Connecting, inspiring and empowering women to lead the way
Dunya Bouhacene is an independent private equity investor, Women Equity does not only generate market performance, it is also contributing to a better distribution of roles and economic power in society. To better serve this mission, in 2009 Dunya and her team launched the NGO Women Equity for Growth, which supports the development of a new kind of finance and entrepreneurial models.
What is the role of Women Equity?
Women Equity provides support to portfolio companies which are either women-led or have a gender balanced management. We are convinced that economic performance combined with social responsibility creates sustainable value for all stakeholders. To increase the visibility of these companies, our work is supported by the Women Equity for Growth not-for-profit platform, which facilitates the work of researchers in this domain, spreads know-how and nourishes a networking platform for women entrepreneurs.
What are the main outcomes of the work carried out by Women Equity for Growth?
Thanks to the Women Equity Scientific Council, an advisory board made up of 10 leading researchers from the USA, UK, France, Denmark, Italy and Finland, we succeeded in designing the Women-Equity Index, among others. This index is a database which gathers financial data over series of three years, on 40K SMES with revenues ranging from €4mil to €100mil, and having between 20 and 250 employees. Thanks to it, we can measure what we call the ‘over-performance’ of women-led growth companies in France. Given that these companies are much less visible among traditional business networks, it is quite impressive that they can still manage to generate more revenues.
The platform plays two other important roles: communication and networking. The work carried is disseminated through a dedicated portal and through a variety of other types of initiatives set out with media partners or other networks.
Furthermore, an Advisory Committee comprising directors and well-known executives of large groups from various sectors serves as a valuable resource for the investment team during its due diligence phase and enables the sharing of contacts, expertise and experience among the management teams of our portfolio companies.
What differences can you see between women-led and men-led businesses?
Differences can be seen in terms of results, which can be better than those of traditional businesses, but also in terms of access to finance, for which women-led businesses may need some extra help.
First, Library House – Dow Jones shows that, out of 600 Private Equity backed European companies, those led by women demonstrated higher capital efficiency, requiring 35% less capital to generate 12% more revenues.
Our own research on 40,000 French SMEs with revenues above €4mil has shown that the 5,000 women-led companies (Chairpersons and CEOs) were more resilient during the crisis. A majority of them even maintained growth. Moreover, their revenues and their profitability declined less than their sector competitors.
Second, access to private equity financing is very limited for these companies. As an illustration, the proportion of private equity backed women-led companies is significantly inferior to the proportion of women-led companies in the economy: they represented less than 4% of small and mid-market transactions in the past ten years.
As such, women SMEs private equity gap occurs not because of their attractiveness, but because obstacles still remain in many Western countries, including France. Women-led growth companies are less visible, their leaders are less integrated in traditional business networks, and the prevailing socio-economic models work less in their favour.
What solutions do you see to increase investments in these high-growth businesses?
There are a number of actions to support these businesses which can be set in motion at different levels.
As a tier 1 stakeholder, Women Equity works on two directions. First, we aim at raising awareness among investors re the high performance of enterprises with a higher gender mix. Second, our concerns include developing women’s understanding of and familiarity with private equity.
At general public level, it is key to promote success stories to all types of audiences. Each year we cooperate for instance with the French financial newspaper La Tribune for the Women’s Awards with the objective of identifying, selecting, and promoting exceptional female CEOs and executives. Finalists benefit from strong media coverage.
The public authorities could also jump in by adopting incentives to encourage the development of socially responsible investment (SRI) funds. Inserting SRI criteria in the asset allocations of public institutions, and notably gender balance assessments, would accelerate the emergence of these new business models. This should be a key concern for governments, particularly in the current economic and financial context.
Can you share an example of a women-led company that succeeded through Women Equity?
In October 2011, Women Equity Partners announced the closing of the Management Buy-Out of Lefebvre Software in partnership with CIC LBO. Viviane Chaine-Ribeiro took over the management of the company at a crisis time. She succeeded in growing revenues, which stood at €16m in 2007, to more than €40m in 2011 and in transforming the company into one of the leading enterprise software providers on the French mid-market. The fruitful partnership between the CEO and shareholders enabled the company to grow faster, with a series of acquisitions being considered, the latest occurring a few months ago. Thanks to the visibility gained through the Women Equity Program, Lefebvre Software is a growing company led by a woman with very high ambitions for 2017.
