Joelle Hayes, second vice president, diversity, at Travelers, had at one point aspired to become U.S. secretary of education. A public-policy and educational-studies major at Brown University, Hayes wrote her thesis on the impact desegregation had on the education system.
“How I ended up in the diversity space [is] not that much of a departure,” says the senior diversity executive. “My entire career has been focused on being a voice and advocating for individuals who may not have a voice themselves.”
In 1996, Hayes got her start at Wesleyan University as director of multicultural programs. “At that time, the campus did not have an affirmative-action program … so I had the opportunity to actually craft the diversity strategy,” she says. Hayes then moved to INROADS, helping to develop and place talented students from underrepresented groups in jobs, where she built a tremendous network of recruiting colleagues. Since starting at Travelers nearly three years ago, Hayes continues to draw on those relationships for best practices and “to build a pipeline of diverse talent.”
As part of Travelers’ educational-access initiative, for instance, Hayes serves as an executive mentor to a student in Capital Community College. Internally, Hayes has also piloted a diversity educational program, which will be rolled out to all 33,000 employees over three years “to help them explore their own attitudes toward difference, engage with everyone and experience and learn to become diversity change agents.”
Hayes was given Brown University’s Young Alumni Service Award for being a positive role model to students.
To see this article as it originally appeared in the January/February 2010 issue of DiversityInc magazine, click here.