Axa's Bertrand Poupart-Lafarge on why inclusion must not be to the detriment of the majority

Diversity hands up

  • Inclusion isn’t a rejection of meritocracy 
  • To succeed, gender, BAME and LGBT initiatives need to be supported by staff from majority backgrounds

Diversity and inclusion efforts must not be seen as something that is only for people from minority groups, explains Bertrand Poupart-Lafarge, chief financial officer and executive sponsor for diversity and Inclusion at Axa UK.

As employees of the insurance industry, we can agree on one thing: that we have a great opportunity to become more diverse and inclusive. The issue has never been as high on our agenda as it is now and the industry is giving serious thought to how it can improve its credentials.

At Axa UK, we are working hard to understand why we are not as diverse as the wider UK population and what we can do to improve on this. Our Diversity and Inclusion Board has been tasked with this question and a mission: to make our company a more inclusive, and ultimately a more diverse, place to work.

We need to make it crystal clear that inclusion is not to the detriment of those in the majority or a rejection of meritocracy; inclusion is something that benefits everybody as we are all different. The focus on diversity and inclusion isn’t about putting the needs of some groups above others. It’s about addressing our imbalances not just because it is the right thing to do but also because it makes sound business sense.

You’ll be glad to hear that like other companies we’ve already started on this journey with employee resource groups that focus on making our company more inclusive for women, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community, those with disabilities and working parents. Furthermore, last month we launched our first employee group focusing on the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities to help facilitate greater representation from an ethnic minority standpoint. It’s just a start, but we’ve seen great momentum and passion from across the business, and I’m confident that we’re heading in the right direction.

Employee resource groups and D&I are a good way to raise awareness, but are only a part of the solution. It is critical that diversity and inclusion is not seen as something that is only for people from minority groups.

Whether our initiatives focus on gender parity, BAME inclusion or the LGBT community, we need people of all backgrounds to give their backing. Receiving the support from those who don’t consider themselves to be part of any minority groups, and instead form the majority, is key to make progress on inclusivity.

Much of the industry focus in 2018 so far has been on gender parity. Along with others we’ve reported our gender pay gap figures (we have a median pay gap of 17%) and have set our sights on having women in 40% of our senior jobs by 2020, which is all part of our commitment to the Women in Finance Charter. We’ve got a lot planned to help get us there, from leadership development programmes to unconscious bias training, and while we do have some work to do, I’m looking forward to seeing the progress we make.

Diversity and inclusion is about all of us working together to ensure that there are no barriers to professional progress, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, different abilities or social background.

As executive sponsor for D&I at Axa UK, ensuring we try our upmost to create such an environment is the top of my agenda. After all, without all of us working together, can we ever really consider ourselves inclusive?

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