[How to diversify your team] – Tip #5 Let them talk!

Today, I’d like to address the issue of speaking up in companies.

If at first sight, this issue might seem secondary, the unequal relationship to speech between genders has many consequences. This cause is very much linked to that of work recognition.        

For example, when male employees speak up in meetings, or promote their work to their hierarchy more than their female counterparts, they appear more involved, and will be more easily considered for a promotion when the time comes.

If I use the term “men”, it is to lighten the text and avoid the very heavy saying “a somewhat significant share of men, or at least a greater share than that of women”. There are obviously important contrasts within the male (and female) gender, starting with introverts and extroverts. Women are therefore far from being the only ones who would benefit from a change in mindset.   

Inequality in the relationship to speech is at the root of many other inequalities, which is why it is so important to tackle it. Additionally, companies will benefit from promoting (and prevent from losing) great employees who are not sufficiently recognized. They will also gain more from their contributions.    

Now that I have come to this conclusion, a question remains:         

What can be done to solve this problem?

As stated earlier, women generally speak up less in meetings than men. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that they will only express an opinion if they consider themselves very competent on the subject. The second reason is related to what is called “manterrupting”.

For those who are not familiar with this term, here is the definition, which I gave in TIP#3: “The regular cutting off of women’s voices in meetings not only denies their competence, but also allows men to take ownership their ideas. A word has even been coined to define this phenomenon, which is far more common than it seems: manterrupting. “.        

Thus, being accustomed to having their voices cut off, women are more hesitant to speak up.

The good news is that it is quite simple to improve this situation. Just stay cautious during the meeting and go around the table regularly, asking those who have not yet spoken to give their opinions. This way you will get a real diversity of thoughts, instead only listening to those who are more expansive.

When someone expresses an original idea or even one that goes against the grain of the status quo, don’t fall into the “it will never work” trap. Innovation is based on the variety of ideas and therefore requires being open to unconventional ideas.

As for the issue of cutting people off, even though this is more often the result of an unconscious act rather than a bad intention, it must be treated with my famous “zero tolerance”. I once worked with a very enthusiastic man who had the habit of systematically cutting off his female colleagues. Why women? Certainly out of impatience, because they spoke with a small, timid voice, which was easy to interrupt. After asking him several times to stop doing it, I ended up playing the provocation card: “I know that you think, as a man, that your voice matters more than women’s, but I would like to listen to them.” I didn’t mean it of course, but it had the merit of opening his eyes to his inappropriate behavior, which never happened again.

Another equally effective option is to ask everyone to share their opinion by email, or in person (during a one-on-one meetings) for those who have difficulty expressing ideas in writing. This allows for input from employees who are uncomfortable in public and won’t speak up in a meeting.

Don’t miss out on diversity of thought and speech.

Speech is a crucial issue in the fight for the cause of women. Companies would benefit a lot from listening more to their employees. Recognizing everyone’s work for what it’s worth (and not for the share of talking in a conversation) is also about being more fair. After all, if there’s one thing we’re learning in the age of social media, it’s that it’s not always the people who take up the most space in the public arena who deserve the most to be heard. 

[How to diversify your team] – Tip #3 Fighting ordinary sexism

In my tip#2 on welcoming women into your teams, I very quickly touched on the subject that upsets people, the elephant in the office, the one that is so deeply rooted in our habits that it will take a real commitment from each and every one of us to fight it… I’m talking about the ordinary sexism. As for the rest, the only acceptable tolerance is zero tolerance. But here, the main difficulty will be to know how to recognize it.

It is not the very clear inappropriate comments that do the most harm. These are easy to identify, and are generally unanimously condemned by the team members. In the end, they are quite easy to eliminate if you decide to really tackle the problem, by making the company’s position on the issue clear.

Ordinary sexism is more insidious, it’s hidden in the little phrases, the little comments that go unnoticed but can hurt the people they are addressed to. It is all the more difficult to combat because most actors are not aware that they are taking part in it and think they are being humorous – at worst.

Let’s look at some examples.

The benevolent paternalism of giving more explanation to a woman than to a man, which may, in turn, give the impression to other team members, but also to herself, that she is not up to the task.