Cristiana Falcone Sorrell’s working and academic experiences are related to international/foreign affairs and media, in particular digital media. She works for the Inter American Development Bank in Washington, which engages in activities contributing to the social, economic and sustainable growth of the region. In the last two years she focused on Latin America, including the emerging trend of south to south trade. On the digital side, a few years ago with the World Economic Forum she participated in a very extensive study on the future of the digital ecosystem, which is the space between information technology, communication and media, looking at how the new players were disrupting the business models.
What changes do you see taking place in education with the emergence of new technologies and digital learning?
The founder of the World Economic Forum, Professor Schwab, one of the biggest visionaries of this time, asked me and my colleagues to look at ways to leverage knowledge the Forum creates to the benefit of our constituents, but also support our mission of improving the state of the world.
The digital revolution allows you to cut the cost of delivery (analogue education is expensive) but also means that new ways of sharing and experiencing learning are available. We have been doing research on traditional academic outlets and have learnt that there is not a lot of information on the topic yet, but everyone is experimenting. Online learning is often about scanning and uploading documents online, which is not interactive. In the meantime, even the everyday learning operation is changing – we have even changed the way in which we read of newspapers. On YouTube for example, there is a video of kids trying to push magazines with their fingers (as if they were touching an Ipad), with a caption saying ‘this magazine is not working’.
There is also the new way of learning that has a lot to do with peer-to-peer sharing & experience and teaching & learning. For example, there are educational games offered to children, in which the more questions they answer, the higher score they get. These areas are very compelling and extremely useful if we think of education as crucial for development.
Also, imagine the potential of being able to provide knowledge through a mobile rather than a complex computer. Especially since now you don’t need to go to school to ‘learn technology’.
How can these new ways of ‘sharing and experiencing learning’ through new technologies be applied?
A lot can be done in terms of health and education. New mechanisms can be used to deliver a piece of knowledge, for example about HIV in slums of Kenia; even where you don’t even know the name of the roads, they all have mobiles with GPS.
How can education possibilities enabled by the new technologies be embraced by women in particular?
Women are much more social; we have a natural potential to use social networks. That’s very important in the new emerging way of learning, both offline and online. I think as we embrace it we need to think of basic education to women where they don’t have access to technology either for economic reasons or because of prejudice.
What is your view on responsible business?
I like the corporate global citizenship approach. In my experience working with the Inter American Development Bank and travelling with my husband, an international businessman, learning how clients run their businesses, I see that more and more you have to ‘walk the talk’; you have to do good and well at the same time. You can’t just focus on the commercial bottom line; you have to do it in the right, proper way. Responsible consumption is emerging not only in developed countries, you see it even more in emerging markets where the community is still at the center.
Businesses’ core values need to be values that consumers can trust - they need to see consistency in the way business is run. We saw it in the banking industry, the consumer goods industry, the food industry… As a result of an increased awareness, when I have to choose from two products, I choose the one makes me feel good; it feels good to have a good impact on your society, environment or even economy.
21st century is not only about social responsibility as in social marketing or sustainable development; you really have to act responsibly and make it the core of your business. It gives you an edge and allows you to enter new markets you were not able to enter before.
How do you manage work-life balance?
There two principles I use, I took them from two amazing women.
The first of them has been using the concept of ‘average’; you cannot play all of the roles every day, it’s impossible. During a week/month you play each role at a certain percentage. One day I’m more of a business woman than a wife, another day more of grandmother or a daughter… I do the basic, but in terms of commitment I try to average.
The second idea I took from an Indian lady, who introduced me to the principle of becoming a clever juggler. In life, we joggle crystal balls and rubber balls; a lot of them, as women. These balls constitute different roles. We need to understand every day which ones can we drop, because they’re rubber and will bounce back, and which ones are crystal and we can never let go, because they can crush. Family is one of these crystal balls.
Paloma Castro Martinez is Director of Global Corporate Affairs for LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Mrs. Castro Martinez brings extensive Corporate Affairs knowledge and experience to the Group. She previously led Richemont Group’s Global Government Affairs Department and throughout her career, developed the Regulatory, Communications and Public Affairs departments of some of the most relevant worldwide corporations.
As the Director of Global Corporate Affairs for LVMH, you are responsible for relations with the Group's various stakeholders. What actions does LVMH take to strengthen its dialogue and presence in civil society?
LVMH’s presence in civil society is based on its legacy, creativity and entrepreneurship, as well as its strong involvement in culture and art. It is a socially responsible company with a strong cultural footprint. We are a cultural and creative entrepreneur.
At the end of last year Commission President Barosso spoke about how creativity and innovation can drive Europe back towards growth and prosperity. We feel that we have a strong role to play in this and that our business model reflects well the global challenges that Europe has to face. LVMH is ‘cultural and creative’, drawing inspiration from heritage and culture and using creativity and innovation to develop a competitive and successful business model. We see it as an illustration that culture is an engine for growth – a driving force for wealth and jobs. In fact, last year we created 14000 jobs.
