Why do you believe gender diversity is important in the work environment?
This matters at all levels. Part of creating an inclusive culture is understanding differences, understanding that men and women are different. They behave differently, they approach topics in a different way. That’s a good thing and when we work together this creates the right balance for the benefit of our business and our people. Lots of companies still focus only on a male-driven approach, but that is changing more and more.
What do you think about traditional gender stereotypes, for example that men are stronger and women more sensitive?
I really believe you do not have to change yourself or try to cover up who you are. It’s good to show sensitivity, it is good to show vulnerabilities, and you don’t need to fear it. You don’t always have to look strong or prove you’re the one who knows everything: all of us, regardless the gender, are human beings, with our weaknesses and our limits always trying to learn and improve.
What do you think about quotas?
When I started in my career, I was against them. I felt I didn’t want to be promoted because I am a woman, but because I am good in my job. And many women felt the same. Over time I changed my mind. To foster change, you need to start by having women in senior positions. This is needed to create role models for young women and to change the rules stated by a man-driven top management. I honestly believe there are more than enough very qualified women out there for senior management positions.
What advice would you offer a woman to succeed in the workplace today?
I would say: be yourself. Ten years ago, everyone thought you needed to behave like a man in order to be promoted and succeed at work. Today I would tell a young woman not to change her behaviors and accept herself. I’m proud of being a woman and who I am, and it is important to be part of an organization like Europ Assistance which accepts you for who you are.
Would you offer the same advice to young women just starting out in your company?
“Just be courageous” this is my advice, and don’t be afraid of the word “ambitious”, propose yourself. Don’t ever think you’re not good enough. And when you get a job it is because your manager believes in you, because she or he thinks you’re the right person. That said, I do think we need to help young people succeed and proceed in the workplace, regardless of whether they are male or female. It’s not about diversity. It’s about finding the right person for the job. And in Europ Assistance I often advise to young women and men professionals to help them grow and succeed!
Prior to joining Europ Assistance at the beginning of 2020, Virginie spent 25 years in AXA. After 12 years in different positions in local finance departments or at holding level, in 2006 she took the lead on the Flyer Program, a transformation of the organization of the AXA Finance function in Europe. In 2013, she joined AXA Belgium to lead the business support functions and since 2016, she oversaw Group claims standards, strategy and transformation.