Comments about the supposed unavailability of a woman with children, said without malice, imply that a woman cannot take on the same workload as a man and therefore cannot have the same level of responsibility. We can add to this category questions such as “how are things with the children, it is not too hard balancing work and family life? “

Inappropriate remarks about women’s emotions, which immediately discredit a woman who expresses a disagreement. This gives an almost systematic advantage to the opponent in an argument (the worst in my opinion being the expression: “that famous time of the month”). A classic example is the now famous ‘calm down (…) To be President of the Republic, you have to be calm’ that Nicolas Sarkozy addressed to Ségolène Royal during the 2007 inter-party debate, implying that she had a propensity for anger, and therefore was not fit to be President (whose response is equally well known: ‘there are angers that are perfectly healthy’).

The regular cutting off of women speaking in meetings, which not only denies their competence, but also leads men to take ownership of their ideas. A word has even been coined to define this phenomenon, which is much more common than it seems: manterrupting. One of the first studies on this subject goes back to 1975. It was conducted by sociologists Don Zimmerman and Candace West, who examined 31 conversations. They concluded that there were 8 times as many interruptions in male-female discussions as in male-male discussions, and in 98% of cases in the male-female direction. Many statistics analysing the exchange of words in broadcasted debates (or equivalent) are published regularly, and they show that the problem is not fading over time.

And what about the way conversations around the coffee machine are perceived? Where men would solve big strategic problems, and women would gossip.

We could go on with the list (and I invite you to add examples in the comments), but let’s spend a few minutes together to see how each of us can act at our level to fight against this ordinary sexism.

I’m repeating myself, and I will repeat it as often as necessary, the only acceptable tolerance is zero tolerance. We don’t let anything go by, and correct anybody who does one of the things listed above. For example, you ask the colleague who interrupted a woman to let her speak, you react to inappropriate jokes, you explain why a certain behaviour is unacceptable.       

You could argue that women themselves could make it known when behaviour is inappropriate. However, it can be difficult for a young recruit with little experience or for an employee who is facing her line manager to respond. It is therefore necessary to intervene when you are in a position to do so.

And if you’re wondering how to differentiate between sexist and non-sexist behaviour, so that you don’t subconsciously participate in it, here’s a simple tip: before you make a remark to a woman, ask yourself: would you say it to a man? If the answer is no, it is very likely that it would be better not to say it.

All that’s left is to train yourself to recognise ordinary sexism, and then apply yourself to never tolerate it.

[How to diversify your team] – Tip#1 Diversify your recruitment

People often ask me to share tips and tricks to promote diversity at the workplace. I’m going to walk you through the methods that allowed me to increase the number of women in my team for each of my roles.

And because it is trendy to do Top 10s, I am starting a series of 10 articles, to explain meticulously, step by step, the mechanism I use, so that anyone, man or woman, can use it at their level.

For the first article of this series, let’s start by the beginning: recruitment.

Or rather: how to recruit more women?

« I would like to hire more women in my team, but I can’t find any. » Who has never heard this infamous excuse?

Indeed, the best way to prevent diversity from increasing is to deny any responsibility and make no changes to the method used to find talent. Denial being just one step before the policy of burying our heads in the sand like an ostrich.

More seriously, if you’ve already had that thought, we’re going to determine together the best path to follow to solve the problem.

  1. The company’s brand image

First, it’s essential to analyse the image that your company reflects and to ask yourself, in full transparency, if a woman could relate to it. When you work in a typically male-oriented industry, like the ones I’ve worked in (oil & gas and construction), it doesn’t seem that obvious. Yet sometimes, little is needed to change a company’s image, such as ensuring that every publication presents a true diversity, both on the company website and on social media, that the company has published a non-discrimination policy…etc. This underlines the idea that gender equality plays an important role for the company.

This could be out of your reach, but it’s certainly possible to get the message across to HR or the communications department.

2. The job posting

You might be under the impression that changing your company’s image is out of your control. This question remains: What can you do at your level?

This tip is for anyone who manages a team, however small it may be, and who has (or will have) a position to fill. I’ve always managed to have more diversity in my teams, by using a simple trick. When I’m looking for someone new for a role, I always request that there be a true diversity in the candidates selected by HR. The word « request » is not an exaggeration, because I have no issue blocking the recruitment process if it’s not met.

Therefore, HR must receive enough candidates to ensure that there isn’t a unique profile. And we’re going to help them.

The first step is to make sure that the job posting and the vocabulary used is truly inclusive, such as using “man or woman” in the text.

But don’t get too excited, it doesn’t stop there. The topic of diversity has been studied widely and there are a lot of readings online on cognitive biases. It’s thus important to understand them to make sure that your job posting is suitable for everyone.

