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 7 : Stay Honest

Today, I want to address a recurrent question in companies, heard and told again. Even beyond the professional sphere, it’s a concept that we were taught before we even knew how to write. Yet, it’s not an easy question to answer. Today, we’re going to tackle the question of honesty, and more precisely honesty in a company.

Saying “you mustn’t lie”, like I repeated it so many times to my daughters in kindergarten, would be simplifying the idea of honesty and would be quite unrealistic. You can’t tell your client: “in reality, our competitor has basically the same products, and they’ll charge you less” or to your boss: “I think you’re stupid, and I don’t understand how you got this job” – or rather, you can’t tell them if you’re trying to keep your job and your client.

In both your private and your professional life, trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. No one wants people to say about them: “He’s a professional, but be aware. Make sure that everything is written by email so that he can’t come back on it later.” However, this happens more often than we’d hope for.

Granted, there are some narcissistic perverts, compulsive liars, etc. in our society. However, being an optimistic person, I believe that the majority of people have a good heart. People do their best, given the circumstances, and usually act with good intentions.

Notwithstanding, as the saying goes “hell is paved with good intentions”, and the desire to satisfy others and avoid any inconvenience is human. However, by reporting an unpleasant conversation – such as telling your boss about a mistake you made or some new problem, you end up never having it. The more you wait, the bigger the problem gets, and when it explodes, it comes as a surprise to everyone. If you’d shown honesty from the beginning, measures could have been adopted, and the damage done could’ve been limited.

That’s how, without any true desire to harm, you’ve broken your collaborators’ and/or management’s trust.

So, how do you resolve this issue? Easy, be unpleasant (sometimes)!

I’m only partly joking. Trying to preserve your colleagues by not telling them the bad news only makes the problem worse.

If we tell a collaborator what his weaknesses are, we give him the opportunity to better himself. Similarly, the sooner we tell our hierarchy about a problem, the sooner we’ll get help on how to handle it, before it truly gets out of hand.

When we climb the hierarchic ladder, we may get instructions from our superiors that we disagree with and that are going to be hard to “sell” to our teams. It may be tempting to twist the truth a little. But once again, that’s not a good idea, because your teams need to be able to trust you and acknowledge you as a leader. It’s not much better to try and play the honesty card by sharing with your team your own doubts about your management’s strategy, because that’s the best way to demotivate them.

So, what’s the solution? (I know, I’m contradicting myself. So, should we be honest…or not?)

First, discuss with your management to understand what led to that decision. Often, we don’t have all the information at hand and don’t fully understand the global scope. It could also be good to understand why alternative solutions didn’t work. Normally, if you’re aligned with the company’s values, it should be enough to remove your doubts. However, if after all that, you’re still not convinced and this strategy isn’t in sync with your values, then maybe it’s the right time to ask yourself if you really want to stay in this company.

So, even if it’s hard, even if you know the talk is going to be tense, you have to show honesty at work.

The turn of phrase matters. Screaming “you suck!” isn’t a sign of honesty, it just makes you look dumb and mean. You also shouldn’t share hundreds of truths, but rather the ones that are necessary and just, in a professional way. Only say something if it makes the situation evolve positively. Not only will this allow you to win your colleagues’ trust, but it will present you as an enthusiastic and honest person, who’s not afraid of making hard decisions when needed. Thus, don’t push it back to tomorrow, stop hiding problems to others and yourself, show some courage! The moments you end up regretting are often the ones where you were a coward, not the difficult ones

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.

Queen Bees, do they exist?

When I was appointed as the Europe General Manager for Schlumberger, the announcement was made through the company’s usual communication channels. Two other women were appointed at the head of a region or a country at the same time as me.

One of my colleagues came to see me to congratulate me. And he added, “Now that there are several executive women, there is going to some fights”

I was rather surprised by this remark and especially as I did not understand it. No one had told me about the “Queen Bee” Syndrome. I did not know that such a thing existed. On the contrary, having spent the majority of my career as the only woman at my level in various positions I held, I was thrilled to finally have female peers.

What is Queen Bee Syndrome?

Eve Program wrote an excellent article on the subject here. Simply put, this term refers to the idea that when a woman reaches a leadership position, she prevents other women from advancing for fear of losing her place of status!

