For Catherine Helaiem-Deslandes, AXA Group Diversity & Inclusion Lead, gender equality objectives in the workplace are simultaneously ethical – linked to social justice and the fight against all forms of discrimination – and economic – as attested by numerous studies that have shown that teams with diverse and complementary profiles are more innovative, more creative and more adapted to the current reality of the economic world.
In parallel to driving their gender equality goals, companies are now challenged by the impact of the academic orientations of recent years and a deficit of positive communication on some professional families. The challenge today is to feminize certain work trades without releasing the efforts engaged on the others. AXA Group's commitment to gender equality has been formalized through agreements with trade union organizations, charters for professional equality signed, and certification procedures (such as the “Egalité” label in France and EDGE certification in several countries). But we go beyond mere statements of intent and we take daily actions to keep progressing again and again in terms of gender equality and parity!
In fact, parity at AXA is considered a strategic objective, as AXA CEO Thomas Buberl recently reminded us, by announcing last November its ambition to reach gender parity among Group's Senior Executives (a community that brings together the Group's 150 top managers from around the world) by 2023. For Catherine, "going from 9% women among these leaders in 2009 to 29% in 2017 and then going even further can only happen with strong determination at all levels of the organization." This implies to involve a "combination of actions on all fronts. We have to make sure that all HR processes guarantee equal rights and opportunities, regarding access to employment, remuneration, training, mobility or promotion, and support of all initiatives and good practices.
As Emmanuel Touzeau, AXA Group Head of Communication and Brand notes, “communication is critical for showcasing the good practices we have put in place, in every country where we are present, whose aim is to foster a more inclusive culture. We must never underestimate the power of symbols and the need to highlight women's exemplary pathways or the initiatives taken to accelerate their development, which will help make many others understand that at AXA it’s possible.” In fact, at AXA, many programs already exist, primarily targeting women, designed to boost executive level parity. For example, we have the Sponsorship Tandem, a program for the Group’s female employees that identifies the most talented women in each business line and prepares them for management positions/ leadership positions.
Women are not the only gender equality actors in the business. Men also play a central role, as Emmanuel Touzeau reminds us: "Management positions are still predominantly occupied by men, and they are therefore the main drivers of change. We are fortunate to have many employees, men and women, engaged on the subject of gender equality and this is a real strength." Another initiative developed at AXA is Mix’iN Network, which promotes gender diversity within the Group, and which today brings together nearly 1,500 employees in France.
For Delphine Maisonneuve, P&C Retail and Frequency Claims Director at AXA France and founding co-chairwoman of Mix’iN, the benefits of diversity for a business organization no longer remain to be proven: “I am convinced that diversity, both from an ethical and a business perspective, brings wealth and enhanced performance to the company, its employees and its customers. The confrontation with professional reality reinforced my convictions and led me to commit myself to shake things up. First within my sphere of responsibility, and then I wanted to widen the scope of my engagement and enrich my understanding by investing beyond AXA on this topic. For almost two years, I have co-chaired Financi'elles, a federation of twelve networks promoting gender diversity in the banking, finance, and insurance sectors. Since 2016, I have also been chairing WoMen@AXA, the global in-house social network for Women and Men of AXA, aiming at promoting the exchange of good practices between other networks fostering diversity across the Group.” When we asked how networks promoting gender diversity can have an impact on gender equality at work, Delphine Maisonneuve emphasizes that they are a genuine accelerator because "they allow employees, women and men, to question their own convictions and actions, and to challenge their own barriers. Finally, such networks can be a real gold mine of information for human resources teams, putting forward good practices, needs and ideas."
Gender diversity within the AXA Group is an integral part of our long-term vision. Through global and local initiatives, conducted by our entities all over the world, we ensure that every employee has access to equal opportunities in their career in the company. This is made possible by governance that embodies our culture of Diversity and Inclusion, in every aspect of our business strategy.