We are strong believers in investing back in culture in its broadest sense, sponsoring exhibitions and contributing to restorations (e.g. restoration of the Library Museum of the Palais Garnier and the renovation of the Palais Royal gardens). We are building in collaboration with Frank Gehry a spectacular building, from an engineering and architectural point of view, the LVMH Foundation in Paris. The foundation will become the Center of our cultural footprint worldwide. Again, this time, we are trying to allow for the creativity of an architect to thrive as far as possible, even, if some of his ideas had never been experimented before. Creativity s at the heart of everything we do from the innovation developed by our Perfumers to the design of a new bag.
LVMH is also very dedicated to helping the encouragement of new generations of artists and creative people, with some our latest commitments linked to the support of top British fashion college Central St. Martin's or the creation of the LVMH digital award at the photography and fashion festival of Hyeres. We are very interested in everything that has to do with society and it's evolution.
In two recent surveys, LVMH has been named ‘the most attractive employer’, having ranked number one in Trendence’s list for the third consecutive year. What makes the work environment of LVMH so attractive?
Working for LVMH and its Maisons gives one a sense of pride. The company not only produces carefully crafted items in different European countries and exports them throughout the world but also stands for ‘good news in the middle of bad news’, proving that it is possible to be successful despite the current economic situation. Our interest in vocational education, in keeping alive the heritage to bring it to modern times, through the use of technology allowing us to innovate and be creative, investing in local jobs across Europe with the opening of manufactures and the hiring of senior employees are all part of this successful business model. And it translates into the strong belief by a majority of European citizens (73%) being convinced that we have a role in keeping city centers alive and being part of their societal environment. The future of heritage, we call it.
What advice would you give to women at the beginning of their careers?
Be yourself and never give up on your objectives. Never stop learning. Never say no to any opportunities. Never say no to learning. Go the extra mile and focus on delivering at the bottom line. Take everything as an opportunity - it will become precious. I started my career working at McDonald’s, where I was negotiating with Greenpeace, worked on childhood obesity campaigns and completely changed McD’s food labeling around the world. I then worked for eBay, which approached me specifically because of the thinking out of the box I’ve gained working at McDonald's.
Never take for granted how difficult it will be when you have a managerial position. If you’re ambitious, it can be the right path for you, but it’s not for everyone. It’s about knowing yourself.
LVMH has signed on July 12, 2011 the “Women on the Board Pledge for Europe” and committed to increase women’s corporate boardroom presence to 30 per cent by 2012 and 40 per cent by 2020, showing support of Commissioner Reding’s approach to self-regulation for gender equality. How do you believe is the group going to benefit from having more women on boards?
The issue is not as simple as that. It’s not necessarily just about women’s boardroom presence. It is more relevant to have role models at all levels, who encourage people within the ranks.
What we should advocate for is balance – more women means more balance. In house, we believe that a balance in terms of gender, religion, etc... brings open-mindedness, more influence, and, it naturally translates into business benefits.
Elena Bonfiglioli is Senior Director Health Industry in EMEA and one of the co-founders of the Women in Leadership Network. She also leads the network's Women Talent Pool Programme (WTP). In this interview she talks about her recent career transition at Microsoft and she shares her vision of the WTP.
You recently changed position, can you describe your current role?
I recently took the lead of Microsoft’s Health Industry business in Europe, Middle East and Africa. I began my career with Microsoft 9 years ago; this includes the role as Director of Community Affairs and CSR EMEA, Director of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs with a focus on supporting our business teams on Education, Skills & Employability, and over the past two years on the health industry. After 9 years at Microsoft as an ambassador around societal topics, the transition to a pure business development and industry strategy job looked like a real challenge. I was scared for a moment, but then I realized that my body and my brain needed a stretch goal to learn, unlearn and re-learn. I needed a new challenge to develop further.
When I look at the Health and Wellbeing sector, I see potential for innovation, sustained market growth and opportunity to deliver societal benefit through technology. In a way, health combines three of my passions: creativity, business and care. I could not pass this unique opportunity.
How did you manage the challenge of transitioning to a career in a completely different area?
What really made the difference for me was getting the support from an executive with an open mind. He was willing to take the risk of giving me a stretched assignment based on the potential and not strictly checking boxes for a complete track record of expertise in all competencies needed for the new role. I am and will be forever grateful that we have leaders who can reward talents and invest in the future of people. Seeing the long term potential of their leaders and nurturing talent is the way organizations become sustainable and innovative. In this case, it was a male leader with a bold vision that diversity in his team mattered.
