AXA story

Cultural Cookbook Volume 6 - Belonging at AXA

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This time on Cultural Cookbook, Shabana shares her experience of the inclusive culture at AXA and her thoughts on how to achieve a healthy work-life balance. 

Hi, I’m Shabana Islam. I’m a solicitor in the Insurance Legal team, and I’ve been with AXA for just over a year. 

AXA’s values are at the heart of everything it does, and this includes celebrating individuality, fostering a sense of belonging, and embracing a dynamic and inclusive culture. So here is my recipe for making the most of that culture and feeling able to bring your whole self to work. 


  • A culture of trust, respect and care where everyone belongs   

  • Open communication 

  • Flexible working 

  • Supportive employee networks 

  • Self-belief 


Step 1: Take advantage of the support around you  
AXA has various initiatives and events to promote diversity and inclusion. As a practicing Muslim, having facilities to perform ablution and prayers has helped me to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Taking short breaks for prayers allows me to return to my desk reenergised and refocused (especially as I don’t drink tea or coffee!) while fulfilling religious obligations.

AXA has also recently introduced its new flexible bank holiday initiative. This provides adaptability for diverse needs, as individuals can exchange public holiday dates for another day off that aligns with their culture, faith and traditions.

I’m also a member of the REACH Employee Network. I initially joined out of curiosity, but it has helped me to have a better understanding on ethnicity and diversity in the workplace. Before AXA, I found myself shying away from my cultural, ethical and racial values. 


Step 2: Communicate openly about your needs 
There’s a balance to Muslim professionals navigating their careers in a corporate setting effectively, while honouring their religious beliefs and practices, for example during Ramadan. It helps to have open and honest communication with your manager and colleagues about Ramadan and its significance to foster understanding and support, for example, letting your manager know in advance about any adjustments you may need. For Ramadan, I usually request flexible working hours. 

It’s also important to plan your schedule and workload to accommodate the demands of both work and religious commitments. Being flexible and adaptable in your approach helps to better prepare yourself for any challenges. 


Step 3: Challenge stereotypes and celebrate achievements 
A truly inclusive culture requires everyone to address barriers and challenge stereotypes and biases. Progress has been made in recent years to inspire and support young Muslim girls to achieve their career goals, and it’s encouraging to see the increased representation of women in various fields. It’ll be empowering to see this extend to highlighting the achievements of Muslim women across different industries and professions too, with the same level of recognition for Muslim counterparts. I think this will help Muslim girls appreciate and realise that they have the skills, knowledge and experience to succeed. All they need to do is believe in their potential! 


Step 4: Keep pushing for inclusivity 
I'm able to be my whole self at work for the first time thanks to AXA's supportive and inclusive culture. I think it’s appreciated that creating an inclusive and supportive culture is an ongoing process that requires continuous commitment. 

Bon appétit!