There have been several studies supporting this thesis. The most recent in 2015, by the University of Maryland, concluded that the probability for a woman to be promoted drops by 50% in circumstances where the manager is a woman. Conversely a study by the Columbia Business School shows that this thesis of the queen is a myth (links to the studies here et here). Certainly, the numbers can be interpreted differently. As an example, in the case of the University of Maryland study, assuming that the results are correct, before concluding that women are their own worst enemies, we need to look at the other hypotheses. In many male dominated companies, once a woman has been promoted to an executive position, the management considers that the diversity work is done, therefore no need to promote other women. On the contrary, when a company has a female executive company director, the number of female employees increases.

But let’s stop talking about numbers and studies and let’s try to understand why this metaphor is an issue in itself. Could it be an easy way to challenge women’s ascension? Nice image than the one of “witches” who argue as soon as they have that power? Such person clearly does not have the right credibility to manage a team. But in reality, have you met many of them?

However, it is certain that without speaking of “queen of bees”, that work must be done to improve unity among female colleagues.

For example, several years ago a Human Resources manager told me, ” You guys, the trailblazers, are not supporting younger women, as you think that as no one helped you, why should you help them? The recurring theme of: “If I did it, why can’t they?”

Thinking about it, I realized he was right. I also had a tendency to look down upon women who were turning to me for assistance when they faced certain barriers to work. After all, I had managed to cope alone, they have to do the same. I was also part of the problem.

When I started in the oil industry 30 years ago, you had to be strong enough to deal with everyday sexism. However, we need to have change. Shouldn’t our responsibility be to give anyone, if they have the skills and talent needed, a chance to follow the career they merit, and to be able to do in an environment that is agreeable?

During my career, I observed two types of behaviors among women in industry.

There are those who think that their role is to support their female colleagues. They will try to promote women around them and this is not a matter of making positive discrimination, but simply of finding the famous “Talented, Silent”. In other words, they have to go against their cognitive biases that tend to have them offer managerial positions, mostly, to men.

Then there are those who will not do or say anything, just stay neutral. They will not proactively engage in support other female employees, but they will not try to impede their progress either.

However, I have never met a woman who used her power to impair others. They certainly exist, but we must stop believing that they are the majority! Although I am clearly in the first category, I do not spare inept women who work for me. If they are not capable to perform their job, I take action, and sometimes a harsh one.

Finally, the question I ask myself is this: “How common are these queen bees? More prevalent than men?  When a woman manager is demanding, or “bossy” she proves the opinion about the stereotypical status of the jealous shrew and thus discredits her authority.

Thus, is it time to fight against the commonly held belief that female interactions are based on pettiness and jealousy and instead prove that it is through solidarity and sorority that we will reach an egalitarian society. The myth of the queen bee must disappear, along with all the other perceptions suggesting that female relationships are driven solely by rivalry.

Ladies, with an average of less than 10% of women in executive positions, we have a lot of ground to conquer, but we will be stronger if we do it together!

Magali… she’s got some!

My TEDx on December 3rd  started like this: “Magali, she’s the only boss we’ve had that had balls”

Good start.

I was referring the words used by some old members of my team – from the center I worked in 15 years ago – to describe me.

Except that… I’d been told that before!

One time, young engineer in Nigeria, we’ve been dealing with technicians on strike for weeks. We were going on a mission, two engineers to replace the three technicians – we were exhausted, but management wasn’t giving up. One day, we were in the base. I was the only woman. And we all agreed that we should go talk to the bosses about our tiredness and how desperately the situation had to change – they all stare at me and tell me, as one man: “Magali, you’re the only one with balls here – you should go!

In the dictionary, “having some” is defined as such: “being brave, having audacity, character, being energetic; having the courage to”

Therefore, I decided that being told that was quite a compliment. Because to me, above anything else, this expression means having the courage to question the established order. Which I always try to do. That’s how I worked in Nigeria on an oil rig at the age on 22, at a time where they weren’t hiring women.

I must admit, I also thought it was a nice way to introduce myself and draw the public’s attention during the TEDx. Impertinence is most likely one of the qualities that have allowed me to survive and progress in a very masculine world. After all, I don’t think the word “balls” is often used on stage – especially by a woman.

But although I appreciate the “compliment”, I don’t think that it makes me a man. And I’m not sure I like being defined by masculine attributes.

