GBA Changemakers Explain Why They #EngageforBalance

Thursday 7th March 2019

In honor of International Women’s Day,
GBA asked C-Suite changemakers from
across our global membership to
discuss how they are engaging within
their own institutions and the GBA
network to #BalanceforBetter inclusion
of women – from financial inclusion
in their countries of operation to
internal diversity and inclusion within
their organizations. Read on to learn
how top executives from four leading
members #EngageforBalance, and
follow us on TwitterFacebook,
LinkedIn and Instagram for additional
insights and inspirational messages
from the C-Suite in celebration of IWD.

Why and how have you engaged for greater gender balance, and what has been the impact for your organization and stakeholders?


ANN CAIRNS, VICE CHAIRMAN, MASTERCARD: Women are catalysts for growth, innovation and social change, and they are key to unlocking stronger, more sustainable economies. When women control finances they tend to invest more in their families and communities – including education, healthcare and entrepreneurship. Removing barriers to their inclusion and participation in the global economy isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s also the best thing to do for business.

At Mastercard, we want all employees to feel valued, respected and have the opportunity to reach their full potential. One practical thing the company has done is standardize paternity and maternity leave globally. Statistics from 2017 showed 70 percent of the leave available to men was taken up – showing it’s becoming a global cultural norm. We also recruit from diverse candidate slates across all levels of the organization: 40 percent of our staff are women and 55 percent of university hires last year were women. But there is always more to do.


Ulrike Decoene GBA BoardULRIKE DECOENE, GROUP HEAD OF COMMUNICATIONS AND BRAND, AXA:Women are an important driver of today’s global economy, gaining more and more purchasing power every day. They represent more than half of all global graduates, are a larger part of the workforce than ever before, and make the majority of financial and health decisions for their families and households. However, they are systematically overlooked and under-protected when it comes to insurance, and often lack specific products and services that meet their unique needs. This “protection gap” occurs all over the globe, in emerging and mature markets.

At AXA, we wanted to change this situation and ensure that both women and men feel their needs are being taken into consideration, whether it is as employees or customers. For the latter, we created the Women in Insurance initiative – a 360-degree approach aimed at increasing women’s access to insurance products and services that respond to their needs and expectations.

Our strategy to capture a larger share of the Women’s Market is closely linked to the way we are transforming our business model. Thanks to our Women in Insurance initiative, women are now a primary focus in all areas of our global strategy. As we shift our business model from simply acting as an insurer to our customers to becoming their most trusted partner, we are eager to empower women throughout their lives. We’re standing by them during key life moments like pregnancy, caregiving of their elderly parents and/or launching a business. We are also adapting to their specific needs in health and entrepreneurship, which are key priorities for us. Our goal is to become the preferred insurance partner for women.

Becoming a trusted partner of our present and future female customers also means that we strive for parity within our own teams. This is why we are committed to creating a working environment that allows women to have the same opportunities in their career as men and to combine their aspirations with a healthy work-life balance. We were among the first companies to put in place a global parental leave for men and women across all our entities.


STEVEN PUIG, CEO, BANCO BHD LEON: We saw a tremendous opportunity to better serve our clients, improve our employees’ development and make an impact in our country consistent with our institution’s values. On the first front – our clients – we developed value propositions for our women clients in their roles as heads of households and business leaders. During our first 3 years we grew the number of women clients at a rate of 13 percent per annum (outpacing male clients’ growth by 30 percent), nearly doubled the number of products and services purchased and increased the number of products per female customer by 18 percent.  In short, we significantly exceeded the business case for our Mujer Mujer program.

On the second front – our employees – we became the first entity to receive our country’s Igualando RD certification. Igualando RD, developed in conjunction with UNPD, certifies that we are a gender-balanced institution in terms of our hiring, compensation, promotion and development practices. Essentially, we have taken gender into account in each of these dimensions. We implemented the first certified lactation centers for our employees, and recently we expanded paternity leave from the country’s regulatory 2 days to 10 days for new fathers at our bank. Conveying our respect for gender is essential for BHD León, as 62 percent of our employees, 64 percent of our managers and 50 percent of C-Suite direct reports are female.

On the third front – our stakeholders – we implemented Mujeres Que Cambian el Mundo (Women Who Change the World), an annual award recognizing unsung women heroes in our country. We were pleasantly surprised to see that it has become the second most anticipated annual event in our country after the Soberano awards, our country’s primary entertainment industry award. In addition to the general public’s recognition of our work, the government has amply recognized our institution. Our government has invited us to represent our private sector on the topic of gender balance in international forums with heads of state, we are now part of a nucleus of companies working with the president on implementing a national Gender Parity Initiative in conjunction with the World Economic Foundation and Inter-American Development Bank, and we just received an award from the Economic and Planning Ministry and Public Administration Ministry for the furtherment of SDG 5 (gender equality) in our country. Perhaps most importantly, our initiative has clearly demonstrated that BHD León lives by the values we celebrate – in this case doing the right thing. Two weeks ago we were recognized by Forbes as the only Dominican entity in the top 25 most admired companies in Central America and the Caribbean.