For instance, with equal qualifications, approximately 20% less women apply for a role. This is a known phenomenon, often a consequence of the way women were raised, leading them to apply to a role only if their qualifications meet 100% of the requirements. A man will more frequently take more risks. Therefore, without lowering the threshold for required skills, it could be beneficial to review the job description to remove skills that aren’t crucial, such as « at least 10 years of experience in that sector » but instead focus in explaining the role in detail.

Women continue to be the main accountable spouse in charge of children’s education and the majority of household chores. Explaining in the job description that the role could have flexible hours, be partially remote, or even be part-time (most jobs are completely doable part-time, at 80% or 90% capacity), would remove an additional obstacle in these candidacies.

If the role is for an entry-level graduate, it’s important to make sure that students who are fresh out of university want to work for your company. It’s not that difficult, but it requires some time. The most efficient way is to find female employees who’d be willing to run regular conferences or presentations on campuses. They could then highlight their company’s gender-inclusive policy in their speech, and how amazing it is to work there as a woman.

There you have it. Thanks to your spectacular job with the job posting and the substantive work in universities, you now have plenty of female candidates.

After this step comes the long-awaited moment of the job interview.

  1. The job interview

30 years ago, when I decided that I wanted to become a field engineer on an oil rig, the recruiter asked me what my mother thought of my career choice. I had answered « would you ask men this question? No? Then you’ll understand that I refuse to answer it. »

I’m optimist and I’m sure that 30 years later, we’ve made a lot of progress, and that recruiters – apart from very few exceptions, no longer ask inappropriate questions on possible future children for instance, or questions from another era.

But avoiding sexist questions is the bare minimum and is definitely not enough – that’d be too easy.

Our own subconscious biases are a lot more insidious. We all tend to hire people that are similar to us, with whom we have created affinities, and who correspond to the members of our usual network. But is that really the best way to build a team that represents diversity in its way of thinking or approaching problems? And this isn’t about parity, but rather how interesting it is to have people with different backgrounds, nationalities, and opinions within the same team. So it’s important to overcome this bias. Being aware of it is the first essential step, but it’s still not enough. Another way to be more impartial during the interview is to ask very different people to be a part of the recruitment process. And of course, be open and ready to take « risks » to recruit people with unique profiles.

At this point, there’s nothing left but to select a candidate. If at the end of the process, it so happens that the best candidate for the role is a man, then of course hire him! The purpose of this article is to make sure that during the interview process, qualified female candidates were given the opportunity to apply, and not only men. Who knows, this might prevent you from missing out on your company’s next CEO!

But the recruitment part isn’t all of it, and we’ll see together in the next article the best methods to keep the women in your team!


 « Bruno Le Maire favorable to quotas to promote gender equality »

Such a title was needed to get me to write again after a such a long silence.

The word « quota » was used.

Year after year, this word never ceases to create heated debates. While some see quotas as THE solution to solve gender inequality within companies, other see it as unfair favouritism, resulting in a promotion linked to gender instead of competencies. We would thus have women recruited because they are women and not because they are qualified for the role, at the expense of men that are sometimes more deserving. So what is it really? Are there any conclusions to be drawn from our few years of experience on this subject? And, what are the arguments of those vehemently opposed to quotas?

The timing is good. We are celebrating the 10 years of the Copé-Zimmermann law. It was voted on January 27, 2011. As a reminder, this law depicts that the percentage of directors of each sex appointed to the the board of directors of medium or large companies may not be less than 40%.

The result, after 10 years? The 160 largest French companies have 46% of women appointed to the board, double the average for OECD countries. But the main effect of this law can’t be boiled down to a number, it lies in the evolution of boards of directors. Greater diversity has made it possible to hire people with different skills and to improve corporate governance. Diversity has allowed for the implementation of a new perspective amongst boards of directors and for a greater questioning of a company’s established order, on which traditional leadership is based. In a world where innovation is accelerating exponentially, these changes are becoming real competitive advantages.

However, when Bruno Le Maire’s announcement came out, the same 10-year-old arguments came back. It would be fair to assume that the results would speak for themselves and that we would avoid having the same debates, the same questions and the same answers … But no, that would be too simple and we would miss out on the joy of French debates.

