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#Breakthebias: celebrating Expleo’s formidable female leaders on IWD 2022 

On International Women’s Day 2022, four women leaders from across Expleo sit down to discuss their experiences, advice for young women and how to improve gender equality in the workplace.
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Admin Expleo
8.03.22
Topic

Diversity and inclusion are core to Expleo’s strategy and, while we acknowledge that there is much more to accomplish, we strive to increase female representation across our business.

Therefore, we are pleased to report that last year we reached a ratio of 29% of female employees, an increase compared to the previous year (27.1% in 2020). On International Women’s Day (IWD 2022), we want to celebrate the amazing women of Expleo, so we asked four of our female leaders to describe their experiences and share their advice for future generations. Here is a cross-interview with: 

  • Christine Ravanat, Chief Marketing Officer 
  • Florence Bigot, Group General Secretary and General Counsel 
  • Irantzu Bilbao, MD (Managing Director) Spain and Portugal  
  • Zoe Schnebelen, Chief Human Resources Officer  
Four women as leaders

IWD’s theme for 2022 is “break the bias”, have you experienced bias in your professional career?

 

Irantzu Bilbao: “Yes. It does happen when you are a woman, especially, in a leadership position. Bias is anchored in our culture, our upbringing. A simple example: as an executive, people assume I am male. I have an unusual name, and on multiple occasions, clients, suppliers and even colleagues have referred to me as ‘Mr. Bilbao’ on our first contact. Often, I respond with humour: ‘I assume you want to talk to me, Mrs. Bilbao, as my father, Mr. Bilbao never worked for this company’ – a perfect ice breaker!  

Is being a woman in an executive role more a barrier or an advantage?  

Christine Ravanat: “Women in leadership are still in the minority today. As with any minority, we are expected to adapt to the operating mode, codes, and habits of the majority. In other words, it is often up to us to adapt to men’s ways to be accepted. I believe this is true at all levels of business. 

“However, our differences can be an advantage, a strength, when it brings a new vision and out-of-the-box thinking. This is particularly key in a company’s executive committee where you need to think about strategy, anticipate changes and find new paths.” 

Florence Bigot: “I agree, diversity enriches the business. We all, irrespective of our gender, have different points of view, experiences, thoughts, and ideas. This plurality improves the overall performance, enhances problem-solving capacities. It feeds creativity and innovation.”  

Is bias just a ‘male problem’?  

Irantzu Bilbao: “It is not! As women, our education, our beliefs, can be our own worst enemies and sometimes hinder our progression. Women’s differences in confidence can be quite dramatic. Research shows that men apply for a job or promotion when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them! It’s important to support women in having the guts to take every opportunity. Confidence is equally valuable as competence because it leads to action, attention, and resilience.” 

What’s changed for women at work in the past years?  

Christine Ravanat: “A lot has been done to raise awareness and force businesses to change over the past 10 years – from having to publish pay gap statistics to harassment laws. Women’s biases are now well known (self-censorship, the syndrome of the good student who expects to be promoted without asking for it) and therefore better fought. Younger generations seem more confident stating salary expectations and taking part in decision-making. Mentoring, and in particular male managers mentoring women, helps change mentalities. Finally, paternity leave and shared parental responsibilities help women in the workplace over the longer term. However, two areas are not changing fast enough: the number of women sitting on executive committees and women in science and industry in general.”  

Florence Bigot: “There is greater understanding of the benefits of gender diversity at work. But we must all continue to build a more inclusive workplace for everyone. Looking at the tech sector specifically, there is still a lot to accomplish. Anyone should be able to do the job he or she wants if they have the right skills. It starts at school: telling a girl she can become a mechanical engineer, support her, and promote role models.”

 Is Expleo the right place for a woman to blossom professionally?  

Florence Bigot: “Expleo offers a great workplace for everyone to thrive – women and men. We have strong values and believe diversity enriches us. We offer great opportunities to learn, grow and develop skills. We encourage creativity and innovation as mindset. We also promote a healthy work-life balance for all, and we support our employees though life changing events.” 

Zoe Schnebelen:“This is a topic we are strongly monitoring with a set of indicators at global and local level. Our recruiters are trained to remove any bias in job requirements, interviews, and shortlists. For leadership development, we ensure promotions are handled in a fair manner with a dedicated review session and have a budget allowance for closing the gap. Our policies in remote work and work-life balance enable flexibility for single parents and other childcare needs. We also grant pay rises during maternity leave.”  

What’s your advice for young women about to embark on their professional careers?  

Zoe Schnebelen: “Define your professional projects. If you’re not clear, ask for a mentor in the company or benchmark ideas externally. Put yourself forward for roles and participate in projects that will make you more visible. Let your manager know that you are ready for additional scope and responsibilities.  

“Many women are also struggling with work-life balance, especially after returning from maternity leave. As a mother of four, I am conscious that you cannot do it all, so I prioritised quality over quantity and have organised my life with this in mind. A working mum is also a great example to set for them and a way to inspire them!” 

Irantzu Bilbao: “Be confident. Be on the lookout to spot growth opportunities. Resilience would be my second piece of advice: failure and disappointments are going to happen occasionally, no matter who you are and what industry you’re working in. You can move on from failure and learn. However, both tips could apply to any young person, regardless of being a man or a woman, so let’s “break the bias”!  

 

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