Yet, based on years of observation, there’s no shortage of women who’ve got some – maybe it’s because I work in an environment that is mainly masculine and has so few women that we notice them. But in general, most women I’ve worked with lacked neither courage, nor audacity, nor character.  

So, maybe it would be time to rethink this expression. Because words matter. Because this expression can be taken with humor, but the truth is that when a woman is successful, we grant her male attributes.

However, when we say that mixed teams are more performing than teams where only one sex is represented, it’s only true if we have a true diversity and if women behave the way they want to, without trying to imitate men’s management style. They do it too often – and it’s understandable – to try and fit in without causing chaos.

So it would be good to find an equivalent expression for women – and since we don’t have to stay at the genital level, I wouldn’t advise a female equivalent (which I have, I must admit, used a number of times, but more for the pleasure of seeing my interlocutors’ faces than by personal belief).

So, next time you meet a woman who’s got some… tell her she’s got some… courage, audacity, or character.

How to start as a female in a male dominated industry

A woman starting out in an almost exclusively male environment may sometimes feel the need to impose herself and to be aggressive in order to avoid coming off as “weak”. We often hear “you must have quite a character to work in this sector!” That is the attitude I myself adopted when I first started, which I’ll describe and explain in further detail. This will also allow me to give you a few key elements on a successful entry into a new company (spoiler: don’t behave like me at 22).

I started at Schlumberger in the training center – we spend four months there, before going on the field. The formation allows you to learn about the job, but also serves as a method of selection, with only half of the applicants staying. Stress is at its paroxysm and we all look at each other wondering who will make it.

Being the only woman, I feel like I need not only to succeed, but to succeed brilliantly, to prove that the presence of a woman is not a mistake. In 1989, women only account for 1% of recruits. Thus, I have the impression that I am under a microscope, as a part of a laboratory experiment called: “What can a woman do in this role?” Failing would show that the trust invested in me was not deserved.

Added to this is a deep belief that a woman has to prove herself, show that she belongs here. Perhaps the vestige of a mother with the baccalaureate, working at a time where most women were full-time housewives? An unconscious bias that originates from our societal system? To be honest, I don’t really know, but it’s clearly a bias that resisted to the past decades and that I find in a lot of women today still.

Thus, during this training, I constantly have to do more. Except that these beliefs, this feeling of having to legitimize my place, aren’t without consequences.

I automatically consider every sign of attention towards me as a sign or paternalistic sexism. I bite every hand that comes my way. And quickly, it backlashes and hits me back in the face, in boomerang mode. My colleagues stop talking to me. They are tired of my constant anger and have better things to do tan to take care of an irascible woman/hungry lioness in a cage.

It’s a vicious circle. I’m very aggressive, the others answer hostilely, comforting me in the idea that I was right to be that way… Etc.

And then, one day, I start questioning myself. I realize that, although I’m always right (of course), the fact that everyone is against me shows that it might actually maybe, possibly be my fault… and that I need to change my behavior – especially since isolation is weighing me down.

In doing this analysis of conscience, I realized that I became very unpleasant to live with, so it’s not surprising that others hate my company.

After deciding to change mindsets, it became easier than I thought. How did the change occur exactly? First, I had to stop comparing myself to others. In the end, no one but myself had asked me to be the best. Secondly, instead of attacking every colleague offering help – to show that “no, sir, I can manage on my own! It’s not because I’m a woman that you should think I can’t do it!”, I kindly accept any good soul willing to help me. Thus, my colleagues quickly become friends, and I become a part of the group.

Being a woman in a male-dominated environment is hard enough, there’s no need to make things more complicated. Companies offer a job to a collaborator because they think he/she is the most qualified for the position. They usually don’t do it out of the goodness of their heart. Once the person has accepted the position, all that’s left is to work and excel at the job, as expected. But the person has nothing to prove, and just needs to focus on doing the job to the best of his or her ability. It’s by doing the job well that people show everyone that they are the right person for the mission. Thus, wanting to prove your worth as a woman, as I’ve done in the past, is completely counterproductive and unjustified. If she’s been offered the job, then she’s entirely legitimate.

Unfortunately, this trend isn’t dead yet. There’s still a long way to go before it disappears fully. Women still are (or feel) more tested than men. It’s important to resist and not get sucked into the game of colleagues, who have no right to judge our credibility and capacity to fulfill a position that company executives have trusted us with.