What made you decide to spearhead the Women Talent Pool Programme?
We can make a bigger difference tomorrow if we harness the potential todays’ emerging leaders. Why is key to invest in talents earlier rather than later? For three reasons: first, the ability to identify and name “success” early on is key to accelerate talents’ development. Second, the ability to bring talents together will generate a virtuous learning circle whereby talents can learn from one another. Finally, the possibility to offer holistic development opportunities allows talents to push their knowledge comfort zone and learn new things, make new connections and break down silos of specialization. The WTP is set to identify, nurture and develop the pool of tomorrows’ talented women. It starts today with identifying emerging leaders around us.
In what ways are the Women Talent Pool participants going to benefit from the programme?
Women participating in the WTP (Women Talent Pool) will benefit through networking and sharing ideas with emerging like-minded leaders and talents. They will have an opportunity to learn from role models, thus engaging with senior women to discuss future career paths, work experiences, leadership issues, business topics, as well as talk about their aspirations and ambitions. Most importantly, participants will learn by sharing personal perspectives and discussing how to set the foundations for new models of leadership.
What are you referring to when you talk about New Models versus Role Models?
Senior members of WIL have carved their own models of leadership. Today they serve as role models to younger women. However, as we think of tomorrow, I encourage each participant to take these learnings as a building block to creating new models of leadership. These new models need to be shaped by adapting these models to the fast changing world we live in, in which balancing personal and professional life and ambitions becomes increasingly important. I personally hope that members of the Talent Pool will create a legacy for the new generation of women leaders to come, thereby crafting new models adapted to how leadership will be employed in the decades ahead. I see an opportunity for them to take the lead in defining the path of what success looks like in their personal and professional careers, what type of leadership is needed in society at an organizational level and individual level.
At times do we have to manage conflicting roles?
We sure do. By definition we have many different roles: we’re individuals, mothers, professionals, and contributors to the community, to the society... Happiness for me is about optimizing all these roles. Interestingly enough for me, that balance was developed through time; as I matured as a person I was able to take a step back and look at things in perspective. Several WiL members exemplify a fair balance in managing different roles embodying a holistic view of leadership. I do hope that the future generation embraces the versatility of roles and gives it new colors.
What piece of advice would you like to give to the Emerging Leaders?
Be sure that you are really happy with what you do. Surround yourself with people that exude inner satisfaction and deep inner happiness. These people emanate a state of radiance, peace, balance and most importantly a sense of Presence – for those of you who read Peter Senge’s book; a happy leader is somebody who can exercise great influence.
There is a great quote from a writer from a few centuries back: “In the pursuit of relevance we become relevant”. I believe that in the pursuit of happiness we become happier. What is important is to take the opportunities presented in our jobs, our daily lives, the way we interact and treat others, and most importantly it is to capitalize on the potential that is around us and our own potential. With a good amount of luck, we can shape the opportunities around us. I hope Emerging Leaders never forget, even when tough times come our way, that we are still the shapers of our career and our own development.
Viviane de Beaufort, professor at ESSEC Business School, is the founder of an ambitious educational programme, WOMEN be European BOARD Ready, at the French Management School ESSEC. In this interview she talks about the programme, her career and diversity in business.
What was the proudest moment of your career life?
It is a very difficult question, because I do a lot of different and very exciting things. However I can think of two very special moments. One of them was in 2004, when the European Parliament chose to add article 12 (optional arrangements) to the directive on takeover bids, after a long and patient work of expert and strategic alliances to demonstrate it was (and it is) ridiculous to implement a sole model of company law faced with diverse cultures of governance in Member States.
The second one is clearly the first promotion of my women programmes, both the "Entrepreneurship Since 2004” and the new one, "Women be European Board Ready".
What inspired you to create the "Women be European Board Ready" programme?
I was inspired by the debate on quotas taking place all over Europe and particularly in France.
I mean, for me, the question is not how many women are on boards, but how
many executive and non-executive boards include a sufficient proportion of women, ensuring adequate profiles for each company, depending on its size, sector and strategy to improve efficiency.
A legal tool is one thing, a good one indeed! The second one is to create tools to provide women with sufficient opportunities to be trained, to be visible... A dedicated programme is one way of achieving that!
What steps need to be taken to improve diversity in business?
If diversity at the level of boards could play a role model, we need to expand it at each level (management, middle-management), which means that many companies have to start thinking in a different manner, organise work in a different way, change their human resources mechanisms (age of high-po, training, mentoring, coaching), and so on.