NADIA AL SAEED, CEO, BANK AL ETIHAD: Bank al Etihad has always had a fair and gender-conscious culture; women’s empowerment is part of our DNA. We understood early on that diversity and inclusion directly impacts our performance as an organization and our bottom line. Following the launch of Shorouq, our Women’s Market program, we worked on institutionalizing our D&I efforts and engaging with our employees in order to effect cultural change. Our organization is fair and merit based, we have no pay gap, we offer equal benefits to men and women (health care, insurance, flexible working hours, etc.), our nursery welcomes children of all employees, women get paid maternity leave, and a sexual harassment policy was put in place to guarantee zero tolerance. As a result, our organization today is considered an employer of choice, with 45 percent of our team being women and 56 percent of monthly job applications coming from women. Diversity has reflected positively on our brand image, proved to be a differentiator and increased our ability to innovate and think creatively while improving our customer service and bottom line.


What role can you and your organization play in advocating for women’s financial inclusion on a national and/or global level?


ANN CAIRNS, VICE CHAIRMAN, MASTERCARD: For a technology company like ours, innovation is in our DNA, and diversity and inclusion are business imperatives. I am so proud of the role we play in empowering women and girls around the world, whether it’s through our flagship Girls4Tech program that has inspired more than 185,000 girls around the world, our Jaza Duka program in Kenya which unlocks credit for female shop owners, or the work we do with governments around the world to link identity solutions with payments so that their citizens can be recognized, and also make and receive payments with greater transparency and security online – Mastercard is leading the way – and playing a critical and enabling role in helping to drive greater access and inclusion.


Ulrike Decoene GBA BoardULRIKE DECOENE, GROUP HEAD OF COMMUNICATIONS AND BRAND, AXA: As a leading global insurer with 160,000 employees and 105 million customers in over 60 countries, our mission is to empower people to live better lives. We can ensure that women are able to have their voices heard on issues that are important to them, have their views and needs considered when developing new offers. For example, in 2015, in partnership with the IFC and Accenture, we published a one-of-a-kind report, “SheforShield,” which looked at women’s attitudes toward insurance, as well as their needs and expectations. By shedding light on women’s protection gap, we continue to position women’s financial inclusion as a top priority in international discussions such as in the G7 or G20, and also encourage other players to join the movement.


STEVEN PUIG, CEO, BANCO BHD LEON: We have learned greatly from partners such as GBA, IFC, IDB and UN Women, as well as financial institutions in other parts of the world such as BLC Bank in Lebanon and Westpac in Australia. Having assimilated lessons from all of these and adapted them to our environment, we have in turn advocated for inclusion internationally by mentoring other banks and CEOs who are developing gender programs, speaking to other CEOs at bankers’ associations and international banking events such as FELABAN (the Federation of Latin American Banks), as well as other international business gatherings. The biggest challenge in advocacy for women’s financial inclusion is to convey the breadth of the opportunity to fellow presidents and CEOs. A successful gender program must have a business case (which is actually the easiest part to put together) and leadership from the top. A quick look at demographics and women’s growing role in the economy make this opportunity difficult to ignore.

We also advocate for financial inclusion through local partnerships. For example, we have teamed up with three universities to provide education and training to SME business owners and have tailored offerings to women-led businesses.


NADIA AL SAEED, CEO, BANK AL ETIHAD: Increasing financial inclusion in Jordan is strategic for the bank, the country and its GDP. Women-owned businesses represent 25 percent of businesses in Jordan, whereas only 5 percent are well served by the banking sector (a US$585 million financing gap), and only 27 percent of women in Jordan have access to financial institutions. At Bank al Etihad, we decided to take an active role and to be part of the solution. In 2014, we launched a full banking proposition for women, Shorouq, which is the first of its kind in Jordan. Shorouq aims to empower all women by allowing them to achieve the financial freedom and security they aspire to through a comprehensive set of financial and non-financial solutions. By understanding our segment, we were able to offer solutions that spoke to women, whether through our collateral-free business loans, startup loans, savings account and insurance products, or through our community of coaches, mentors and experts that gave our network access to crucial knowledge. We saw the impact immediately. Women today comprise 36 percent of our customer base, with our total female portfolio growing 5x since the launch of Shorouq in 2014.


How does the GBA help you in serving the female economy and/or accomplishing your Women’s Market goals? 


ANN CAIRNS, VICE CHAIRMAN, MASTERCARD: We have set ourselves a target to bring the next half a billion people into the financial system between 2015 and 2020. A disproportionate number of these people are women, and we hope to reach them with tools that can empower them to work, manage their finances and improve their lives. But we can’t do it alone. The only way to reach scale in addressing it is through partnerships. GBA has created this fantastic network of like-minded institutions, all of which want to progress women’s wealth globally and most of which are already our customers. We do want to work with them to develop products and services that cater for the needs of women and through GBA, we have found an appropriate channel to do so.


Ulrike Decoene GBA BoardULRIKE DECOENE, GROUP HEAD OF COMMUNICATIONS AND BRAND, AXA: We are very happy to be part of the GBA! It is a great platform to interact with global players recognized for their work with the Women’s Market and to identify potential areas for collaboration. It is for us an opportunity to learn from the best practices in the banking sector, in particular, and to identify the ones that could be replicable in ours.


STEVEN PUIG, CEO, BANCO BHD LEON: GBA has provided a key platform for us to network with other financial institutions focused on gender. Through GBA we have learned many best practices and have been able to benchmark the work we have done with our program.


NADIA AL SAEED, CEO, BANK AL ETIHAD: Being part of the GBA network gave us access to a wealth of knowledge. We found like-minded organizations and were exposed to real-life case studies and examples. Seeing what works and doesn’t work allowed us to craft our program in line with global trends and best practices. Peer-to-peer learning and the availability of research and data through GBA has proven invaluable in our journey.