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Women at Comdata

Women@Comdata promotes diversity, inclusion and business success

Comdata Group has always said that diversity and inclusion makes the company stronger. More innovative. More resilient. More agile. And better able to serve clients and their customers. Therefore, in order to promote and leverage diversity and inclusion even more effectively Group-wide , it has launched a new initiative called Women@Comdata. 

Women@Comdata aims to advance women’s opportunities across the entire organization, to promote gender equality at all levels, and to identify and tackle any barriers that prevent Comdata’s female employees from thriving in the workplace. In addition, to emphasize the contribution of women across the Group, the initiative will highlight the many successes and achievements already delivered by female employees.

The initiative is led by Elena Bocchino, Comdata Group’s Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Supporting her is a diverse working group of leaders, both women and men, from across the whole organization, from different countries, job families, generations and professional backgrounds. 

Why now?

There are several factors driving the Women@Comdata initiative. Firstly, it’s about business ethics and culture. Globally, Comdata Group’s total workforce is approximately 64% women and 36% men, but at director / manager level, the positions are reversed. That’s certainly not a unique situation for a business in 2021, but Comdata wants to do better. 

According to Elena Bocchino, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the issues around gender equality in the workplace. Data from many different countries shows that women workers have been especially impacted by the pandemic, through job losses or through having to combine work with home-schooling or caring for family members. This makes it more important than ever for businesses to look in the mirror in terms of the opportunities and barriers that affect their female workforce.

“Our Group CEO Maxime Didier and our Chief Transformation & Integration Officer Patrice Mazoyer have had an idea in their heads about Women@Comdata for some time. When one of our HR directors, Fabio Coi, also suggested the project, the spark was lit immediately!” she recalls. 

The business opportunity

Diversity and inclusion are not solely a matter of corporate ethics; they are also good for business. Numerous studies have shown that diverse and inclusive cultures deliver multiple benefits including improved financial performance, enhanced reputation, and better performance in terms of innovation and time-to-market. 

For a business like Comdata, specializing in customer management, there’s another consideration too: women make up a high proportion of the customers it interacts with and manages. The Group therefore wants to demonstrate to its market – the clients – that it is doing the right thing for them.

So, with all this in mind, Comdata decided to dedicate resources to these issues, through Women@Comdata. 

Project design

Since developing the idea of Women@Comdata at the end of 2020, Comdata’s leadership have acted at pace to get the project started. 

Helping Elena Bocchino and the working group is an external consultant, Cristina Bianchi, who regularly advises multinationals on diversity and inclusion initiatives and coaching. Cristina is helping the working group to set goals for the project, and providing tools to achieve those goals. Says Elena Bocchino, “We wanted a tailor-made solution that will work for Comdata, our current workforce, what we do, and where we want to be.”

The working group’s first step has been a quantitative study of gender diversity and inclusion across Comdata Group, collecting and aggregating data by geographical area, job family and organizational level. Now they are about to conduct a qualitative survey, involving a representative sample of about 10% of Comdata employees. The intention is to build up a 360-degree view of the culture across the Group to steer the next steps.

What happens next

According to Cristina Bianchi, “What Elena and Fabio have done is very smart. They quickly understood that they need to start with a clear picture of the current situation at Comdata Group. When you have this clear picture of the ‘status as is’, then you can start to think about what your priorities are.”

Elena explains their thinking: “Real change comes from insight. With these two surveys, we will see the real picture of our culture. We know that we have to be ready for anything – to accept what we hear, and then act with concrete measures to transform diversity into growth opportunities.”

It’s premature to say what these concrete measures will be, but typically, says Cristina, businesses’ responses can cover anything from recruitment and HR processes to management and staff training to mentoring or other support programmes. One clear intention at Comdata is to publish an annual Group-wide diversity and inclusion report to show progress achieved. 

In order to make sure that progress really does occur, Elena Bocchino and the working group want to get more and more people to engage with the project. Roll-out of the initiative will take place locally, and they want as many staff as possible – in every country, location, area of the business, and level of seniority – to get involved in championing the Women@Comdata initiative as well as diversity and inclusion more generally.  

What success looks like

The working group will define specific priorities and targets after the survey results are analyzed, but the overarching objective is already in place: “Our goal,” states Elena, “is to promote diversity through inclusion. Because without inclusion, there’s no real diversity.”

Their initial work with Cristina has already given them a clear view of what an inclusive culture means and how it benefits a business. “Every business has to define success for itself,” explains Cristina. “But for me, it means that whatever task or team meeting or event you are asked to participate in, you feel that you can make a contribution, and that your contribution is not only solicited but valued … With an inclusive culture, we know that everybody has something valuable to add to the discussion. Out of this energy and diversity of opinion, input and outlook come the best solutions and decisions.”

A strong starting-point

As Comdata Group starts on this process, there are several strong positive forces supporting the project.

Firstly, there are Comdata’s 50,000-plus staff, located in over 20 countries and speaking over 30 languages. “Comdata already has a diverse workforce, and that gives a built-in advantage. Businesses that don’t already have diversity, and that have a very homogeneous workforce, have to start recruiting more diversely and that can be a slow process. So Comdata already has the numbers, which is an incredible starting point,” says Cristina.

Secondly, the initiative has strong top-level support from CEO Maxime Didier and the rest of the Exco, who are genuinely committed to change. Their support for greater diversity and inclusion has already been evident in other recent decisions, such as recent hires to the Exco. 

Thirdly, there is the commitment and motivation coming from the working group. “We really believe in this project,” states Elena Bocchino. “I believe in it, the panel believes in it, and that is why, on top of being already very committed to our usual work activities, we are also dedicating ourselves to developing the project. All of us on the Women@Comdata working group will do our best to make change happen.”

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