So, let’s deconstruct the arguments against quotas together – or at least the ones that come up the most

Argument 1: “Quotas are not enough to change all mindsets & behaviors. “

In other words, they lead to small changes, not a complete transformation of the company (or even society). And it is true, for example, that there are still too few women at the executive level and in executive committees, despite the increased percentage of women on boards of directors. We can’t argue this fact: quotas have a limited impact. However, this type of thinking encourages idleness, certainly doesn’t promote the cause, and is, in my view, outdated. Let’s accept that, whatever we do, it will never be enough, it will never immediately solve the whole problem, but that it doesn’t prevent us from implementing initiatives that are headed in the right direction. Let’s analyze the positive impact each proposal could have, rather than immediately highlighting its limits.

Argument 2: “I would recruit a lot of women, but I can’t find any. “

Indeed, using the typical channels makes it possible to recruit the typical profiles, coming from the same schools, from the same social background, and with the same vision of the world and of the company. It is necessary to have a real approach to diversity, to search for candidates in the “cross-networks” and above all, to accept and promote different profiles.

Argument 3: “Women are chosen for the quota, but not for their competencies. “

Women are often the first to put this argument forward against quotas. They are understandably afraid of not being recruited for their qualifications, but because of their gender. But experience shows that this idea does not reflect reality at all. No company would take the risk of appointing an incompetent person to a critical position, even to meet a legal obligation. No recruiter would take the risk of presenting unqualified candidates to fulfil objectives. This attitude would quickly have very negative consequences on the person’s own job, and on a larger scale, on the company.

When Schlumberger, an oil services company, introduced a quota in the 1990s to hire women engineers to work drilling platforms, the main impact it had was that it questioned hiring methods, both in terms of the recruitment ads posted and the format of the interviews. The first action put in place was to find a way to draw women to these low-feminized jobs. Then, there was integration work done to support these pioneers. The direct consequence of quantified objectives is that it questions the attractiveness of companies. This will lead them to be more creative so as not to produce a single recruitment scheme (and therefore naturally a single profile in the company), but on the contrary, to offer a different approach to attract different people! After a few years, the objective of 35% was reached, 35% of women whose skills were no longer questioned because they started being recognized over time.

Quotas remain the most effective way to accelerate the increase in the number of women that occupy positions traditionally held by men. 10 years after the Copé-Zimmermann law, the value added of parity has been proven, and women are clearly no longer recruited into boards of directors because of quotas, but for their beneficial contributions.

And that’s the goal. To have a number of women large enough for their presence to become natural and for mindsets to change … in order to one day remove quotas!

Finally, and if you want to read an article in which I dive deeper into the arguments, it’s here

Advice to my daughter #3 – How to manage emotions at work

Hello my daughter,

The three months are coming to an end. Did you follow my advice? What project did you implement to show your project management skills? Did you manage to convince your colleagues that several approaches existed for the same job? During our last conversation, you told me that you had progressed on all these points, and I’m very proud of you.

But along the way, you learned a lot about yourself and your relationship to work, which was the real objective of the exercise.


Last week, you couldn’t help but make a sour remark to Robert, taking the risk of ruining months of efforts forcing yourself to think before you speak.

Last month, you couldn’t hold back your tears in front of your manager, who refused to listen to what you had to say about potential improvements to your project’s methodology.

Essentially, you’re quite emotional and it affects you in the workplace, and I know it can be uncomfortable for you, which is why we’re talking about it today.

As expected, after you got hired, you spent a lot of time monitoring your speech to make sure you wouldn’t offend your new colleagues. It was a difficult exercise for you, but since you were there to watch and learn, it was quite easy for you to keep your thoughts and emotions to yourself. However, you’re now the actress of your professional life, and you can’t afford to stay in the background. During reunions, your opinion is just as important as someone else’s. If you feel like a decision could hinder the success of a project, you need to put yourself out there and voice your worries. Unfortunately, being more expressive makes controlling your emotions all the more difficult.

So, how do you control your emotions at work?

Difficult question. First, you have to learn to tame them. There are a lot of methods that are more or less adapted to your personality. They vary from yoga to meditation to puzzles (that’s more my thing). By asking your colleagues, friends, or favorite search engine, I’m sure you’ll find all the information you need from people who are a lot more competent than me on this subject matter.

If you’re at work, there are several fairly easy tips you can put in place.

First, put things into perspective. Yes I know, easier said than done! But you can really “dedramatize” if you take a step back and consider calmly the real impact of the action you led or the reaction you created. What’s the consequence of this mistake you’re obsessing over? Aren’t you making a big deal out of nothing?
Another infallible method is that famous adage that tells you to sleep on it. An email that gets on your nerves in the evening will be a lot less offensive when you read it again in the morning. During that time, you’ll have taken the time to evaluate the options and find a solution that you hadn’t thought of the night before.