How can women be encouraged to take leadership roles?
My answer is not an original one: education, education, education... and role models, mentoring, coaching...
Should women change anything in their working style to reach top leadership levels?
Women have to modify their behavior: develop and ability to "sell themselves", to network, to ask for promotion, to accept to be visible...
WIL Vice-president Pervenche Berès is Chairwoman of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs of the European Parliament. Appointed as a rapporteur of the EP Special Committee on the Economic, Financial and Social Crisis, Pervenche led the efforts of the EP to establish the origins of the crisis and recommend solutions to avoid its repetition. Her report was adopted by the EP in July 2011. Some of its conclusions are highlighted in our interview with Pervenche.
Briefly, what does the report recommend so as to alleviate the effects of the financial, economic and social crisis?
The viability of the eurozone cannot be ensured by implementing all over Europe severe austerity programs which will never meet the objectives of a reduction of deficit and debt levels. It is important to conciliate fiscal responsibility and room of manoeuvre for long term investments in areas such as education, innovation, transport or energy. This would require a shift towards the European Union by ensuring an effective economic, social and fiscal convergence and a significant raise of the EU budget. A better surveillance and control of capital flows is also required in order to ensure an optimal allocation of capital in favor of the real economy and the fulfillment of legitimate macroeconomic objectives. On the political side, the current crisis has demonstrated the limits of intergovernmentalism and underlined the need for more democracy and legitimacy in the making process of the solutions designed to safeguard the viability of the eurozone and the Union as such: therefore, with this report, the European Parliament has paved the way for a forward looking solution with the need to be fully included at all relevant levels of the political decision-making process.
How would the public debt in Europe be dealt with, following the adoption of the report?
The report stresses the need to conciliate the need for responsibility by decreasing the current sovereign debt level which mainly results from the financial sector crisis, and the need for a sustainable development by safeguarding room of manoeuvre for long-term investments. In a short term perspective, the introduction of eurobonds would be the most appropriate measure designed to strengthen the integration of the European sovereign debt market and therefore to ensure the stability of the Eurozone as a whole. The European Stability Mechanism should also be transformed into a European Debt Agency with appropriate tools and human resources to tackle the crisis. Radical measures against the repeated
speculative attacks Greece and Portugal have suffered must be taken: it is time for the European Union to demonstrate the will to regulate malpractices of financial actors and to ban, among others, naked short selling.
Which recommendations are made in order to build a European energy community?
Special Crisis Committee's final report clearly states that a European energy community should be considered as one of the key political projects for the realization of the objectives included in the EU 2020 strategy which paves the way of a sustainable and social growth model. This European Energy Community would facilitate the transition of our economies towards renewable energies, increase the energy independence of the Union by giving it more power in the negotiations with third countries and will ensure the provision of universal services at affordable prices. The report recommends increasing investment including through public§private partnership in research and development, interconnection of grids. We also propose that special attention should be devoted to energy efficiency.
What public expenditure would the revenues from the tax in financial transaction cover?
The European Parliament supported in the interim report adopted in October 2010 the introduction of a financial transaction tax at the European level. Such a tax on all financial transactions with a small tax rate of 0,05% would represent a significant amount of 200 billion Euros per year for the Union and its Member States. These additional financial resources could in serve to finance the key priorities included in the EU 2020 strategy and promote European public goods in areas such as energy efficiency and smart grid development: financial needs to be invested next decade into smart Transeuropean networks amount already to € 450 billion...Furthermore, an FTT would also represent an appropriate tool for improving the functioning of financial markets by tackling high risky speculative transactions.
Can Member States be persuaded to apply these recommendations, given the growing number of eurosceptics?
The significant increase of eurosceptics - but also the revival of nationalist movements which consider themselves as europhobics - is linked to the severe economic and social consequences of the financial crisis, whose length has to be seen as a lack of political will demonstrated during the last years by European leaders. The sovereign debt crisis has clearly illustrated the "too late, too little" adopted during the last months by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The current situation demonstrates the limits of intergovernmentalism, this is the reason why we plaid for a democratic Union with the full inclusion of the European Parliament in the discussions around the future of the eurozone and the economic governance. The Union should also speak with one voice through a single representative in international institutions in the World Bank or the IMF. Finally, it is essential for the future of the Eurozone and the Union as a whole to tackle macroeconomic imbalances by improving the integration of the European Union through the deepening of economic, social, fiscal and tax convergence. Regarding these challenges, the risk of eurosceptism cannot be ignored but the politics must say the truth: our choice is between more integration or drift apart.
