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Updated: October 18, 2020 C-Suite Awards 2020

Sherry promotes diversity, helps lead COVID-19 response at Cigna

Wendy Sherry has taken on a new mission in the past year: intensifying her efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in corporate leadership.

As market president of health insurer Cigna Connecticut, Sherry has created discussion groups to help employees learn more about colleagues from different backgrounds.

“I am starting to learn how I can help our response in addressing systemic racism,” Sherry said. “One of the best ways to help us achieve our goals around diversity and inclusion is to be able to understand the perspectives of people who are not like you.”

Taking action to help diversify leadership is nothing new to Sherry, who has spent her 25 years at Cigna mentoring and coaching women in the executive ranks. She attributes her passion for helping others achieve success to the support she received on her way up the ranks at the Bloomfield-based insurance giant.

In addition to her post as Connecticut market president, Sherry also heads Cigna’s national payer solutions business unit, which sells the company’s services on a wholesale basis.

“I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve been able to achieve my career aspirations,” Sherry said. “It took a village to help me achieve these goals.”

Sherry has a business degree from Emory University and worked early in her career as a CPA at Ernst & Young, before joining Cigna as part of the company’s leadership program. Early stints in the company’s clinical operations helped her build her skills for more senior roles as vice president of product development and posts in financial analysis and planning and medical management.

“Cigna is at its best when we are clinically focused and delivering value for people who need us in trying times,” Sherry said. Additional posts in the products and solutions divisions helped her refine her approach to making major decisions on how to market the company’s services.

Prior to being named market president, Sherry served as Cigna’s COO for New England, allowing her to apply the management lessons she had learned “in the real world.”

“That was really instrumental experience in preparing me for the role I’m in now,” she said.

In her current roles, Sherry’s main focus is keeping costs down for Cigna’s clients.

“It’s really around driving affordability. I think we would all agree that healthcare costs are outpacing the price index and are becoming not only a challenge for employers, … but also a very significant challenge for individuals,” she said.

Along with affordability, healthcare costs need to be more predictable and easy to understand for both employers and employees, she added.

That’s why one of the first actions Cigna took after the COVID-19 pandemic hit was to reduce its administrative requirements for clients. In addition to securing safe workplaces for its own employees, the company moved quickly to expand coverage for telemedicine and ease rules on coverage in case of layoff or furloughs.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our response,” Sherry said. “Cigna really leaned into this COVID crisis to be there for folks.”

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