At work, difficult meetings are a breeding ground for anger to arise (an unpleasant colleague, a poorly executed project, etc.). In that case, the method I use regularly is to prepare my “confrontations” meticulously and go in with all my arguments ready. Oten, what makes you angry during these meetings is a feeling of powerlessness, or the impression that you weren’t prepared enough. When you arrive knowing your file like the back of your hand and having analyzed all the options, you can lead a serene discussion, based on proven arguments and not feelings. This makes all the difference!

But if all of this doesn’t work, then once again…put things into perspective.

 Is it really that bad to cry in public? Yes, I know, in today’s  society, it’s not very well seen, because you have to be super strong to face the professional world and stay stone-faced at all times. “
However, customs can change (I’m referring you to my article on “a new style of leadership” where I talk more about it). It’s very possible to create a workspace where emotions aren’t excluded and where a collaborate who cries is not weak, but rather someone who isn’t afraid of showing their emotions in public. Emotions are an integral part of who we are and hiding them should be as incongruous as trying to hide our intellectual abilities, for instance.

Once you’ve accepted that, things are easier.

One time, I started crying in my boss’ office because of exhaustion. I had been doing the work of two people for a few weeks and I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I decided to make my boss face his responsibilities, but I couldn’t hold my tears back. But instead of running away, I decided to accept them. I told him: “Listen to what I’m saying, don’t get distracted by my tears, the content of my speech is still the same” and I ended the meeting like that. So here’s my advice for the week. Learning to control your emotions can always be useful. But if they’re overflowing, accept them, don’t try to hide them.

Even when you have tears running down your face, keep your head up!

Advice to my daughter – You signed your first contract.

You’ve just finished your trial period and you’ve finally received your first contract – the infamous Graal. I know that you’re relieved, ecstatic, after this little victory. However, you’re still very aware that life is starting now and that the challenges to come are at least as hard as the past ones. Thus, once you’ve celebrated on social media, called your best friend, and drank champagne with your family (in this order), it’s time to prepare for the next step.


Your colleagues appreciate you, they consider you like a young girl who is really motivated and brings a bit of fresh air to this slightly dusty service. A few even went to the bar with you to celebrate your new contract.

Now that you’ve managed to fit in, it’s finally time for you to make your mark in the service. So far, you were mainly there to learn, but now it’s important for you to prove that you bring some added value to the team.

Normally, you’ve already identified your allies. Those who will defend you when you say something dumb, who are infinitely patient when you ask a million questions (I know how annoying you can be in those moments) and who always find time to help you in your training. This first group is like a little cocoon where you feel good, and you’re welcome in all circumstances. However, there are also other types of colleagues. This second group is made of the neutral ones, those who ignore you because: “You understand, miss, we’ve seen a lot of young ones like you. We are still here and we have better things to do than to waste our time with this new recrue who may not make it past Spring.”

They’re not even the worst. There’s a third group of colleagues, more negative, who have decided to make your life hell, because for them, welcoming a novice rhymes with hazing: “She needs to suffer as much as we did when we started, following this wonderful tradition that we’ve created”

There’s your new challenge. Conquering the recalcitrants.

Why? Because during the first three months, you learned everything you needed to know from the first group. Now, you need to get to know the second group, and even the third one. This is going to require more patience, and you’ll need to be more strategic, but it’s a sinequanone condition to expand your circle of acquaintances and prove that you have what it takes to be a leader. With the first group, it was easy, almost anyone can be friends with them, but you now have to put your leadership skills forward and prove that you can be a part of any team.

There are several proven successful methods, like going for coffee breaks, asking about Sunday activities, knowing the children’s names, and even the grandchildren if needed, and showing an increasing interest in their projects. I’m not saying that it should be forced, or that you have to be a hypocrite! No, just remember that we’re all human and that if someone is a bit cold, it may only be because they don’t know you.

Is it all? No, not at all, that would be too easy.

You were humble during your training and you tried to avoid being seen as the pedantic young girl who thinks she knows it all. It’s a great quality, which people sometimes forget about, and I’m proud of you. But now, it’s time to show what you’re worth. If you don’t want to be seen as the ‘nice little one’ forever, who’s agreeable to work with and always there to help, but that no-one can imagine in a leadership role – even in the far far future, then it’s time to act now, before you get put in that box. And believe me, it’s so difficult to get rid of such a label that you often end up identifying with it and acting as is expected of you, entering a vicious cycle.

