Viviane de Beaufort, professor at ESSEC Business School, is the founder of an ambitious educational programme, WOMEN be European BOARD Ready, at the French Management School ESSEC. In this interview she talks about the programme, her career and diversity in business.
What was the proudest moment of your career life?
It is a very difficult question, because I do a lot of different and very exciting things. However I can think of two very special moments. One of them was in 2004, when the European Parliament chose to add article 12 (optional arrangements) to the directive on takeover bids, after a long and patient work of expert and strategic alliances to demonstrate it was (and it is) ridiculous to implement a sole model of company law faced with diverse cultures of governance in Member States.
The second one is clearly the first promotion of my women programmes, both the "Entrepreneurship Since 2004” and the new one, "Women be European Board Ready".
What inspired you to create the "Women be European Board Ready" programme?
I was inspired by the debate on quotas taking place all over Europe and particularly in France.
I mean, for me, the question is not how many women are on boards, but how
many executive and non-executive boards include a sufficient proportion of women, ensuring adequate profiles for each company, depending on its size, sector and strategy to improve efficiency.
A legal tool is one thing, a good one indeed! The second one is to create tools to provide women with sufficient opportunities to be trained, to be visible... A dedicated programme is one way of achieving that!
What steps need to be taken to improve diversity in business?
If diversity at the level of boards could play a role model, we need to expand it at each level (management, middle-management), which means that many companies have to start thinking in a different manner, organise work in a different way, change their human resources mechanisms (age of high-po, training, mentoring, coaching), and so on.
How can women be encouraged to take leadership roles?
My answer is not an original one: education, education, education... and role models, mentoring, coaching...
Should women change anything in their working style to reach top leadership levels?
Women have to modify their behavior: develop and ability to "sell themselves", to network, to ask for promotion, to accept to be visible...