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Jessica Hardy, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at AXA UK, discusses the importance of treating D&I as a marathon, rather than a sprint, by being patient and making changes that future proof your organisation.
For those of you who know me, you will know that I’m keen runner. I love to put my trainers on at the end of the day and go for a run – nothing major, just a few miles at a steady pace. You may be thinking, ‘what on earth has this got to do with D&I?’, however since becoming D&I Manager for AXA UK in September 2017, I have not only run a marathon but also learned that the journey to inclusion isn’t a sprint, but a marathon itself.
Most organisations know that D&I is no longer just a ‘nice thing’ to have, but the key to creating a workplace which attracts and retains great talent. The hard thing many organisations are learning, however, is that you can’t transform a culture and take everyone with you overnight. This is why in the Insurance Diversity Forum the word “slow burn” is used a lot!
AXA UK has been making steady progress on its D&I journey for a couple of years now. In that time, we have become Stonewall champions, a disability confident employer, signed the Women in Finance Charter and started to collect ethnicity data from our employees. All these things are helping us become a diverse and inclusive company. However, the one thing most Diversity and Inclusion professionals ponder greatly over is the speed of this change.
That’s why I always remind people that you have to be patient and make changes that are future-proofing your organisation. For instance, you can achieve your Women in Finance Charter target, but if you haven’t made a genuine culture change where D&I is prevalent in everything you do, then it’s likely you will start to revert back.
Another thing which can’t be forgotten is inclusion. I have seen, on occasion, where so much focus has been given to tackling underrepresentation that inclusion has been overlooked. While this can lead to the recruitment of a more diverse workforce, you may find that many of these people quickly leave as they don’t feel included. One of my favourite D&I sayings is “diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance”. Inclusion requires raising awareness and really hammering home that different people working together makes both teams and businesses stronger.
Last year we launched our “We’re AXA” campaign, which celebrates how we all bring something different to work and that we are all unique. We featured ten AXA roles models both internally and externally, which included:
We are now looking to launch a second campaign later this year, which I am very excited about.
One final note from me to all the D&I professionals out there: keep going with the marathon because I’m sure that when you get the point where D&I is at the heart of your organisations, you will feel elated! For everyone who has kindly taken the time to read this, please support all the D&I activities in your organisations and wider society as I truly believe DIFFERENT +TOGETHER =STRONGER.