The Diversity Council changed the wage treatment of women, but not the look at them
I joined PetroFina in Belgium in 1989 after 15 years of economic and political journalism in the Belgian daily Le Soir. At that time, men were in the majority everywhere, on platforms, at headquarters, in subsidiaries. Communication was an exception, identified as a "women's job"! It was, with certain support functions, the reserved perimeter of an admitted minority, which did not encroach on men's ground. At the time of the merger of PetroFina and Total, it was considered that I had the right cast! Belgian, woman, without engineer training, external to Total, able to write and speak ... My path was all drawn! It was an opportunity for me. Director of Communication and Patronage of Petrofina from 1989 to 1999, I was successively, after the mergers, head of internal communication of the Group (1999-2000), communication director of Atofina, chemistry branch (2000- 2003), Director of Social Innovation and Diversity (2003-2008) and lastly, General Delegate of the Total Foundation and Head of Corporate Sponsorship (2008-2016).
"The woman, a great mystery! "
In 1968, I was 16 years old ... I am part of this first generation of women who has been able to assume her personal, professional, social and financial autonomy, regardless of the chances of birth and marriage. Since my first steps trembling as a journalist, I have always wanted to share this privilege with those who are deprived of it. Feminism is for me the first name of humanism. When I was in charge of diversity in 2003, it was respect and fairness for women, all the women in the Group, that inspired me. The first few months, I observed a lot ... I could see the resistance of the glass ceiling, but beyond, an attitude of men mixing curiosity, good will but also, deep misunderstanding. For them, the woman is a mystery ... Certainly, throughout the 2000s, the lines have moved. In 2003, we launched a study of 80 executives, 40 men and 40 women, asking each group to describe the respective professional qualities ... Result: women described men in their jobs, men evoked their colleagues as women ! The reluctance to promote women in the company is well linked to the way men, intimately and structurally perceive the feminine.
"Feminization and internationalization, both related and different themes"
In 2003, it was already a big step forward to work on the two priorities of feminization and internationalization. Disability, gender issues, religions ... were integrated into the thinking much later.
A Diversity Council was created in 2004, chaired by a member of COMEX, made up of men and women of all nationalities. More men than women, but we were moving forward! Its mission: define the Group's diversity policy and implement it. The great innovation is that we came out of a strictly quantitative approach to make an inventory and analyze as finely as possible the brakes to feminization and internationalization. Gradually, we have dissociated internationalization - obvious political and economic issues - and feminization, say more complex. Certainly we tried to understand why we lost women at all hierarchical levels. Why did men tend to co-opt men into strategic positions? Why was the difference scary? How was maternity penalized? ... We took concrete measures: recruitments were aligned with the rate of feminisation of schools, maternity periods were neutralized in salary increases, pay equality became an absolute rule, and moreover, the law imposed quotas on boards of directors ... The work on stereotypes, slower, more disturbing has unfortunately remained more superficial.
This stage of my career was very inspiring, there were victories, failures, advances, blockages, beautiful stories ... The Diversity Council turned a page and shine the spotlight on the difficulties of women in the business. We worked honestly on issues of remuneration and promotion, most often in respect and mutual listening. In the wake of this work, the word of women has been released. It is no coincidence that it was at this time that employees of the Group created Twice, a social network probably until today the most dynamic. It created and maintains between women a solid web of communication, mutual aid and sponsorship. Some champions of feminization have emerged, like the fathers whose daughters came to the job market, and embodied this fight in their eyes! A new generation of men has emerged, wishing for example to live more freely fatherhood. But mostly, in business as in society, the woman remains the "other absolute" of the man, patriarchy reigns, too often engendering contempt and pain. Henceforth, it is also up to men to question the profound meaning of this domination, the ways of a real equality, source of shared freedom and happiness.
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