Vaudoise Conference – Impressions

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By Emma H] This conference took place on Monday, the 3rd of December at 5:30 pm at UNIL and had for a theme: « Does leadership have a gender?

This is what the Vaudoise conference wanted to explore by inviting Franciska Krings, professor at UNIL’s Business and Economics Faculty (HEC), Eglantine Jamet, Founding Partner of Artemia, and Karim Abdelatif, Human Resources Director of the Vaudoise Insurance. During this conference, each speaker questioned our relationship to leadership as well as the under-representation of women in leadership positions.

We first heard the point of view of Franciska Krings, who explained that following higher education, women are less represented in the workplace, which is an obstacle to accessing management positions. However, in recent years, the management of the University of Lausanne and the EPFL have shown a real enthusiasm for this topic. This enthusiasm is also shared by the companies that are trying to act on this lack, thanks to objectives as well as efforts such as facilitating the hiring of women or providing training. However, the impact of these efforts is minimal. Indeed, the access of women to management positions has remained stable for a long time (about 30% for the last 5 years). The same is true for the faculty, which has between 10%-20% women at UNIL. We must therefore use more effective methods, such as understanding what diversity can bring us or doing targeted recruitment.

To follow up on this intervention, Eglantine Jamet asked us why gender diversity is important. Indeed, gender equality in companies is often perceived as an exclusively feminist struggle, which would be divisive and which people would not necessarily feel concerned by. This discussion leads to a whole set of preconceived notions, such as the idea that women never worked before the Second World War, or that gender equality is a struggle that has been linear over time. These notions have influenced our conception of companies as they are structured today. It is seen in particular in the pyramidal structure, very close to the military model, the separation between work and private life. A legacy of the Victorian era where the bourgeois ideal of a woman at home and a man at work is valued. A leadership that values ego, power and a culture of the leader, borrowed again from the military. These models are now obsolete from a diversity perspective.

Indeed, diversity is a lever for financial performance.

It allows companies to exploit the talent of each individual by attracting and promoting women. In order to overcome the lack of women in leadership positions, management must be willing to establish a dialogue to involve, inform and finally finance this change.

Increasing the proportion of women also means confronting other points of view, other perspectives.

These measures can start with a requirement for 50% women’s applications at interviews, with mentoring or with the implementation of part-time work for both genders.

Finally, Karim Abdelatif shows us, through the figures on gender equality at Vaudoise, that in the corporate world, the statistics have evolved enormously over the last 20 years. Indeed, in 2018, 34% of executives were women compared to 12% in 2000. Parity therefore does not seem so utopian. He then asks us about what makes a good leader. It comes down to three capabilities: competence, results and the ability to rally. On the subject of competence, men and women are practically equal: women have the same level of competence as men in equivalent positions. Now, if we look at whether the annual objectives have been met, the results are slightly higher for women. This also reflects their higher salary increases in recent years. However, these results do not represent the difference in salary, but rather their ability to achieve results. In addition, employee engagement is on average higher with a female-led division (approximately 7.4/10 versus 7.0/10 for men).

Through this conference, it is possible to see in a striking way that leadership is not a question of gender but more a bias that refers to stereotypes specific to the society in which we live. It is therefore important that companies build a future where diversity is no longer a burden or a hindrance, but an asset.




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