You’re seeing the company with fresh eyes. You graduated from a great engineering school. Clearly, since you arrived, you must’ve seen a lot of things that have shocked you or surprised you, and your head must be buzzing with ideas to improve current processes, both in the working life and in the projects that you’ve studied. No?

But you’re scared. Scared that your ideas might be stupid, or worse, that what you say might embarrass you in front of your colleagues. Afraid of being the one who’s going to question the established order and particularly afraid of confronting Robert, the guardian of traditions. You know that there’s little room to maneuver, and Robert has accepted you but he’s keeping an eye on you and was very clear about the fact that your youthful charm won’t lower his harsh judgment on your competencies.

It’s now time to step out of your comfort zone. You can keep using your angelic air to ask questions on the processes that are more and more precise and inquisitive. And slowly, you’ll start suggesting ideas for improvement.

And to make sure that you’ll actually do it – that you won’t spend the next ten years in your little cocoon, regretting the fact that you didn’t shake the system, I have a challenge for you. You pick whichever project you want, you give yourself three months (or less, but not more), and you come back to me. When I say ‘come back to me’, I won’t get offended if you’d rather do this challenge with a friend.

And in three months, we meet up. If you won, dinner’s on me, if not, dinner’s on you, in my favorite restaurant. This project is yours – it could be, for instance, to get rid of all the plastic bottles in the office, or it could be something more in line with the industrial processes. It really doesn’t matter.

What matters is to start a ‘disruptive’ project, with a measurable objective, with a reasonable deadline, to prove that you have the power to change things when you put your heart into it.

Good luck (this would be a good time to shake hands) and see you in three months.

Recipe 9 : get out of your ivory tower

In the last article, we talked about how difficult it can be to settle into a first management position, and how few people are prepared for the stress they’re about to face.

To handle the situation, some will stay in their offices and isolate themselves. Comfortable offices, between the coffee machine and the canteen, in which it’s tempting to stay.

It’s easy to spend time answering emails, preparing powerpoints, establishing strategies and doing all the things that will make us look good in front of higher management.  We become very productive, active and visible to impress management.

Except that…

By not going to see what happens in real life, we forget. We come up with beautiful theories, that look great on paper, but are completely impossible to implement in real life.

The human parameter disappeared from the strategy. These infamous people don’t always react as anticipated in the strategy. They have different cultures depending on the country of origin, different life experiences, and annoyingly tend to act differently than predicted by statistics.

In the designer world, it’s the difference between what they call design and user experience. A lot of energy and money is spent to gather user feedback, because it’s the only way to guarantee product success.

As a manager, there’s no need to spend a massive amount of money on consumer behavior studies or to read hundreds of pages of studies written by specialized cabinets. No, none of that. There’s a method which is a lot simpler and consists of leaving your office to visit plants. Spending time with people who work on the field and finding out what motivates them is the best way to test your ideas and see if they’ll be successful.

The problem with the ivory tower is that we end up believing that our strategy is optimal, because we spent a lot of time working on it, defending it in front of high management, and doing nice powerpoints with pretty colors, ultimately convincing ourselves that we hold THE only truth. However, we don’t know if it would pass the user test, and that’s often how we build a wall of incomprehension between those who determine the strategies, and those who are in charge of implementing them.

In my current Health and Safety position, I see it every day. The trap to avoid is the infamous “tick the box syndrome”. A project is beautiful and convincing, but completely inadequate with the operational needs, and difficult to implement. Employees will then very quickly find a way to work around it. The probability that this doesn’t happen is directly correlated to the time spent on site. The photo illustrating this article shows it very clearly. It’s almost impossible, and very much unproductive, to force a user to take a path we designed if there’s a more practical one. The question should rather be: why would we want to enforce this path and not the more logical and fitted one, while obtaining the same result – if not a better one. Often, the answer doesn’t exist, because it doesn’t come from a place of purposeful harm, but rather from incomprehension as a result of a lack of communications between operational people and decision-makers…who forgot to get out of their offices!

To conclude, if you don’t get out of your ivory tower for the reasons mentioned above, do it at least to oxygenate your brain, to search for new ideas and to make connections with people in real life. We quickly start liking these trips, with people who often go out of their way to welcome you, happy to finally be able to exchange with corporate. So… Dare to do it!

Can women get Angry?

Anger, a sign of hysteria?

