International Women’s Day: the journey towards feminisation
Gaëlle Olivier, CEO of Asia Pacific, spoke on the occasion of International Women’s Day in "Les Echos", French financial media. Find out her views about gender equality in the workplace and the introduction of gender quotas* in governing bodies.
"The system of quotas is a sensitive issue; no one wants to be appointed to meet a quota. However, the low rate of change in the number of women in leadership positions in recent years shows that it is time for action. The situation is not sustainable, no company can just disregard 50% of its staff. [In France], the quota system has been successful to favour the number of women among Boards of directors; the law has forced the identification of women with potential and expertise. The situation is more complicated in executive management roles, but it is essential to show a voluntarist attitude. Further thoughts must be conducted to allow more women in managerial roles very early in their career, an important exposure to join executive committees. In the end, it is a question of education. Hong Kong and Singapore are very far ahead on the issue of feminisation: since more than a generation, the level of education of women is very good and they are getting into managerial positions very naturally.
Through my engineering studies, I have been immersed in traditionally more male-oriented environments, but it allowed me to be comfortable expressing my views in men's circles. I never wondered if a position was right for me as a woman; I always made my professional choices about challenges that attracted me or people I wanted to work with. When I share my experience with younger people, I encourage them to get out of their comfort zone: this is how we learn the most about ourselves and how we seek answers to new topics.
Women must have confidence in their abilities and express themselves on the positions they want; companies must be more creative in the career paths they offer them, and leaders must learn why a woman can say no to a position. Cultural and educational biases exist; it is time to be more aware of them and seize opportunities with openness, optimism and confidence."
* In France, a report of the High Council on Equality (HCE) between men and women on “Women’s Access to Responsibilities” called for the use of quotas for the executive and management committees of listed companies.