This month we had the pleasure of speaking to Elise Bruillon, a WTP participant who has years of experience in Business Management, Data Protection, Privacy and areas involved with Digital and IT. She talks about the practices put in place by Orange to try and combat gender divisions yet highlights the ongoing gender discrimination that perpetuates throughout Tech sector and society as a whole. She offers pragmatic remedies to try and overcome this. Interested to know more about the development of cyber-security, gender related issues, what the GDPR means and a motto that Elise lives by? Read the interview to find our more.
Could you tell us more about your current position, how you came to work for Formind, and what you enjoy most about your job?
After obtaining a law degree, I worked as legal counsel and then at Orange for numerous years, specialising in security and risk management. Last year, I was contacted by Formind, they were looking for a senior “Swiss army knife” capable to conduct and support very different yet specific projects on cyber-security and compliance. Now as Project Director at Formind, I support key accounts in implementing GDPR, whilst also undertaking IT security compliance projects.
As Formind is a relatively small company, I really enjoy being able to draw upon my multi-disciplinary background. The size also fosters an environment in which open and frank decisions are held in a participatory and egalitarian manner. This way of working is not only of benefit to my clients, but also for me personally, as my work remains diverse and varied and as such, extremely interesting! To give you an idea of how my day looks, I can be a commercial agent in the morning, whilst in the afternoon, a legal consultant in GDPR. The freedom and ability to explore different missions within the same position, whilst sharing my expertise with a mostly younger workforce, influenced my decision to make the jump and move to Formind.
I can be a commercial agent in the morning, whilst in the afternoon, a legal consultant in GDPR
Formind was awarded for the second time, a “Happy at Work” label. This label testifies to the well-being of all employees within the company. You worked over 16 years for Orange, what good practices have been implemented, specifically so in terms of gender equality?
At Orange, a mentoring system for women was put in place. Drawing on my own experience, this initiative- alongside the support measures and excellent guidance from HR officers and managers-really helped me become more visible within the organisation. This visibility in turn, provided me with the possibility of forming new internal connection and as such, allowed me to grow and progress within the company by acquiring new positions.
Do you feel there is still gender discrimination in the workplace?
I would be lying if I said that women don’t face discrimination within the workplace, we definitely do! This is why I stand behind the belief that women must never doubt nor underestimate their own worth or capability, for in doing so, one will stump their own professional growth. Professional development can be tough, often I compare it to a marathon, it is just about repetitively running time and time again, till the goal has been met and your potential has been achieved.
Within my field of work, establishing gender balance remains a perquisite. Although formal policies and voluntary practices are often put in place to ensure gender balance, I question whether this is enough and whether it can really get to the root of the problem. Personally, I believe that education has the power to combat inherently gender divided work environments. Both boys and girls must be taught from a young age that there is no question of gender, therefore not to align to either pink or blue, aspire to be a ballerina or footballer, or believe that house work remains within the domain of a woman’s and paid work, that of a man’s.
Although there is still a lot that needs to be done, France has adopted the policy of a shared parental responsibility and custody. This grants fathers the opportunity to spend more time with their children. This has definitely instigated a shift in French society, rocking the foundations upon which gender roles are born! Thanks to this policy, I have observed a greater link between male and female colleagues regarding childcare and hope to see more developments like these in the future!
Education has the power to combat inherently gender divided work environments.
After years of negotiations, a new European regulation regarding data protection for EU citizens has been adopted last summer. The GDPR has often been criticized as being ineffective, especially so when it comes to financial sanctions against big cooperations such as Google. What is your opinion of the new GDPR regulation and how effective do think it is?
There are two mains reasons to explain the adoption of the GDPR:
The first one is for the personal protection of EU citizens. The data market is not owned by European companies but by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft (hereinafter GAFAM), thus the only way to keep all the European citizens data inside Europe, was to regulate it at the European level. The second reason concerns GAFAM’s new business model. These companies often extracted data from their own users and used it to their own advantage. This was often done without the knowledge or consent of their users.
Consequently, a regulation was needed to prevent GAFAM abusing their power and therefore, offer back control of personal data to data subjects themselves. Therefore, it aimed at improving the ethics of a business model which relies on the free aspects of your legal identity. We often say that if a service is free, it’s because you’re the product!
The negotiations were the result of effective lobbying by consultancy firms. As an IT security professional, it’s intriguing to see the life cycle of a legal instrument. GDPR offers a better compliance system as it is not just a text which describes obligations and liability regarding personal data processing, but also ensures companies standards- concerning the handling of personal data- is binding. Companies are now required to think twice before collecting and processing customer’s personal data and, must be transparent in their handling of data.
Having focused on internet security throughout most of your professional career, what changes have you seen with regards to cybersecurity and how do you feel we can build a safer cyber world?
When I started, the cyber-attacks were mainly focused on systems and hardware, but over time they have started to target the individual’s legal identity, including sextortion and harassment-type attacks. We have transitioned from an internet domination form of hacking to a terror-based form of hacking. The risk is not the technology itself but its use. There are three main ways to ensure that new technologies will only be beneficial to its users.
Firstly, national governments should adopt specific rules in order to protect by professional secrecy bug bounty experts. Secondly, I think that we should stop creating an overload of legal texts to govern specific cases, as over regulating can prevent innovation. This is exemplary with artificial intelligence, where extensive legal texts can really hinder great inventions. Third and foremost, there must be greater efforts done to raise awareness and provide training on cyber-attacks such as phishing, ransomware. These forms of attacks often stem from human’s vulnerabilities.
Therefore, I am once again emphasising the power and importance of educating people, this time about technology! I use my smart phone on a daily basis, for professional emails, to call my daughter’s teacher, to buy tickets for Milan where the next WIL event will take place- we are in an age of digital transformation and we must ensure people don’t get left behind, not only for the prevention of attacks, but also because of the economic, social and political transformations that are occurring because of these new innovations!
You are currently participating in our Women Talent Pool (WTP) Programme. What have you enjoyed the most and learnt so far?
The networking element is something which I truly value. At the Telecom ParisTech engineering institution, I teach the course “Legal and Risk management”. I often reiterate the importance of networking to the few female students I have. Building relations within fields which are largely male dominated is essential if we are to see an increase of female visibility and recognition.
When the possibility arises, I will attend digital networking events such as LinkedIn conferences, ones organized by French curiosity and WIL. I like being part of the WIL Women Talent Pool Programme find it interesting to be able to meet and discuss with a range of women from different sectors and across numerous European continents. In addition, the program really allowed me to put my career in perspective; it made me realise what I did and didn’t want in professional life.
Building relations within fields which are largely male dominated is essential if we are to see an increase of female visibility and recognition.
At WIL, we have the tradition of concluding the interview with a question from Proust’s questionnaire. What motto do you live by?
My moto in life is: “The only cure for vanity is laughter, and the only fault that is laughable is vanity”. It was written by one of my favorite philosopher’s, Henri Bergson. He has worked the relationship between “intelligence” and “intuition”. Generally, one attributed intelligence to men and intuition to women. It shows that the progress made in mathematics are via an intuitive intelligence.
Moreover, he believed very much in the link between mathematics and philosophy, and he promoted a new way of living, focusing mainly on happiness, sincerity and love. Not only do I apply this way of living into my personal life, I also try to incorporate it into my professional life, because at the end of the day, we must not take our jobs too seriously as really, “It is only work”.