“It is disheartening that in 2023 people may still face unequal access and treatment due to their identity and appearance”
BY DYLAN MANN-HAZELL
Christelle Foucault, Diversity Campaign and Engagement Director at Sanofi, spoke to myGwork about how her initial career in banking gradually developed into creating change for the LGBTQIA community. She also discussed the company’s programme, A Million Conversations, which is dedicated to engaging with marginalised communities to rebuild trust and improve workplace conditions.
Before joining the team at Sanofi, Christelle began her career in banking, with notable positions in France and Asia. Outside her work in finance, she was known for her vocal support and commitment to the LGBTQIA community. Eventually, this led to her being approached by the French Ministry to work in gender equality, diversity and equal opportunities. This marked a significant turning point in her career as she joined as an advisor to the minister. With her expertise and dedication, Christelle thrived in this new environment. In late 2022, the multinational pharmaceutical company Sanofi recognised her unique and passionate profile and recruited her to co-lead their global initiative called A Million Conversations, launched this year at Davos.
In her role as the Diversity Campaign and Engagement Director, Christelle is responsible for representing Sanofi’s commitment to diversity and inclusion on top of managing that signature program which aims to improve healthcare systems to make them more inclusive for underrepresented groups (ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, women & the LGBTQIA community). She takes pride in showcasing Sanofi’s impressive dedication to inclusivity and emphasises the importance of her role and the opportunity it provides to make a positive impact.
“It feels good to have that kind of role,” she said. “To turn to the external world and to represent Sanofi in all the commitment that we have around DE&I which is all really impressive. I’m really proud of working in this role.”
Outside the workplace, sport was always a significant part of Christelle’s life, nurtured in her childhood in a small village in the Southwest of France. Growing up with limited LGBTQIA representation, it took time for her to accept her identity – the absence of openly LGBTQIA role models meant that Christelle had no interaction with the community until she moved to Paris for her studies and career. It was in the LGBTQIA sports association that she found a sense of belonging and became involved in advocating for the community.
“Sport has been my main hobby since I was a child, it has always been an important part of my life,” she recounted. “Even nowadays, I still practise a lot of sports activities.”
Over time, Christelle took on leadership roles within the Federation of Gay Games and the European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation and eventually became the co-president of the French National LGBT Sports Federation for five years. During her tenure, she focused on establishing connections with political entities and mainstream sports organisations to promote inclusivity and recognition. One of her significant achievements was securing the organisation of the Gay Games in Paris in 2018.
Christelle’s initiatives and her work in establishing an LGBTQIA ERG (employee resource group) within her former organisation helped encourage her to take the dedication to inclusion to new levels. The ERG’s impact resonated with top managers, CEOs and HR leads, proving that the organisation was ready to embrace and support diversity initiatives and exceed Christelle’s expectations. At Sanofi, Christelle now aims to address the needs of the LGBTQIA community, particularly regarding transgender and non-binary individuals. Sanofi is currently collaborating with trans associations and is considering engaging with the government to advocate for changes in healthcare systems and potentially legislation that will benefit the trans community at large.
Sanofi’s A Million Conversations programme, co-led by Christelle, aims to build bridges and engage with marginalised communities, including ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA individuals and people with disabilities. Recognising the prevailing lack of trust within these communities towards healthcare systems, Christelle and the members of the programme seek to address their concerns and work towards creating a more inclusive and trusted healthcare environment.
One of the issues that Sanofi is working on at the moment in France through A Million Conversations focuses on the legislation regarding hormonal therapy and expands its scope to address all issues faced by the LGBTQIA community, women, people with disabilities and people of ethnic minority. These issues range from healthcare training to combating discriminative bias based on identity – the ultimate goal being to eliminate all unequal access and treatment.
“Many issues require attention, including doctor training and combating bias based on sexual orientation, gender identity, as well as ethnicity and disability,” explained Christelle. “It is disheartening that in 2023 people may still face unequal access and treatment due to their identity and appearance.”
Through her work at both the ministry and Sanofi, Christelle has made substantial contributions to the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalised groups. Her commitment and passion for promoting diversity and inclusion are evident in the impactful initiatives she leads. With initiatives like “A Million Conversations”, she continues to challenge the status quo and drive positive change within Sanofi and the broader healthcare industry.
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