The appointment of a female Executive Director brings about a wind of change both for the company and the industry.
Part of a group of happy-few women with an engineering diploma, Delphine Ernotte Cunci has been with the group for the past twenty years, where she moved from research and development to sales and commerce, gained management experience in the field as director of a network of agencies, before starting her preparation for executive levels as head of the communication department, then sales director. She was appointed number two this year by Stéphane Richard, CEO France Telecom Orange.
The interview below revolves around the company’s strategy and its executive committee’s ambitious plans to make more room for women.
What change would you like to bring about in the company?
The social, business and economic crisis with which we are being faced for two years left room for re-thinking our management systems. A servicing enterprise needs to adapt its solutions to several customer groups, particularly in the telecom sector where trends are fast replacing one another. In turn, achieving a good level of customization requires more flexible internal management systems. We have to delegate more decision making power from headquarters, and decentralize it to staff in the field.
What specific commitments have been made by the new executive team?
Apart from planned investments to accelerate international development and in leading edge networks, we will channel our efforts towards this new vision of human resources for the men and women of Orange, so that each employee can feel the impact of his or her work on the overall business operations.
Orange set up a quota of 35% of female representation at all levels of management. What is the current status?
We will deploy resources top-down to reach a more gender-mixed structure. While women make up 35% of our employees overall, we want to reach this proportion at every management level, in all departments. For instance, 20% of our executive positions, of which there are 300, are filled by women. This percentage is already high for a telecom company; however we are determined to push it to 35% by 2015. This is why we’ve set up a Diversity Committee at executive level, which comes up with proposed solutions to improve recruitment policies, give equal access to training and career orientation, in addition to developing gender-friendly management practices.
How will this be achieved more exactly?
First, we need to make sure that there is a gender mix beginning with the recruitment process. This is particularly critical for technical jobs, as we are competing with the whole industry to attract a scarce number of female graduates of technical studies. In that aim, we’ve set up partnerships with engineering schools so as to promote our career opportunities to young women, but also to work together towards bringing more girls into science classes. At this point, we can already notice a sort of bias against jobs with generally high responsibilities, driven by the fear of not being able to balance their professional and personal life. Our duty is to break these stereotypes and give a clearer picture of the diverse daily tasks in a telecom company.
Second, management practices need to be adapted to different work styles. We are aware that women provide most of the family care in our society, a fact which compels them to have a different schedule than most men. Technology today enables us to adapt our working schedule to our other responsibilities; yet its usage is determined by the practices of each manager who can either put pressure on employees by setting up late calls/meetings, or set rules of work that are adapted to them.
Should women change anything in their working style so as to reach top leadership levels?
Every time Stéphane Richard pays a visit in the field, he himself is doing a headhunter’s work so as to uncover talented and competent women who usually don’t get noticed. When proposing a new assignment, most women don’t consider themselves capable enough to assume it, whereas men seem much more comfortable with accepting it. This status quo leads to increasing gender gaps at higher levels in the hierarchy. However, instead of demanding women to change their work style, which would involve an alteration of the entire societal construction, a more realistic solution is to ask managers to find those women with a great leadership potential and give them confidence in their abilities.
Marie-Thérèse has been Head of Government Relations at SAP AG, the market leader in enterprise application software, since 2007. She started her career in 1990 serving for the International Labour Organization and moved later on in the private sector, serving as Head of Microsoft Representation at EU level from 1996 to 2005. Marie-Thérèse is also part of the WIL Board of Directors.
You have been working in the ICT for several years. Has the industry changed its perception of women’s role in the workplace during this period?
In my perspective, ICT has always been an industry with a very cooperative working environment. What matters are creativity, innovation and efficiency – and studies show that these are better achieved in heterogeneous teams, with women and men from different cultural backgrounds working together. However, what has changed in the last years is the awareness that we need to make a stronger effort to get female students interested in MINT-Mathematics, Informatics, Natural Sciences and Technology - subjects. Through this we ensure also in the future that women strongly contribute to the decision-making in the ICT industry.
What is SAP AG doing to promote women in the ICT sector? Are there any partnerships set up between the company and other industry players in this sense?
We joined several international organizations to promote better career development for women in information technology industry overall. The networking opportunities offered by these organizations allow us to identify and attract more qualified female recruits for SAP management positions. For example, we are a member of the International Taskforce on Women and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), an organization sponsored by the United Nations-UNESCO. Its program strives to develop more women as ICT leaders and creators. We also signed the European Code of Best Practices for Women and ICT and began serving as a national contact point of the European Centre for Women in Technology (ECWT). In Germany we joined the Charta of Diversity and committed ourselves to provide a work environment free of prejudice and discrimination. As well as that, SAP is partner of the National Pact for Women in MINT Careers - “Go MINT!” and is organizing a yearly Girls Day.