At 22, having the strength to question myself is what allowed me to continue and find my place and eventually end up where I am today. But for one person that finds a fit, how many give up? How many end up depressed?

Just like me, maybe their erratic behavior kept others away, without having the chance to fix things. Or a lack of confidence in their legitimacy got the best of them. That’s why it’s important to take a step back and remember that if you are in this seat, it is because qualified people believe that you belong there. An endless comparison won’t get you anywhere. Keep your head high and work with confidence and pride!

International woman – Does it mean being alone?

I am very proud to have won the International Women’s Prize and I thank the jury for the Women’s Industry Awards. I am honored to have been nominated alongside outstanding competitors.

Let’s talk a little about women abroad!

I’ve lived on 4 continents in countries that many would find difficult to locate on a map, and I still continue to travel very frequently for my work. I am fast approaching one hundred countries visited.

Thirty years ago, I left for Nigeria as a Field Engineer, alone. Alone on an offshore drilling rig amongst 80 men,  Alone at the operations base and one of three women working as engineers for the company in Africa.

I’m used to being alone though. I lived a similar experience at university, with only 5% females studying Mechanical Engineering.

The situation was very different in the city of Warri. I’m alone at work, but also in the “city” – without means of external communication, without the option to make international phone calls, and without female company. I had a lot of male friends, but I couldn’t talk to them about typical women’s issues. Being immersed in such an environment at age 22, with no way of chatting and “gossiping” with a woman from time to time was not always easy, but it certainly strengthened my character!

Twenty years ago, I went to Indonesia. There were many expat women, but I was one of the few working. I had to explain to my daughters why I could not pick them up after school like all the other mums. That also meant having to deal with occasional jealousy from women who had sacrificed their own careers to follow their husbands. My situation showed that there was a possible alternative. The 1998 Indonesian crisis was another solo experience for me, as I stayed to represent the company, along with a lot of men to deal with the turbulent situation!

Ten years ago, I went Angola. Now I am starting to see some women in the company, mostly young engineers. Schlumberger’s diversity policy is paying off. But I remain the only female in meetings of the Business Representatives with the Embassy.

When three years ago, working in Shanghai, I realize that I know about ten expatriate women whose husbands decided to follow them – it seems like about 10% of non-working partners (followers) are men. That’s when I start telling myself that things are really changing.

But the best proof of change occurred a few months ago. I was in a tiny, remotely located Zambian airport and I saw five or six expatriate women on their own who were clearly there to work. Not the daughter of …, nor wife of …! I was so moved to see this that I felt like going over to kiss them. Certainly, they would think I was crazy, but I was truly happy!

So yes, there is progress. The day when women’s mobility becomes obvious, we will have taken a big step with regards to unconscious bias towards gender equality.

Staying with the subject of recruitment, let’s take a closer look at wages.

When we talk about wage inequality, the argument that often comes up is “Are we really talking about equivalent experience for an equivalent position? Women may have slowed down their career or taken time off when their children were born, these choices had an impact which explains the different wage evolution even for an equivalent position… Etc.”

There may be some truth in these arguments, but I don’t intend to cover that here. At least not yet.

Logically, we should not find a salary difference when leaving school?

Let’s have a look…….

The latest wage study conducted by the engineers and scientists society of France (IESF) showed a difference of almost 2k euros in starting salaries when the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles (CGE), mentions a 1.7k euros difference.

So, how can this be explained ? Firstly, graduate female engineers study predominantly in fields such as water, sanitation, agribusiness, etc. where wages are on average lower than other sectors of industry. Also, according to CGE and IESF, about 10% fewer women get a permanent employment placement for their first job !

Other reasons to understand this phenomenon are :

  1. Women are poorer at negotiating …

This may have been true before, but not so much now. Young women negotiate much better than their predecessors. But has this resulted in improved results for women ?

A recent study by HBR in Australia, which surveyed 4,600 employees, showed that women negociate just as much as men, but have less satisfactory results.

Another thing that surprised me, this time in the USA, a survey of 2500 people, found that when a job announcement does not say that the salary is negotiable, men would be more likely to negotiate than women. On the other hand, when it is explicit that salary is negotiable, women do negotiate more than men.

