Valérie is a corporate lawyer, partner of JeantetAssociés a leading independent French law firm and a member of the Supervisory Board of MicroCred, a subsidiary of PlaNet Finance.
Irene: Valérie what was your idea behind starting voxfemina?
Valerie: Voxfemina is a non-profit organization created to enhance the visibility of female experts in the media. My flash of inspiration came from the presentation of a study on the image of women in the media that was carried out in 2008. It showed both qualitatively and quantitatively that traditional stereotypes feature prominently in the public image of women. In particular, the speaking time allocated to experts on the radio really captured my imagination and gave me the idea of founding voxfemina. We have chosen the brandname voxfemina because it evocates the “voice of women”. And we have added a baseline which says “Paroles d’experts au feminin”, because right now, the voice of experts is mostly male. On the radio, when an expert is being interviewed, we have 1 minute 35 seconds of female speech for every 25 minutes of male speech, and I said to myself, that this does not reflect reality. So I wanted to do something to shake things up a little in the area of visibility.
Another survey, conducted by the Global Media Monitoring Program in 2010, shows that women are under-represented in professional categories as newsmakers. As authorities and experts, women barely feature in news stories, for example only 19% of spokespersons and 20% of experts are women. In contrast, 81% of spokespersons and 80% of experts in the news are male.
Irene: On 11 February 2012 you held a national conference on the Recognition of Women in French Society. What key conclusions did you draw from this event? Is France ready for changes in mindsets to promote women in leadership positions in the media and in science and technology?
Valerie: As in many other western societies, the French are quite convinced that the “issue” of women is behind us and has already been dealt with through the “feminist” revolution in the sixties and the many laws that have been passed since then. But today, many have realized that laws have been ignored, that women are paid less than men for equivalent work and that very few women do indeed play a role in public life. But few men, and even women as well, accept to recognize this social discrimination. Some are not even aware of it. I think the truth of the matter is that there are still many obstacles, all the most difficult to overcome, that are partly related to our socio-cultural history, and often unconscious.
This is why it seems important that voxfemina helps the too few women who are in leadership positions to gain the expertise to become visible. This is necessary to attest to a paradigm shift in society in general and to create role models for younger women who are breaking out of the traditional stereotypes.
Irene: You are today a truly French organization with prominent French ladies in your leadership. Are you interested in expanding your network in Europe and if so what countries are your key priorities? Do you plan to find new collaborating partners for voxfemina among the ECWT members?
Valerie: Yes of course, we are most interested in expanding voxfemina beyond the French borders and yes we plan to find new collaborating partners among the ECWT members!
Deloitte International and Orange FT are key stakeholders supporting voxfemina.
Deloitte is highly involved worldwide and in France in closing the gender gap. More than 30 awards were won in 2009, including the Global Diversity Innovation Award for Deloitte’s Mass Career Customization™ (MCC) program in the US, India, France, and the Netherlands. Deloitte in France was awarded, since 2005, the “Label Egalité professionnelle”. As part of the “Capital Feminin” program within Deloitte in France, which includes training, networking, coaching and mentoring, Deloitte encourages the emergence and access of women to leadership positions.
Orange believes that diversity at all levels of the company, is a guarantee of success for its economic performance. Therefore, the Orange Group registered professional equality at the heart of his new business venture, Conquests 2015 giving themselves an ambitious goal to achieve a rate of feminization of 35% in its governing bodies in 2015. Other dimensions on which the Group acts as part of its policy of equal opportunity are work-life balance and diversity of its businesses, in particular techniques.
Speeches on topics of expertise by the Women of Orange from the technical field will advance the fight against a number of stereotypes, will talent Orange visibility and, hopefully, generate vocations among women to engage in technical careers.