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1st French-German Female HEC Forum Draws a Parallel Between the State of Leadership and Diversity Between Paris and Berlin

On July 6 past, as part of its reinforcement of its international presence and its support of French-German relationships, HEC Paris organized the first “French-German female forum: leadership and diversity” at the French Institute of Berlin. During the forum, opened by the French Ambassador in Germany, Anne-Marie Descôtes, who reminded the audience that the President of the Republic had made gender equality one of the main causes of his five-year term, several experts held a debate on the place of women in society, on their skills and their leadership in organizations and businesses, as well as the social, economic and digital stakes for women in France and Germany.

Miriam Hartlapp

Moderated by Michaela Wiegel, correspondent of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in France, and by Thomas Wieder, correspondent of Le Monde in Germany, the forum recognized the progress made over the last few years by these two neighboring countries regarding women’s place in society and business, all the while underlining the long journey ahead to arrive at total equality.

It is because of this that, during a speech on the representation of women in politics, Miriam Hartlapp, Professor at Freie Universität in Berlin, reminded the audience that currently, only 25% of the German government was made up of women, compared to 39% in the French government. “The presence of women in government is vital in order to raise questions such as the right to abortion or maternity leave. Furthermore, they have a different political style” . Anaëlle Cabon, Special Advisor to the Counsellor for Social Affairs at the French Embassy in Germany, reminded the audience that men still today occupied the highest management positions in business. 

Men were not left out of this first French-German female forum on leadership and diversity: Gael de Talhouet, Vice President of Brand Building & Digital Transformation at Essity, analyzed the obstacles met by women in the world of business as well as the primary causes leading to gender inequality. “We are all equal and we all have the same rights. We should all have the same opportunities and the same chance to build a career. But this isn’t the case” , he stated.

Forum franco-allemand au féminin - Matteo Winkler

Matteo Winkler, Professor of Law at HEC Paris, spoke of the question of sexual harassment in the workplace in France and Germany following the #metoo phenomenon. “The number of allegations for sexual assaults has increased by 30% in France since the Harvey Weinstein scandal. In Germany, 50% of the population currently considers sexual harassment common” , he underlined. Matteo Winkler reminded the audience of some of the key solutions that businesses needed to adopt in order to face this phenomenon: establishing fundamental rules at work and clear sanctions, establishing training programs, as well as processes for listening and transforming business culture. 

HEC and social impact

The forum was also the opportunity to present the processes established within the first French business school in order to foster social insertion, equality and diversity. HEC Paris has been involved in entrepreneurship with societal impact since November 2012, the date of the first HEC Stand Up program. The program, which has trained nearly 800 women since this date, helps women entrepreneurs to create their own business, work on their development project and gain confidence. Rarely seen in the media, there are more and more women entrepreneurs in priority neighborhoods, contributing to the relaunch of activity in these territories.

Forum franco-allemand au féminin - Hafida Guebli

Hafida Guebli, a former “Stand Up” participant, thus retraced her journey as a women entrepreneur and the creation of her startup, NEYB’s, “the remote control for an apartment block”, allowing illiterate people to communicate very easily with the owners of their building. More than 4,000 families in France today use the NEYB’s application.

Finally, Evelyne Kuoh, President of “HEC au Féminin”, spoke to the audience to present the plans for the association, which has today 20,000 women, meaning 1/3 of the 60,000 HEC Alumni. “In 2018, women are still under-represented in decision-making positions in businesses: the gender pay gap has today reached 19% and 25% including women in part-time employment. HEC au Féminin firmly believes that gender diversity within management is key for the performance of a business. Businesses must engage men in the debate on equality, prioritize women’s freedom of speech, create associations to fight against discrimination, and finally turn the corner towards equality. This is the fight led by HEC au Féminin.”

HEC Paris wishes to make the French-German Female Forum an annual event: the next edition of the forum will take place on July 5, 2019 in Munich.