What happens when someone gets angry? It obviously depends greatly on cultures and personalities. However, quite often, it’s not really recommended in the professional sphere. It’s the sign that a person is losing their temper, and thus the control of the situation. Anger also leads us to make impulsive and irrational decisions. “Anger is a bad counselor” as they say so well.

And the atmosphere and team spirit can be affected by these mood swings.

When, after graduation, I went to Nigeria, I didn’t really know how to control my emotions. Thus, when I found myself supervising a plant with 120 Nigerian workers at the sweet age of 25, I definitely was not prepared to face that much pressure.

I had to learn simultaneously how to manage people, deal with clients, direct projects, etc. I was sleeping very little and handling the plant somehow.

Obviously, since I sometimes lost control of the situation, I often got mad. Really, really mad!

However, I quickly realized that, not only did it have no effect on my team, it was actually counterproductive. Either the person would freeze (when I say that my anger was Homeric!), or they would look at me with condescendence. In both cases, that didn’t help me establish my authority nor move my projects forward.

I ended up spending very complicated months. Workers who didn’t respect me, who constantly questioned my authority, who tested my sensitivity…etc.

Nigeria was my first dive into the wild, and I had to learn very quickly and without any help how to be a director.

Controlling my anger was the first step. How?

I had to substitute my anger for some good mood. To do so, when the night had been bad, I’d spend a few moments concentrating and smiling before getting to work. Actions precedes emotions. A smile, even when fake, allows you to actually feel happier. Alone in my car in the morning, I’d start smiling. 

Similarly, it’s important to prepare for a reunion that is expected to be tense. Working your text, as if you were about to present, and playing the scene enough times in your head for the text to come out naturally – to ensure that, during the crucial moment, emotions don’t get in the way.

Finally, trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, to understand why they’re acting a certain way. Stop thinking that their only goal is to annoy us – maybe they have valid reasons to act that way!

With practice, it becomes easier. Today, I still get mad, but most of the time, it’s controlled and intentional. Sometimes, the situation requires to bang your wrist on the table. 

What I just described is the normal journey, I think, of an employee who is maturing and gaining experience. This applies to both women and men.

Obvious? Yes, of course! At least for my readers!

Yet, what about the difference of treatment between men and women on the issue of anger? We’ve all worked at some point with an anger-prone man. And, if he’s competent, we tend to forgive him. It’s part of his personality, he’s a colorful character!

However, when a woman gets mad… it’s no longer “a nice trait of his personality”. No, this woman is considered almost hysterical. And a hysterical person is not given responsibilities. 

Why this difference? 

Why, when Segolene Royal told Nicolas Sarkozy she was mad about his thoughts on handicap, did he allow himself to say with a condescending tone “you are losing your temper”, which he would’ve never told a man. It worked, since his words were picked up by several newspapers afterwards.

An angry woman is the same as an angry man. Either she wants to express her indignation, either she wants to give more scope to her remarks, without necessarily raising her voice (as did Segolene Royal). She can also be under extreme pressure, or be facing an injustice, and lose control. While this may impact her authority, it should be the same impact as a man would face. 

Ladies, if the situation calls for it, why not let yourself go to a little anger once in a while, without losing control, but will show that there are lines not to cross!

And everyone, when you see an angry woman, before judging her and talking about hormones, ask yourselves how you’d react if it were a man in the same circumstances.

To quota or not to quota, that is the question?

When I started this blog, I knew that one day I’d have to address a topic slightly more controversial than the ones treated until now. The day has come, and we’re going to talk about the very contentious subject of quotas! Indeed, although I’ve been wanting to talk about it for some time, I pushed it back as much as I could to avoid potential harsh criticism. Only recently I found an article by the amazing Isabella Lenarduzzi covering the question « Quotas are a medicine for an ill society ». It’s fate, I can’t avoid it any longer,this article has to be written.

She talks about Belgium, where the laws are different than in France, but the problems are the same. She mentions the BNB and the low number of women in governing bodies.

But the true purpose of the article is to ask the question that everyone wonders deep down when talking about quotas. As Isabella said so well« « Doesn’t this quota system have a humiliating aspect for women,named because they’re women and not necessarily because of their skills? »Humiliating, no. Stigmatizing, yes. I know what I’m talking about: in many panels, I’m often the female-quota. Without the quotas, I probably wouldn’t be invited. Quotas are a medicine for a sick society. A society suffering from the“entre-soi”, from mimicry.

