Jointly organised by NEOMA Corporate Relations and the NEOMA BS Reims student association “He for She,” which encourages gender equality, the round table “Femmes & Métiers de la finance, lancez-vous !” (Women & Professions in Finance, Go for it!) brought together students and professors to listen to four women who came to discuss their experiences holding positions of responsibility in the financial sector.
Executives in NEOMA partner companies, Isabelle Dauvergne, associate and financial auditor specialising in real estate at PwC Luxembourg, Sophie Jacquemet-Richard, senior manager in consulting financial services at Accenture, Cécile Regnard, member of NEOMA au Féminin, NEOMA alumni and Emmanuelle Simi, senior executive of Crédit Agricole du Nord Est, responded enthusiastically to the invitation as well as the questions from He for She and NEOMA Reims Conseil, the NEOMA Reims junior company.
Catherine Karyotis, professor of banking and finance and head of the advanced masters in international financial analysis at NEOMA, started the conference by discussing women who distinguished themselves in finance at an international level like Christine Lagarde, previously head of the IMF and current president of the European Central Bank.
Has your gender been a hindrance in your career? Is the financial sector still a man’s world?
Emmanuelle Simi: “I quickly understood that I had a different point of view in a group that was predominantly male. I felt that I had a legitimate place there. I didn’t have to prove myself more than the others. Women lack confidence. A woman waits until she is told, “yes, you can,” while a man says, “Yes, I want to.” Therefore, you need to have self-confidence, feel you belong there and just go for it!”
Sophie Jacquemet-Richard: “I have always felt more comfortable around men than women. The worst manager that I ever had was a woman. You need to be confident, knowing that you deserve to be there. In a company where management is largely male, you need to ask what the rules are. So, be bold enough to ask, learn the rules of the game and then play the game.”
Isabelle Dauvergne: “At PxC Luxembourg, Ms. Chèvremont* was an associate for 20 years. She had a vision and wanted diversity in the company. The women who stood out were encouraged. This vision still continues today and we recruit 50/50 men and women. Nevertheless, we have noticed a decrease in the number of women over time. In my case, I started as an intern in 1998 and I’ve been an associated since 2011.” *Marie-Jeanne Chèvremont-Lorenzini, graduate of NEOMA MiM 1975. Managing partner at PwC.
You have all made a place for yourselves, but does discrimination still exist?
Cécile Regnard: “I’ve been a victim of discrimination in my career. I was aspiring to hold a position with more responsibility. I was held back based on the belief that I was young and didn’t have experience. I was 30 years old and had 8 years of experience… When they announced the new management organisation, I learned that they put me under the responsibility of a 28-year-old man…
In NEOMA au Féminin, I’ve met a lot of women who for example had to prove their worth over again after returning from maternity leave. Discrimination certainly does exist, but I have also met men who helped me and supported me in my career.”
Sophie Jacquemet-Richard: “You should never think that you cannot be good at your job just from having a child. Parental responsibility creates scheduling constraints that require greater efficiency at work and the elimination of down time.”
Is work/life balance compatible with holding a position of responsibility?
Emmanuelle Simi: “Women put themselves under a lot of pressure. For work/life balance, you need to delegate responsibilities and admit that you can’t have it all, and that even if you can’t get home at 5 o’clock, that doesn’t stop you from devoting time to your children and bringing them things just because you’re fulfilled at work.”
Isabelle Dauvergne: “You need to find a balance and make room for leisure time. It’s good for productivity and innovation. The more responsible you become, the more you need leisure time, and the more you deserve it!”
Good news: the corporate world is changing!
Sophie Jacquemet-Richard: “Today’s businessmen have daughters and spouses who hold positions of responsibility or aspire to them. So, they are aware of what’s going on.”
Emmanuelle Simi: “Companies have learned that diversity is a performance lever and wealth generator. We are in a global ecosystem where each person has their place, men and women.”
Cécile Regnard: “Listen to who you are. And if it goes against stereotypes, that’s no problem at all!”
Isabelle Dauvergne: “You need to be good at your work and do what you love. If you think that you’ve found your path, go for it.”
Sophie Jacquemet-Richard: “I love this quote from Seneca. ‘It’s not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.’ Be bold and dare!”
This conference was the first of the year in the “Where are women?” cycle, organised by He for She, with the purpose of highlighting the women’s careers and showing our students that they can be bold.