As I dig deeper into the blogosphere, Twitter, and online press, and as I continue to discuss with others about what I do during my “year off” (yes, it does happen that I discuss in real time, with real people that are actually in the same room as I!), I discover more and more groups related to women and work that are active in France.
It may have been that I lived outside of Paris where most things “happen” and most big companies in France have their headquarters. It may have been that I worked for a pretty traditional French industrial company. Or, it may have been that I simply did not take the time to look at this more in depth before as I did not take the time to lift my nose up from my desk. I’m confident this happens to most of us, don’t pretend you never get into routines without noticing…!
As a result, I was pretty disillusioned about the question of women and leadership, diversity at work, and other related subjects, thinking this was simply not something the French cared about. So, rather than pursuing the whining, I decided to take the time to try to compile a list of movements in France, that do promote this type of activities and values.
Here is what I’ve found so far:
Professional Women’s Network – PWN Global A network focussing specifically on leadership and women in leadership positions. Started in Paris and has since gone global, this one is really interesting as it is not limited to France only (yay!).
Dirigeantes Actives 77 On France’s equivalence to Linkedin.
FCE for women at the top.
Action de femme Main goal is to promote women in decision making processes at the company top, business orientation is key.
Féminin pluriel aims “to connect influential women through their diversity, professional expertise and open mindedness”.
EVELeBlog writes about strong women in French industry, and some international leadership trends. In French and English (!) They also run a leadership programme.
Inter’Elles a multi-company group for promotion of women in the workplace.
Arborus Promotes women in leadership positions, gives an equality label to companies.
Financi’Elles a network started by two major banks for women in the financial sector.
HappyMen Promotes equality and work/life balance for men too! Yes, yes, it is frankly super important, I really love this one. They also have an association for men only:
Mercredi C’est Papa meaning “Wednesday it’s Daddy” (kids traditionally have the whole or part of Wednesdays off and, traditionally, many mothers work part time to deal with this).
Mampreneurs Network for training and prmoting women entrepreneurs (this one looks really dynamic!)
Centre de Ressources pour l’Entrepreneuriat au Féminin (CREF) a network and support group for women entrepreneurs
Femmes Entrepreneurs For women entrepreneurs and those wishing to make an idea real.
L’Entreprise au féminin A network for women creating companies.
Girls in Tech Paris French branch of a tech network that started in San Fransisco, promoting women in typically male dominated fields of technology, including entrepreneurship.
Grandes Ecoles Au Féminin Most French “elite” engineering and business schools have united their quest for promoting women in the corporate environment slash alumni association.
HEC au féminin A network by one of France’s biggest business schools. Organises networking events and conferences, including in my “home town” Toulouse.
To summarise, there are quite a few networks for women who are already in a leading position. There are quite a few networks for entrepreneurs (which in my opinion is not the same thing, even if they have an important role as well and being an entrepreneur requires a lot of leadership). There are alumni networks for those having gone to the French “elite” schools and would like to climb the corporate ladder. And there are the fathers, who dare challenge the traditional French view on how men and women share their tasks related to work and family. (I have not found other international networks which are linked to France like PWN, founded in Paris.)
So there are movements out there, believe it or not (quite a relief, to be honest)!
It undoubtedly seems to be easier to join a network if you are already in a management position. This, however, is not the case for everyone. If you are not (yet) there, but are interested in discussing women’s leadership, corporate advancement, and other similar questions, it helps to belong to the alumni of a “Grande Ecole”, or to zoom in on companies that are part of for example, Inter’Elles, to get access to a network.
If this is not your case, and you feel the need to network, debate, and share the subject with like minded people in the same situation, you can start a blog, a Facebook group, or a Lean In Circle… All these are, frankly, pretty easy to set up. The challenge is to get people to find you, join you, and/or read you. So Thank You for reading! Please share, mention on your own blogs, Tweet, and comment, if you share my interest for the topic.
Finally, you can show some serious leadership and set up a new association or company network, or why not make your company join an existing network. The possibilities are endless, and after all we only have ourselves to blame if they don’t turn into reality.