How about the internal processes or programs? How do they encourage women’s presence in the workplace?
At SAP, we nurture and support an environment that values differences in culture, race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and physical or mental ability. In regards to gender, our goal is to grow the ratio of women to men to reflect the talent pool in our industry and to raise the ratio of women and men in leadership positions to the same measurement. We offer coaching and mentoring programs, basic gender awareness workshops (Women@SAP, Men@SAP) and advanced training (self-PR and visibility, work-life-balance). To support women in business and the cooperation between men and women, employees have set up the Business Women’s Network @ SAP which gives all our employees the chance to exchange experience and knowledge.
Only 3.2 percent of women hold management board positions at Germany’s 200 biggest companies, according to a Jan. 18 study by the Berlin-based DIW economic institute. What solutions would you envisage for more women to take leadership positions in Germany?
An active support of all female managers is more effective than any quota. No company can effort to abandon highly qualified and committed employees or to disregard their potential. What we have to do is to enhance the general working conditions. It has to be possible for every employee in specific periods of life such as parenting or caring for older family members to take time outs from work or to work part time.
We have to be aware of the fact that the different perspectives of men and women help to make better decisions. Diversity is valuable and is actively promoted by SAP.
What attributions would a WIL German-based chapter have, in your opinion?
In my opinion, a WIL German-based chapter should promote diversity in the widest sense of the word. I would also envision WIL as a platform for best-practice-sharing and as a forum to exchange experience.
Agnès Saal is the Director of Pompidou Center, a maverick architectural building which hosts the second biggest collection of contemporary art in the world. Serving its core mission to spread knowledge about all creative works from the 20th century and those heralding the third millennium, the Pompidou Center holds approximately thirty exhibitions and international events annually, including cinema screenings, concerts and conferences, drawing a wide range of audiences.
A graduate of the École Nationale d'Administration, a prestigious graduate school preparing French high civil servants, Agnès held previously other high responsibilities in the public administration, serving as Director of the French National Public Library (BNF).
How does the Pompidou Center distinguish itself in the world of modern art?
The Pompidou Center’s goal is to spread art and culture to the public at large in a non-intimidating setting, as can be seen from its unique “inside out” construction, its welcoming open-space architecture and easy-to-access interior spaces dedicated to different audiences, which contribute to breaking down the barriers surrounding modern art.
For instance, we’ve just launched Studio 13/16, an area of over 250 sq. m designed exclusively for teenagers and meant to bring them into direct contact with artists and trigger their curiosity at an age in life when they are keen to experiment and make discoveries on their own.
Another extraordinary concept born with the Pompidou Center is the Institute for Acoustic/Music Research and Coordination, one of the world’s largest public research centers dedicated to both musical expression and scientific research. It is a residence for international composers and artists who use cutting edge scientific and technological innovations to express themselves through music and where research on acoustics, musicology, computer science etc. is carried out in partnership with several universities and international companies.
What stands does the Center take in relation to societal issues?
Among the key features of our time are the new ways in which people tend to move across continents, inventing new geographies and blurring barriers between disciplines or careers. This is nowhere more evident than in the art world where limits fade away – with young artists moving through artistic disciplines more freely than ever before, giving birth to extremely original works of art. We believe it is our duty to open up our space to artists from all over the world. There are artists in emerging regions which provide the world with an extraordinary richness of forms of expressions such as contemporary Chinese, African or Latin American artists. Then, at a European level, throughout Eastern Europe, very diverse artistic movements are vibrating, a fact we acknowledged through one of our recent contemporary exhibitions, “Les promesses du passé” (Promises of the past).
How does the Pompidou Center collaborate with other modern art centers?
We have put in place very dynamic partnerships with other cultural centers in Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom etc. The recently opened exhibition of Piet Mondrian’s works is a perfect example. This ambitious retrospective is the first in France on such a scale in spite of the artist’s personal history in Paris. It was clearly made possible thanks to our very privileged partnership with the Gemeente Museum in the Hague.
How about the barriers of the digital world? What is the Center’s stance towards the digitization of art works?
In 2011, we will be launching our own digitization project, which will cover the entire cultural content of the Pompidou Center, classified and rendered accessible in a smart new way through user-friendly indexes and not simply provided in bulk. It will be an impressive online library, with an innovative semantic architecture, which will enable visitors to carry out exhaustive research and get access to the material they are interested in, as well as to all the related materials.
