25 juin 2012

The European Women's Professional Network (European PWN), Paris, June 15

On June 15, in Paris, I have been invited to run the conclusion together with Françoise Gri, CEO Manpower France and South Region, of a debate organized by the European Women's Professional Network (European PWN). Was a pleasure for at least three reasons: 

  1. I know Françoise pretty well. Always a pleasure to exchange with her. Françoise has been ranked in the top 50 most influential women in business by Fortune, 8 years in a row. Quite a performance ! 
  2. Also, the European PWN is a great association, very well organized and fully recognized by all medias and institutions. Influencing positively with pragmatic thinkings on the subjects related to women. 
  3. The subject of the conference was great : "Women's success through collaboration with men". 
Some ideas I did develop this day :

  • the world is changing dramatically, becoming more and more complex. We need some complementarities to face those challenges. Women can bring a lot of value and values in this new environment / climate. Women have strenghts than men do not have, the opposite being true as well. 
  • The purchasing power of women have been growing a lot these past few years with women's evolution. There is here a need for reflection. Women do not count for nothing. They are key and they need to be represented at the head of companies and/or institutions to embrace those moves. 
  • Change on this subject is slow, mainly because this is touching the culture and the image. Things that are complex and dangerous to handle. There is a significant gap between "the way men see women" (men are totally influenced by their judeo-christian education and significantly troubled by the family notions, religion, the relation to money, etc.) and "the way they want to evolve" (women ambition has changed over time). As a result, some notions are quite hard for men to handle and they have usually some work to do, which can take time : women & power ; women & money; women & family. 
  • As a matter of fact, the society has been moving to strong turnaround : we have now a society where divorcing is not seen anymore as an issue. Women can gain money, sometimes, still not enough, more than man ... 
  • Women need to be treated  like men, no more. Not above. Just as if they were men. 
  • The notions of parity and equality gender diversity are two subjects that can be positively influenced by what Nordics is doing. But this is certainly not enough to make a real change. 
  • However, we know that there is a direct link between the number of women at all level ion a company and the performance reached by this company. 
  • Women to be effective need in my view to behave like women, not men. It is hard I know. Growing in a world of men push women by "mimetism", to copy what mean are doing and this is obviously the worst they can do. All of not doing this, but this has been my observation in many situations. Women can develop extraordinary plus, like a strong emotional intelligence, a real ability to listen, a capability to collaborate and teamwork, a longterm view (instead of being just short term focused), a huge facility to coach people/others, the capacity of saying the truth / being honest, meaning a lot of courage. Finally women have a real sense of commitment. They will rarely give up if they can do differently. 
  • Quota is certainly not the perfect solution, but knowing where we are today, we believe it makes sense to start with targeted objectives, even if this means to force some companies, institutions, men to do the move now. 
I finally make two observations that can sometimes limit women's progresion, their progression and the one of women besides them (leaders) : 

  1. Women do not always promote women ! Indeed we should say, she has not to do it, but right now, the challenge being quite hard, any help looks great ! 
  2. women can limit themselves. Too much sometimes. In fact women say yes to a job when they are very comfortable and sure they can achieve the goals expected. Men would have less precautions. They will take the challenge and see after has to be done to perform it ! 
The fact is that women do not have an experience long term, at least by far shorter that the one of men. Experience comes with time. We learn by doing and by leading. Women will learn progressively. They will be quick. 
I finally spoke about Meg Whitman taking HP as the CEO. That will be one of my next paper. I should say I have fully convinced that our society needs to be a better balance between men and women. Women need to play higher responsibilities, and they will. We have no choice. It will come and we may see significant progresses very soon in our worldwide economy. Let's make a bet here !