I first discovered AXA’s ambition for gender diversity at the very beginning of my Great Global Adventure, visiting the global headquarters in Paris. It was clear from the start that there were many different #WomenatAXA initiatives being implemented around the world, so I was eager to use my time with AXA to investigate and report on these projects.
Chatting with Marine De Boucaud while in the US was a great place to begin as she attended the 2016 WoMen’s Conference. She explained how at each WoMen’s Conference participants are responsible for taking the concepts discussed back to their entities to proactively discuss and create ideas that cater to their own office’s unique culture and environment. These ideas could cover mentoring, sponsorship, networking circles, recruitment, Employee Resource Groups or education and awareness – and entities can implement initiatives that will be most effective to their own office.
For example, during my visit to Sao Paulo I chatted with Fernanda Cortese, Henriqueta Furtado and Luciana Giannini about how AXA Brazil has been very conscious of gender diversity through their recruitment process. They found that being a relatively young entity, creating a pipeline of female leadership through recruitment is particularly effective at this stage of their entity progression.
Along with local initiatives, there are also projects that run globally. For example, during this year’s International Women’s Day, employees from around the world got involved in the AXA #BeBoldForChange campaign on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Employees shared stories, anecdotes and personal experiences in relation to gender equality using the campaign hashtag. The response and engagement to this campaign showcased the global support for the #WomenAtAXA movement within the company.
Supporting Women in Need
It became apparent very quickly that AXA’s dedication to gender equality goes beyond their company policy and attitude – it is something embedded in their commitment to community action. Many of AXA’s philanthropic pursuits are founded in female empowerment. To name just a few - Dress For Success Scholarships, She’s Back, Global Invest Her and Where The Rain Falls (India), specifically address issues facing women around the world whether that be through education, health or financial freedom.
Beyond partnering with charities that are committed to gender equality, the AXA Research Fund supports women, who are in turn supporting other women. While in Cape Town I had the chance to interview one of the research fund recipients, Kenyan scientist Nadia Chanzu.
Every year in South Africa, nearly 250,000 HIV exposed uninfected infants are born. Prematurity is also a leading cause of child deaths in South Africa. It is time for us to change our focus to the quality of life of children born to HIV infected mothers.
Listening to how AXA facilitates this passionate and talented young woman to help HIV infected women and their children was extremely inspiring and one of the highlights of my Great Global Adventure to date.
Women leading the way
Having the chance to talk to female senior leaders opened my eyes to the ways that AXA ensures that gender representation is embedded at all levels of the company. A few weeks ago I interviewed AXA UK CEO Amanda Blanc, who discussed her career progression and the difficulties that women face in the finance industry in particular.
Interview with AXA UK CEO Amanda Blanc about #WomenAtAXA.
Amanda shared a really interesting anecdote from her experience as a mentor. She found that when looking at the list of competencies in job descriptions, women will often focus on one particular qualification that they do not meet. In contrast she finds men, will feel qualified for a job if they meet six out of ten competencies. As a female about to enter my early career, I found this to be a revealing observation as to the expectations women place on themselves during their career and it is something that I will keep in mind for my own future.
The collaboration and discussion of such observations is really important in fostering female leadership and during the Great Global Adventure I have been exposed to the ways AXA cultivates an environment where women in management roles are encouraged to share their knowledge with other women in the workforce.
The road to equal opportunity also requires the efforts of both genders. AXA US CEO Mark Pearson shared his experiences being involved in the AXA Sponsorship Tandem during an interview conducted at the end of my first internship in Manhattan. He emphasized the importance of having more female representation in senior management and how this can be amended through the impact of sponsorship: “It’s different to mentoring… sponsoring is taking it to the next level… It is much more active.”
Women in the Marketplace
AXA’s approach to gender equality isn’t just about employees, leadership teams and charitable partnerships – it’s about AXA customers as well. While visiting AXA UK in London I had the pleasure of meeting Aude Saint-Paul and Anne Vigoroux. Aude and Anne shared with me how AXA is working towards being a company that leads the way for protection solutions and opportunities for women.
Take the SheForShield report for example – a first of its kind. It highlights the fact that while women consumers have an appetite for protection, are less prone to fraud, more loyal customers and willing to advocate good services – they are currently underserved and underleveraged in the insurance industry. I was really impressed by the willingness of AXA to acknowledge the room for improvement and the eagerness to address the issues that this report uncovered. It’s this kind of transformative mindset that will be necessary for gender equality aspirations to be realised in the future.
I am now six months into the Great Global Adventure and have had the pleasure of meeting employees from around the world who are passionate about celebrating, supporting and leveraging women at AXA. The attitudes that underpin this company create an environment that, as a female student about to enter my early career, I am proud to be a part of. As a global organisation, AXA is setting a clear example as a company of the future that is dedicated to gender equality.
Make sure to check out the @greatglobaladventurer Instagram account for interview excerpts from my office visits and my latest travel photos!
Until next time,