What is the message you wanted to send through the exhibition “Elles@Centre Pompidou”, presenting the Center’s collection of works by female artists?
The idea of giving over the space to women artists is unique in the art world and also corresponded to the expression of our commitment to making a place for women in arts. Through our acquisition policies, we are very careful to ensure that women artists receive the recognition they deserve.
The exhibited women artists have a specific vision of the world; their works of art are extremely original and profoundly rich in the messages they convey. The fact that over 2 million visitors so far have visited “Elles @ Centre Pompidou” since its opening in May 2009 shows that the public was eager to discover those artists.
In September 2010, Eugenia became the only woman holding the position of managing director among the top European business schools and one of only four women holding such a position worldwide upon her appointment. An incredible success!
Eugenia Bieto shared with us ESADE’s plans to continue its pursuit of excellence and to support women’s empowerment.
ESADE is rated in various prestigious rankings among the 50 best business schools worldwide and the top choice in Europe. What will you aim at during your term?
We have three priorities for the next 4 years. First, we want to more strongly respond to the demands of a globalized world, by attracting the best students and professors from different regions of the world. We thus plan to augment scholarship funds so that talented people who do not have enough financial resources can take part in our academic programs.
Second, we want to increase our research & development activities so as to foster innovation worldwide. Viewing the global context, we are aware that we need to bring solutions for encouraging positive behaviors, such as entrepreneurship, innovation or corporate social responsibility.
Third, we aim at building a prominent research group to create relevant knowledge on corporate social responsibility (CSR) so as to enrich the societal debate and to induce our students to become responsible leaders. The respect of certain values in education, business, and law... has been a permanent concern for us, since ESADE was inaugurated by the Network of Jesuit Business Schools in 1958. Our role as a top business school is to ensure that leaders are prepared to take responsible decisions and generate economic value.
In general, women make up an equal proportion of undergraduate business graduates, but these numbers drop in MBA education. How will you increase women’s representation in MBA classes?
This is general trend that needs to be changed. Women make up 50% of our undergraduate students, but only 31% of our MBA students. Moreover, we count only 10% women among those attending programs designed for executive managers. This type of gender inequity is mostly determined by the societal context, however we scrutinize it carefully. Our approach is to integrate women in the current business scenario. Apart from offering scholarships to female students, our courses and working groups are organized so as to accustom future managers to working in teams where women are present. We make sure that there is at least one woman present in every working group so that men, who tend to be in the majority at top levels, can learn how to work with women and dispel gender stereotypes at early career stages.
Several distinguished business schools have tailored MBA programs for women executives, such as Stanford Graduate School of Business, IMD or Kellogg School of Management. What is your opinion on such programs?
MBA programs for women may be a very good option to increase their presence in executive roles; however ESADE will not apply such a strategy for the moment. We prefer mixed classes and ensuring that women are present in working groups, in research groups so that we can build a custom of working with women. With this in mind, we also made other changes in our programs to ensure that women improve certain skills and abilities that they may lack, but which will be essential to breaking the glass ceiling. For instance, we asked general managers from different organizations to hold courses at ESADE to give our students the possibility of networking with experienced managers. We are looking to generate situations to which women will have to adjust in their professional lives, so that they can gain the needed skills while doing their studies.
In recent months, policy makers opened discussion on applying ‘quotas’ to solve the gender imbalance. Do you think this approach can succeed?
Quota policies do not allow organizations to attract the most talented people. At the same time, they put pressure on women who work in quota-driven environments to constantly have to justify themselves. Women need to learn how to be competitive and they also need the adequate tools to compete.
If we look at Spain, the number of women managers has been increasing these last years. At the political level, the current Spanish government holds perfect gender parity. The reason lies mostly in a change of paradigm, not in the policy-driven changes as the country does not currently have frameworks supporting a work/life balance for women, such as a kindergarten system. This means that the current generation of active people does not perceive women's presence in structures of power as exceptional, that women are becoming more competitive and that women are able to sell themselves better than a few decades ago.
There should be policies encouraging gender equity, but not imposing it as an obligation.
How is the application of quota policies in the academic world perceived by ESADE?
The world of academics is like a market where top schools compete to attract the best professors in the world. Therefore, the first interest is to attract the best professors and not necessarily to establish gender parity. In ESADE, currently 27% of its professors are women. However, if we look at the last 5 years, we can see that among young professors having joined the ranks, the percentages are close to parity. This means that things have evolved positively these past years and that eventually women will be fairly represented in the academic world and in leadership positions within the years to come.
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