happen? We talked to the leader about her career path, how she’s turning visions into a reality and how she’s overcome the challenges that come with being the first in her role.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I have been at Liberty Mutual Insurance for over six years. Prior to joining Liberty, I was chief administrative officer and partner at Global Novations, a Korn/Ferry International Company. There, I developed their human capital strategy and led their post-merger company culture efforts. Before employment with Global Novations, I was at The Gillette Company as vice president, global diversity and inclusion, where I developed and led their Global Diversity Strategic Plan. I have also held HR leadership positions at Lotus/IBM, Fidelity Investments and Millennium Pharmaceuticals.
You’re the first Global Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Liberty Mutual. Describe what that’s been like.
Before I was hired, diversity and inclusion efforts were happening, but there wasn’t an enterprise-wide strategy. I saw the need for a holistic D&I strategy that would reach all areas of the business: here in the U.S. and, eventually, globally. I was excited at the opportunity to set my own course and build a foundation in D&I for the whole company. I also enjoyed the partnership of senior leaders who were committed to strengthening diversity and inclusion. With their support, we have been able to execute on a new vision for Liberty.
What’s the biggest challenge you faced being the first Global Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Liberty?
Coming in and creating an effective diversity and inclusion strategy is a challenge at any company. I don’t think it’s a secret that the insurance industry is perceived as generally conservative and slow to change. But, like other industries, insurance is experiencing shifting demographics and advances in technology with the rise in AI and machine learning. This created the motivation to want to change… and quickly! Our customers required it.
But change doesn’t happen overnight — particularly for an industry that’s regulated and traditionally risk averse. And Liberty is a hundred-year-old Fortune 100 insurance company with nearly 50,000 people in 30 countries! I needed a plan that would further develop, lift and take D&I across the organization. I had questions like: how could a large, global company meet the different needs of a diverse customer base, while simultaneously strengthening the work environment so that all employees feel welcome? How could my team connect with employees in different locations who are at various stages of their D&I journey?
How has your company been particularly supportive and helped you overcome this challenge?
I am fortunate to work with senior leaders who understand that for a D&I strategy to be successful, change is required on both the individual and institutional levels. From the beginning, they were open to trying new approaches that required challenging the status quo.
With their support, as well as the efforts of our Employee Resource Groups, we’ve been able to create new policies and programs that strengthen our company’s work environment. For example, working with our benefits department, our women and allies ERG — [email protected] — succeeded in expanding our parental leave benefits to 16 weeks for all parents. That was exciting to see!
We’ve also had great interest from our senior leaders and others in our gender collaboration and Men as Allies initiative. We held a summit and invited 450 men and women to learn skills to work together more effectively. We’re still building on the momentum we created from that event. We have more to do as we continue our gender collaboration work, and it’s been a good foundation for our race and ethnicity collaboration initiative.
These efforts are paying off. For the past two years, we were named a Forbes Best Place to Work for Women and for Diversity and have consistently earned a 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. Our LGBTQ+ and allies ERG, [email protected], has been a key partner in achieving that score.
How is the sense of support you’ve felt reflective of Liberty’s overall culture?
One of the reasons I knew I could take on this role is that Liberty’s culture is rooted in such strong values. For instance, we believe in putting people first by treating everyone with dignity and respect. We strive to be open and willing to look at things differently so that we can make the changes we want to see. I knew our D&I work would align well with these values and bring them to life for all.
What initially drew you to Liberty? What’s one of the most amazing things about your workplace that you didn’t learn until working there?
Before I joined the company, I didn’t understand the insurance industry and didn’t think it was very exciting! As I’ve gotten to learn the business, I’ve been amazed at the many facets of the industry. We are working in the service of others, to protect them when the unexpected happens. There is a great deal of humanity and empathy required in fulfilling our promise to our customers. It’s also exciting to see the innovations in technology over the last several years. The insurance industry has dramatically changed over time and Liberty continues to evolve along with it.
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
The advice given to me is also the advice I give others: even in the face of a challenge, keep moving forward. Push yourself with the fear. You can seek out mini-safe harbors to stop and recharge and connect with others for support — but definitely keep moving!
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