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“I have always been suspicious of alpha males”: to prevent the flight of female executives, there is an urgent need to change the image of power


Whereas they could progress, the women executives slam the door of the companies, en masse. In question in particular: the outdated image, sometimes virile and brutal, of power. At the Women's Forum, leaders strive to invent a new leadership.

"We are losing women at every step of the ascent to management positions," insists Stéphanie Cau, Senior Vice President of Bureau Veritas.

We are on November 29, at the Palais Brongniart, in Paris, where the Women's Forum Global Meeting is being held, organized under the high patronage of the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron.

The event, which aims to support the participation of women in economic and social life, attracted nearly 3,000 people who came, on site or online, to follow the debates, round tables and conferences organised.

Among which, therefore,

the opting-out

, or the refusal of executives to climb further in the organization chart.

The massive and worrying phenomenon was the subject of a study (1) by BVA for Mazars, Bureau Veritas and Safran, conducted a few months ago among 2,000 managers, half of whom were women.

Balance sheet?

Men and women refuse promotions in similar proportions - 30% and 32%.

"On the other hand, when it comes to being proactive and declaring themselves a candidate for an executive position, women are more behind," said Charlotte Dieutre, VP Corporate social responsibility, Diversity & Inclusion at Safran.

48% give up applying, compared to 41% of men.

Problem: the Rixain law of 2021 imposes quotas for women in management positions.

For businesses, the stakes are immense: it

Read alsoThe pressure cooker effect: never before have so many female managers slammed the door

Composite portrait of a foil leader

They are reluctant, for several reasons, numerous and concrete: fear of excessive work, pressure and too low remuneration, desire to keep time for themselves and their family... They all revolve around of a central pivot: the image of power and of those who exercise it.

If it were necessary, after reading the survey, to draw a composite portrait of the leader, we would draw an overworked

top manager

, entirely devoted to his work, but paid too little.

An untenable position, in short, unless certain qualities -


, absolute mastery of one's emotions, ability to gain the upper hand over others... - who act as foils.

And are, according to the authors of the study, associated with a form of stereotyped masculinity.

We are far from what women would like to develop: collective management, listening, confidence, impact of the actions carried out and a place for private life.

Read alsoVirginie Courtin, CEO of Clarins: “I believe in taking time with your children before arriving at the office and being very efficient”

“Let's agree to say it, let's agree to talk about gender at work, encourages Stéphanie Cau, of Bureau Veritas.

The current model requires leaders to abide by rules.

Let's accept it, if we want to be able to join the

boy's club

without having to behave like a man!”

Getting out of the shackles, in short, to allow other forms of power and leadership to express themselves.

“You can take a lot of pleasure in being a CEO, and you have to remember that.

It's not all loneliness and hard work,” continues Charlotte Dieutre, from Safran.

It has to be, obviously: 73% of those questioned would say they were more attracted to executive positions if their leaders showed exemplary and inspiring and tolerant leadership.

Of course, each manager, individually, has a role to play in reversing the trend.

But corporations bear the burden of making this change possible, of enabling and even encouraging other ways of leading.

In video, Marta Ortega, the flamboyant 38-year-old heiress who leads the Zara empire

Express your doubts

First track?

Get out of the stereotype of the visionary leader, who works on instinct and never doubts himself.

“I have always expressed my emotions naturally and have never seen it as a form of weakness.

I have always been wary of alpha males”, confides Thomas Courtois, CEO of the micro-bank Nickel, guest of the round table.

On a daily basis, he says, he refrains from speaking first in meetings and does not hesitate to express his doubts with his teams.

A way of constantly reminding us that any fruitful reflection can only be collective.

It was thanks to the feeling of belonging to a team that I overcame my own impostor syndrome

Thomas Courtois, CEO of Nickel

Share the decision

“I involve my two executive vice-presidents, including a woman, but also as many managers as possible, depending on the files, in any decision-making, continues Thomas Courtois, CEO of Nickel.

It is thanks to the feeling of belonging to a team that I have overcome my own impostor syndrome.

In addition to helping to make better decisions, this horizontality amounts to saying loud and clear that we recognize the value of executives.

Better: it sends a signal to those - and especially those - who would like to become one: "you will be heard and considered".

"Rather than talking about

team of winners

, let's learn to see ourselves as

winning teams

," agrees Stéphanie Cau.

It is urgent to develop the feeling of belonging in companies.”

Read also “I lead a football team, why?

”: how to pimp your answers to the question “and what do you do?”


soft skills

This also involves offering its employees the space to express their personality, in all its specificities.

To no longer expect employees to tick predefined boxes, but to look for what can, in them, nourish collective work.

"American universities, including the most prestigious, take into account the practice of a sport or an art, the commitment to associations or volunteers, when recruiting", recalls Stéphanie Cau.

Companies are increasingly interested in

soft skills

, for the well-being of employees as well as for the performance of the company.

But valuing them or talking about them in a job interview is not enough: it is a question of integrating them into performance measures.

To make them true indicators of work and the creation of value, in the same way as technical skills.

“The SNCF and the Navy recently modified their annual evaluation tools after realizing that they were entirely based on

hard skills and

valued men more, underlines Marie-Christine Maheas, director of the Center for Diversity and inclusion of Mazars.

The new criteria relate to 50% on

soft skills


And they also apply to the two leaders of these organizations!”

The concrete changes that women expect

Flexible working arrangements Particularly attractive salary conditions Support for the geographical mobility of the spouse Mentoring Coaching on taking up the job

Get out of ultra-performance

This is one way to redefine what matters.

And to get out, in passing, of the stereotype of the overstressed executive forced, to prove his involvement, to answer text messages at 11 p.m. and to manage an emergency on Sundays while the children are playing in the garden.

An imperative for current managers, hard hit by the work overload and repeated crises of the past two years, but also for those to come.

These young employees, destined for management positions, claim from the start of their career a different relationship to work, healthier, more personalized, too, which gives them time to live.

“Organizations face multiple crises, and what has gotten us here will not get us to the sustainable future we need to build,” concludes Stéphanie Cau.

And to which companies do

probably have no choice but to take part.

Hence the urgency: to agree to reinvent oneself.



by the Observatoire de la mixité de Mazars, with Bureau Veritas and Safran, carried out by BVA from January 31 to February 22, 2022.

Source: lefigaro

All business articles on 2022-12-01

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