We gathered employee benefits experts for a thought-provoking event in Paris

On 6 June we welcomed clients, consultants and employee benefits (EB) experts to Etoile in Paris for our Women at Work event. Hosted at the beautiful Comet venue, with the Eiffel Tower glittering in the sun, we couldn’t have asked for a more inspiring location to talk about women in the workplace – the past, the present and the future. 

Not only was the location perfect, but the timing of the event was fitting too. As well as celebrating the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, on 3 June it was revealed that no country in the world is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030. That is according to the SDG Gender Index developed by Equal Measures 2030, the first index to measure progress against a set of internationally agreed targets.[1] We know there is still lots of work to be done in terms of gender equality globally and one of the most discussed topics around equality is equal pay and equal opportunities in the workplace.

Therefore, we were delighted to welcome Maria Morris as our keynote speaker to talk about exactly that. Currently a Board Member at Wells Fargo and S&P Global, and formerly an Executive Vice President – Head of Global Employee Benefits and Global Relationship Management at MetLife, Maria shared stories from her career and talked about how she helped to create a more gender balanced culture in MetLife. Her speech emphasised the different roles women play in business and focused on five key themes:

  • creating followership around a purpose
  • having strong values
  • leading with heart
  • building connected relationships
  • showing self-discipline.

Maria’s experience, passion and enthusiasm for a topic so close to her heart was clear as she inspired the room with her stories from her past and gave ideas for building a future with equal opportunities.

Our next guest Wema Hoover, Global Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Sanofi, joined us for a Q&A session and shared information on the initiatives Sanofi is leading to improve gender equality. They have set up the ‘Women & Access to Health Daring Circle’ to provide concrete support for start-ups that are improving and promoting women’s access to health. 

Wema talked about Sanofi’s own commitments to gender equality with its goal to have a 50/50 gender split in its leadership team by 2025.   The company has put in place a variety of leadership and development programmes to help nurture their most talented female employees and enable them to reach their full potential. It was fascinating to hear about a concrete example of the commitment a multinational employer has made to address their gender gap in leadership. 

The thought-provoking afternoon ended with a panel session on the future of women in the workplace and the role employee benefits can play. Here were some of the key takeaways.

  • Karen de Paoli, Global Benefits Practice Leader at Aon France, explained some of the key changes in the employee benefits market, with many policies and benefits relating to maternity and pre and post-natal care being implemented.
  • Ayçe Nisancioglu, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant at Mercer, said that educating business leaders to understand specific issues that impact women in the workplace, such as the menopause, is vitally important.
  • Liza Garay-de Vaubernier, Head of Women’s Market at AXA, spoke about how AXA has developed its service offering to women as they tend to live longer and face a variety of gender specific health problems.
  • Benedicte Bernaux, Research Business Partner in Health at AXA Research Fund, followed on the same theme, talking about the specific projects AXA Research Fund have supported, including research into lower back pain during pregnancy and specific cardiovascular diseases suffered by women.
  •  Nicola Fordham, Director of Underwriting at MAXIS GBN, talked about how MetLife Brazil have started offering underwriting discounts to gender diverse companies as evidence suggests they represent a better risk.

The session ended with each of the panellists sharing the advice they would give to a young woman entering the world of work for the first time.  You will be able to find their advice, other key discussions from the day and our own research on this topic in the July Viewpoint. Look out for it here.

Thanks to everyone who attended the event and shared their passion and enthusiasm for the subject over cocktails and canapes. And a huge thanks to all our speakers for such an engaging, insightful event.