  1. Unconscious bias

Unfortunately, this exists for both the employer and employee. Many women are still not comfortable with the idea of ​​earning more than their partner and would self-censor. On the side of the companies they anticipate that a woman will be less mobile, will require maternity leave and will eventually choose a better work-family balance, which could impact productivity.

In my case, I experienced at least 2 times salary discrimination on hiring. I did a thorough salary research  when applying for the position and refused to budge on my requirements. I got the job at the requested salary, but with a big delay. I found out afterwards that I was really asking for a lot, which explained why they had hesitated to hire me. Another engineer was hired at the same time as me, same age, same experience but less relevant for the position. From the beginning, I was given more strategic projects than him. Then I discovered some time later that he was paid more. Needless to say that I did not stay much longer with this company.

The identification of the unconscious bias makes it conscious! Let’s inform young engineers to be aware of it and consequenctly to prepare for it (partake in negotiation training, for example) and let’s make sure that companies have a policy of hiring young graduates impartially..

My career as a female engineer: How I was hired to work on an oil platform.

Welcome to my blog on Usine Nouvelle, for which I am preparing a series of articles that I could call “What is it like for a woman working in a very masculine industry? ”

After all, does my male counterpart understand what we are facing? Does a young engineer fresh out of school know what is really waiting for her?

The idea is not to talk about statistics, quotas, laws, salaries, etc. I want to share my experiences in an environment still too little feminized, and above all to understand the invisible difficulties, the famous unconscious bias and other obstacles that hinder the career of a woman in the industry. As a starting point I will return to the beginning of my career. After 30 years of working in the oil  and then cement industries, my recruitment now seems a distant memory.

How did I enter the oil industry?

When I was a student mechanical engineer at INSA Lyon, like many young people of my age, I did not know what I wanted to do, but I was sure of one thing, I did not want a routine job, or to work in an office. It was then that I discovered the profession of field engineer and it was love at first sight, a profession perfect for me! At a recruitment forum, I made my way to the Schlumberger stand, an oilfield services company, and I asked the recruiter how to apply for a job. He looked at me nonchalantly and said “This is not a job for you,” without asking me a single question. Even though my CV was more than acceptable for a fresh-out : A humanitarian mission in Mali, an industrial internship in Brazil and presidency of the Student Government at my University, all by the tender age of 21 years.

I told him that I would not budge until he gave me a plausible explanation so I stayed there … 1 hour … 2 hours … 3 hours … Faced with my unshakable motivation (well, more likely to get rid of me) he finally gave in and gave me a questionnaire, followed by a job interview, punctuated with sexist questions: “What does your mother think of your choice? “. Me: “Do you ask this question to men? “. Him: (embarrassed): “Ahh… no”. Me: (calmly): “So you do not really need me to answer? “.

Was I dealing with a particularly sexist company and a misogynist recruiter? Not at all. I had in front of me a person who had never dealt with the recruitment of a female engineer, and who just did not know how to handle it[1].

Today questions so openly sexist are rarely heard of. Recruitment processes are formalized, male and female candidates receive similar treatment.

Voila, that’s it!

Problem solved. Article completed.

Signed: Magali Anderson

Yeah right………..

I wish I could finish my article there, except that differences still exist. The sexism I faced was undeniable and indefensible because it was so visible. Today for certain industries it exists, but more obscurely. For example, sexism can be found in the way a job offer is written or in the very masculine image that an industry projects itself, offering the impression to women that they are not suitable for it.

There are two issues. Companies that don’t know how or want to recruit women, and women who do not know they can access certain industries

I suggest to start with the problematic company. The recruiter is faced with the fear of introducing a disruptive element that could change the dynamics of the group. And not just any element, a young graduate woman, who has not yet proven herself or acquired legitimacy. The recruiter must therefore leave his comfort zone.

To make this possible he will recruit a ground-breaker, a woman with a strong character who can manage in this male dominated environment. That’s good, but is it sustainable, and above all, what about all the women who are very competent but less “driven”? The trailblazers are not necessarily going to change the mentality of the group because they blend in. The fight is really won the day any woman, regardless of her personality, can integrate.

As a company, how do you motivate recruiters to recruit more diversely? There’s not plethora of effective short term methods : numerical objectives. Recruiters will have to find ways to attract women. Change the speech, better explain what these industries are like, get female employees to say why it’s great to work there. Often that’s all it takes. You will find motivated female candidates who do not want a routine job, looking to embrace a career that is “different” and who will flourish in male dominated work environments.

