Karima Silvent Chief Human Resources Officer

"Improving gender parity is today one of the objectives set for our CEOs"

March 8 is International Women’s Day. This is not exactly a celebration day but it represents an opportunity to remind that there is still room for progress to reach equal rights for women and men across the world. At AXA, we have taken actions over the last decade to increase gender equality in the workplace. We met Karima Silvent, Global Human Resources Director at AXA, to find out more.
Mar 11, 2019

What is at stake for you as Group Head of Human Resources?

It's very important for two reasons. First one, as a global insurer, we have a key role to play in society, and advancing gender equality is fundamental for societal progress. At AXA, we believe we have a duty to set an example when dealing with women in business. That’s why we support women entrepreneurs, we invest in women's health, and we defend women's education to name some of our strategic orientations.

Second reason, it’s a question of performance and fairness. We want to transform our business to partner with our customers, responding more, better and faster to evolving needs. To achieve this objective, we need more diversity among our employees because it leads us to think and interact differently within the company and to better understand the changes the society and customers face. To succeed in our transformation journey and for our business performance, we need more diversity and inclusion. The more our workforce reflects the diversity of our markets, the more we will become partners to our customers.

How do you measure our progress towards gender equality?

I believe we made concrete progress on these past years, especially in consistently bringing more women to the top. But clearly the level we have reached among our executive population last year is not enough and we need to continue acting better and faster.

You have certainly observed that legislation is gradually being passed in several countries, especially in Europe – United-Kingdom last year, France this year on measurement of gender pay gap and I wanted also to share a comment on this point. It’s a good thing as above the measures and KPIs we were already taking and following internally it will help us track progress and compare to others and be very transparent about it.

We recently published those results in the UK for the second year. In France we published last week a gender pay index for 3 of our businesses. The results were at 95/100 for AXA Investment Managers, 92/100 for AXA France and 72/100 for AXA Services. What does it tell us ? It shows that some of our past efforts are paying off because we are relatively well positioned in the sector for two of our major businesses, less for the third one but we are taking measures to improve. However, this shows also we need to continue our efforts and track progress around this.

What do you focus on for progress?

We must continue our effort at the top management level, this is for sure; and this past year I can ensure that was our key focus. I have no doubt we will succeed in getting a better representation of women among our top leadership because we have drove many initiatives and we are seeing the first results and more essentially because leaders at the top are serious about it. We have 30% women in our top management, which is a significant improvement compared to 9% in 2009, and now we have the ambition of reaching parity by 2023. Last year, among CEOs appointed, a significant number of them were women both promoted internally or recruited externally. I think of Olga Sanchez at AXA Spain, Sally O’Hara at Krungthai-AXA Life, Delphine Maisonneuve at AXA Brazil, Tracy Garrad at AXA PPP. We also have women in finance who are holding positions of high responsibility such as Chief Financial Officer in AXA UK, AXA Belgium and AXA HK. For me ensuring we have even more women on business and finance roles is absolutely essential, not only in communications or human resources where women are more represented.

How did you accelerate on promoting gender equality?

We are increasingly vigilant when it comes to recruitment and promotion, so that we progress in terms of bringing more women to the top. We are balanced with a 50% men and 50% women approach in mind. We are now making sure that our recruitment process includes as many women as men: we strive to have 50% women and 50% men candidates in our internal and external recruitment processes as well as a balanced representation of women and men among the recruitment people.

In the logic of "Empowerment", progressing in terms of gender parity is today one of the objectives set for our CEOs. We believe in KPIs and measurements, because they are important and that’s the reason why we are reinforcing them. We need also to keep progressing on other dimensions, and go beyond gender diversity - although it is an important component of diversity - pushing for progress on social and cultural background, sexual orientation, etc., is a necessity.

Our development programs drive also gender-equality. The Sponsorship Tandem Program, launched at Group level and, also cascaded across several entities, is dedicated to women and is now open to men, and aims at identifying the most talented women and men - within each business unit - and preparing them for senior management roles with the sponsorship of top senior leaders.

Tags: Life at AXA