SVP, Human Resources, Aetna, Inc., Hartford, Conn.
With more than 20 years of human resour-ces and management experience, Aetna’s Elease E. Wright has spearheaded major organizational and cultural changes in the firm and was part of a senior leadership team that has brought about a dramatic turnaround for the company. A graduate of the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s in education and further studies in women and leadership at Stanford University, Wright is senior vice president of human resources at Aetna, one of the nation’s largest health-care insurers. Her responsibilities include guiding human resources management in such areas as leadership, organizational effectiveness, selection, compensation, employee practices and communications.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure,” she says, quoting from former South African President Nelson Mandela’s 1994 inaugural speech. Those words are her mantra for motivation, she explains.
None other than her parents ingrained her work ethic and integrity in her, she says. “I can’t remember a day that my father, formerly a New York postmaster, took off from work. His dedication and commitment to his profession and the people he worked with made a lasting impression on me and set the bar that I strive to live by today,” she says.
That ethic carries over into Wright’s community service. She is a member of the board of directors of the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, of the board of advisers of the University of Connecticut School of Business and of Cornell University’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies. She is also a past president of the Hartford Region YWCA board of directors.
Wright is married to Dana Wright who, she says, often puts her needs before his. “He even backed away from his own business at one point and instead took responsibility for our involvement with our children’s school, even becoming PTO president for a time. I couldn’t have reached my current level of success without him.”
Nor, perhaps, without Bongi Magubane, a friend and colleague at work who always told her the truth with respect to career, she says.