Next, the candidates, my second problem.

Self-censorship still exists, meaning many women cannot imagine themselves working in certain jobs. This can simply because there are not enough visible model roles. Ladies, we must change this.

Answer job postings, dare to be different, choose to be out of your comfort zone. Then, when you are in front of the recruiter, conduct yourself as you would normally do for any job interview, except that it may take a little more time and effort to show that you are quite capable of working in their industry. Your engineering degree is proof that you are capable (I am sure that all engineers will know exactly what I mean here) !

A fight from the past? I still meet managers who tell me “but our industry does not attract women”. This, to someone who started on an offshore oil rig in Nigeria, the only woman in the middle of 80 men, more than 30 years ago? Today an industry that now recruits + 25% of female engineers? Seriously?

This article is a cry from the heart, addressing women and men. My career and those of many others, show that the success of women in a male work environment is possible.

Recruitment is only the very first step but a very important one. If women do not choose to enter the male-dominated industries, the mix will not increase (Obvious, I know, but worth being stated!).

I dream of a day when entering these sectors will be as natural for a woman as it is for a man, and that so-called masculine or feminine industries will no longer exist. It will just be industries. Quite simply.

[1] Schlumberger has since become a leader on the subject by starting their Gender Diversity program in 1994

Mother = Manager

What does a parent do?

A parent’s main mission is to help kids transition into responsible adults, with values that are going to make us proud.

A mother trusts her kids. She establishes rules clearly. She explains them, sometimes in a written form, but ensures that they’re both well understood and transparent. Kids know they have to follow the rules and that they’re not negotiable. They also know that if they decide to go against them, there will be consequences.

A mother will challenge her kids. She’ll be a bit stern at times, simply because she won’t accept mediocrity or semi-accomplishments. She’ll push them to give their best and won’t allow anything below excellence.

But she will encourage her children, and anytime they successfully accomplish what they’ve undertaken, she’ll always be there to praise them.

A mother will supervise her children’s grades, but will never do the homework for them.

A parent will set an example. We do not tell a kid to read when we don’t read ourselves. We do not tell a kid not to eat sweets to binge on them later. Knowledge goes through actions and precedents rather than words.

A mother doesn’t lie to her kids. She does what she says and says what she does… otherwise, refer to the previous paragraph.

A mother will admit when she’s wrong and do her mea culpa. She will accept that her kids may not agree with her and will be open to discussing and questioning her opinions, but she will always have the final say.

These are a few ground rules – we can obviously switch the word mother with the word father.  The topic of the article is not to discuss mother vs father roles, but skills developed when raising children.

Now, we play. We read the article again, but replace the word mother or parent by the word leader or manager. We replace the word kids by employees, and we see what happens.

The purpose of the exercise is not to say that employees are kids…but to show that being a parent entails the same qualities as those of a leader.

The parent-kid relationship isn’t that different from the leader-team one.

So why is it so difficult to go back to the work environment after a “raising kids” break? Why do women think that being a parent and a manager is incompatible? But also, why doesn’t our society acknowledge the experience acquired by being a parent?

Why do we believe that a woman needs to act as a man to become a manager? She already has all the required skills and has tested them on her own kids.

I myself have always considered that being a parent and manager is the same thing and I have always applied the recipes at home and at work.

I’ll end this article with an example of the parallel between work and home, specifically how I handled a conflict between two people from my team. A disagreement arose, email exchanges were getting heated, and each person was accusing the other of “treason” – and forwarding the emails to direct and functional hierarchy. Both had their rights and wrongs – as it’s often the case.

I called them both into my office and said: “My daughters are 10 and 12 years old. When they fight, I send them to their room to solve the issue on their own and tell them not to come back until they’ve reached an agreement. And they always do. Now, tell me if you’re capable of doing what kids do. I don’t want to see another email, other than the one signed by both of you, where you tell me that the you’ve solved the conflict and let me know what conclusion you’ve reached.”

A few days later, they came back to my office telling me “Boss, we’re happy to announce that we are back in the adult world” – end of the story.

So mothers, go update your CVs, put forward all the qualities you’ve acquired during your maternity leave, and get back in the game.