Do I agree with Isabella? Am I in favor or no of quotas? I won’t keep the mystery alive much longer, I’ll admit it right away – I’m for quotas – entirely, 1000%pro-quotas, all the while dreaming that one day we’ll alleviate their importance.

In my first article, I was talking about how I was recruited by Schlumberger at a time where they weren’t hiring women. A few years later, a rule of parity was implemented. By the way, the origin of this change isn’t anecdotal. Indeed, the CEO’s daughter, who had just graduated, complained to her dad about the sexism she encountered during her job search. Her dad, of course, was angered by such discrimination. However, he wondered “what about the company I manage?” After looking into it, he was surprised to find out that less of 1% of the field recruits were women! He decided to change that number as soon as possible, and as he was an “action-man”, he immediately established recruitment quotas.

One argument from people against quotas is: does that mean they only hire women because they’re women? Yes and no. Yes, they’re partly recruited for that –positive discrimination, but also and above all because they have the required skills. A recruiter needs to do his job, which is to hire the best possible candidate for the job, regardless of sex. A quota won’t be a good enough reason to hire someone who doesn’t meet the requirements, as they’ll just become a source of problems for their manager, who would probably come back and yell at the recruiter. The recruiter would not keep his job very long! However, there’s no shortage of young ladies graduates that are both motivated and qualified! Why not turn towards them?

So,quotas, what do they change? It simply forces companies who aren’t necessarily known for their parity to implement a policy to attract women. When we ask little 8-year old what they want to do when she grows up, very few answer“field engineer on an oil rig”. Therefore, instead of trying to dismiss female applicants to avoid the hassle, as they did with me back in 1989, recruiters need to explain to them why they’re made for the job. To become more attractive, a few methods exist. First, saying loud and clear, through different campaigns, that women are welcome. Then, inviting pioneers or senior women to schools, conferences, etc. to attest the fact that it’s an amazing job opened to all. For instance, with their quota policy, Schlumberger’s recruiting of women field engineers increased to 15% in about 10 years, and to about 30%after 20 years.

And when it comes to promoting an employee? Same thing. Once again, and I say it often, companies aren’t going to name “female – flowerpots” because there’s a required performance level to reach and the only way to do that is to promote the most competent person for the job, regardless of gender. Quotas are simply going to oblige them to go and find the infamous “talented – quiet” women that I often talk about. They’re women that aren’t in the limelight or don’t dare to apply for a job that they want even though they’re perfectly qualified for the position. It’ll allow them to wonder “the five potential replacements for this position are all men, maybe I’m missing out on a qualified woman?” Of course, a male might be picked over his female counterpart, and if he’s more competent,it’s completely normal! However, quotas force managers to ask themselves if they should put a woman at such or such job. And it prevents this cycle to start again, where male managers are replaced by similar profiles, male as well, creating a vicious mechanism where a woman never seems to fit in.

We don’t have a choice. If we want to disrupt codes and conventions and we really want things to move forward, then so-called “male” industries need to hire more women. And the only way to see the curve evolve is by giving quantitative goals to stakeholders.

But women themselves are against quotas? Yes,indeed, I hear female friends say: I don’t want to be a female quota. But I don’t believe it – for the reasons mentioned above. And when a woman truly believes it, that means that the destabilization technique of some of her male colleagues, who don’t see this feminization with a good eye, is working well.

And yes, if I get asked the question, of course I’ve had some jobs because I’m a woman. Or, at least, it’s the case with my current job. My boss wanted a woman to kill two birds with one stone – have an expert in the field while feminizing his management line, therefore bringing in a role model for his diversity plan. Does this make my action less credible?Absolutely not. It compensates for all the jobs that me or others didn’t get because of gender.

In conclusion, to come back to Isabella’s article“Quotas are a medicine for an ill society” – and like every medicine, it’s something we would like to eradicate. A medicine that the industry needs to keep taking until it’s properly treated. The day the number of women recruited in different industries will be sufficient (I know, we could add a chapter on the definition of “sufficient”, but today I leave that up to you) – that day,everyone, me first, will be very glad to stop quotas!

Chapter 5 – Un travail pas comme les autres

Un travail pas comme les autres

Je suis la seule stagiaire de la base et les ingénieurs se donnent le mot pour m’emmener sur le rig. J’effectue de nombreuses missions en un temps record. Cela a pour conséquence de m’aguerrir et l’ingénieur en titre me laisse de plus en plus d’opportunités de travailler directement sur l’ordinateur.

Continue reading → Chapter 5 – Un travail pas comme les autres