Work Without Limits is always proud to highlight the wonderful work being done by the inclusive employers in our Disability:IN Massachusetts network. This month, we are featuring the great effort initiated by MAPFRE USA’s “Being MAPFRE” committee. To raise disability awareness and foster a culture of inclusion within the company, the “Being MAPFRE” committee began as a dedicated way to increase disability inclusion and is now the Diversity & Inclusion Council. In 2018, the company launched “Bring Your Whole Self to Work”, an interactive online forum for employees to be able to express their individuality. As part of “Bring Your Whole Self to Work”, the “Being MAPFRE” Executive Sponsors, Francois Facon, Executive Vice President and CFO and Steven Shiner, Senior Vice President, Claims, wrote articles focused on Disability Awareness. Below you will read the interview with Francois Facon and the important emphasis MAPFRE USA puts on being a diverse and inclusive employer.
In the spirit of MAPFRE’s Disability & Inclusion 2018 theme of “Bring Your Whole Self to Work”, can you share a little about yourself? What are some fun facts or interesting information about you that you’d like to share with employees?
First of all, let me introduce myself. I am the CFO of MAPFRE USA, went to Syracuse University and MIT for mechanical engineering studies, then went to business school and became a banker. I came to MAPFRE after spending 10 years at Zurich Insurance (in Zurich, Madrid and NYC). I love riding motorcycles (but my wife gave me the choice between her and my “V-max”), golfing, fishing and gardening.
An important part of who I am is that I am a diabetic. I would love to leave my diabetes at home when I show up at work in the morning, but I have not yet found a way to do so. I got my diabetes when I turned 17, which I took as being the end of the world… Many years after, I consider my diabetes as an integral part of who I am and a big reason of my resiliency to problems life keeps throwing at me. Life is beautiful and having to “earn-it” makes it even more valuable and appreciated.
Fun facts? Hum, what about…When I had to inject insulin myself for the first time, I passed out (thankfully I was at the hospital at the time!). Now, I am a pro. I often inject myself in public (meetings, lunches, airplanes, etc.) without anyone noticing. I learned early on it’s not a good idea to drive a dirt bike while having low blood sugar levels… Don’t worry, I am much more careful now!
Why did you choose to be an Executive Sponsor of the “Being MAPFRE” committee? Why is being a part of this work important to you?
A large portion of the population has some sort of disability or are exposed to disability through family, friends or colleagues. I personally see disability as a strength and not a weakness, but too often people are shy or uncertain about the community reactions. Participating in the “Being MAPFRE” committee is my way to recognize this large population of employees and extend my offer to help.
What does workplace inclusion mean to you, whether it’s about disability inclusion or other types of diversity?
People with disabilities bring new perspectives and attitudes from which the entire community benefits. Our clients, vendors and agents are themselves a very diverse group of people. Being as diverse as they are makes not only business sense but also should facilitate strengthening our existing relationships and help us develop new ones.
Workplace inclusion is a journey that we undertook to make everybody feel comfortable and supported to come to work and perform at his/her best.
To our employees who identify as having a disability, what would you like them to know?
I must admit that when I was younger, I would tend to hide my diabetes, but I found myself in situations that put me at risk. People that were with me did not appreciate or understand that at times I had low blood sugar level (Hypoglycemia) which caused me on a few occasions to act a bit erratic (many of you would say that I am always that way…).
Hypoglycemia is a serious medical condition that can lead to a person passing out, or worse. I had a couple of events where I acted drunk (and was not!) and my friends just weren’t picking up on the signs. My wife was thankfully there to bail me out of these situations. My story of the dirt bike ended up with me crashing against some bushes (and sent to the hospital for cuts and bruises). I learned the hard way that before using motor vehicles, it is always good to check my blood sugar level (which I now always do).
I learned that when with others, it is both unfair to them and “dangerous” to me to not disclose my illness. Now, I always disclose my diabetes, especially when working and when traveling with new people. I also disclosed this to HR when interviewing for my current position here at MAPFRE. Everybody on the 4th floor of Main Street knows about my diabetes. When my sensor (blood monitor) starts beeping, no more than 5 seconds lapse before I am presented with some sort of food or drink. Everyone is incredibly supportive.
I also believe that having disclosed my diabetes allows me to take better care of myself, which is important for the long run. Health is important and we all need to take it seriously. Delaying getting medication or eating the wrong foods (because you do not want to impose or be noticed) is the wrong way to go.
Why do you think groups like the new Caregiver’s Network are important to have? What value do you see in affinity groups?
This is a great initiative as we can all benefit from each other’s experiences. When my son was diagnosed with Leukemia (we are a big family of people with disabilities…), the doctors and nurses did a fantastic job explaining the future challenges but none of this advice was as powerful as the stories we exchanged with families confronted with similar challenges.
Both the practical advice and the emotional support from others really got my wife and me through this challenging time.
It is interesting that now my son is facing the same dilemma as to whether to be open about his condition or not. I always encourage him to do so as the reaction of the people informed has always been good and supportive in my experience.
We’ve accomplished a lot of work in the last few years with respect to disability inclusion. What do you see as important to focus on now and in the future?
Indeed, we have made progress on this front as we are trying to demystify the taboos of disabilities. I would like to go much further and encompass all groups of people who may feel “different”, including ethnicity, sexual preference, religious beliefs, etc.