Women and Geosciences

As part of our policy to promote real gender equality, we invited 7 female geoscientists to come and speak at the "Women and Geosciences" event held on 14 October 2019 at BRGM. They talk about their career paths here, whether in the private or public sectors.
29 October 2020

Opening address by Michèle Rousseau

Michèle Rousseau, Chair and Managing Director of BRGM, opened the special "Women and Geosciences" event on 14 October 2019.

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Women and Geosciences

14 October 2019

OPENING SPEECH

MICHÈLE ROUSSEAU

BRGM's Managing Director

I am BRGM's managing director and the first woman to ever hold this position. As for the proportion of women and men at the BRGM in 2018, you can see that overall 45% are women. I think that's good. When we look at engineers and junior managers: 32%. This illustrates the fact that women sometimes hesitate to study for careers as engineers or researchers in technical fields. Speaking personally, at my college, the Ecole des Mines, which is an engineering school, 97% of students were men when I was there. This is not uncommon in higher education. As you can see, for project managers and managers, it is around the 30% mark. And then it goes down, there's a plateau, when you get to senior managers, be they doctoral or research supervisors. We can see it in more detail here. As you can see, 32% of BRGM's junior geoscientific managers and engineers are women. So that's 10% less than the general population. When you look at the minuses, project managers, experts, managers, it's 29% women. It's a slight difference, between 29% and 32%. But it's starting to fall away. It's a sign, a simple sign. When we look at the proportions for project managers of major projects and research supervisors, the percentage of women is lower. I had the following added. The percentage is 25%, but you can see that between 2017 and 2018, the number of women managing major scientific projects rose from 34 to 41. So the numbers are good. The percentage is down. There likely isn't a large enough pool, so that explains the low number of women researchers that we see. As for the board of directors, the number of women fell between 2018 and 2019. We're talking small numbers. Nathalie Dörfliger decided to leave the board. And I haven't managed to recruit a woman to replace her as director of operations. As for our deputy director positions, I asked women and they declined. Here you can see the graph. So 40% was the percentage for engineers and junior managers at BRGM. 40% women. And when we get to level 2, women are doing well. It's been increasing since 2007. This is due to the fact that women have better qualifications. However for supervisory positions, there is a gap of around 15%. The gender equality index is 93/100 at BRGM. It's a very high score. It's an official index. It wasn't created for BRGM. There are 5 criteria. Equal pay: BRGM has a 1.4% gap in the men's favour. It isn't huge, but we can discuss it because it relates to certain types of jobs. Pay increases: 3.1% in women's favour. Promotions: 1.4% in women's favour. After maternity leave, women benefited 100% from increases implemented during their absence. And two women are among the 10 highest salaries. So the issue at BRGM is the proportion of women in the most senior positions: deputy directors, research supervisors, and project managers of major projects. I'm not going... I won't... This is the comparison between BRGM and other organisations. BRGM heads the table with 93. ADEME: 92. And CEA is at 74, which isn't high. Surprisingly, Radio France is at 73. You'd think that the media employed many women. So as you can see, we are in a good position. I don't want to say too much, or Anne Besnier won't have time to speak after me, but I did obviously wonder why there are so few women in managerial positions, and why they turn the offers down. I think, in some ways, the key age is between 30 and 40. That's when women have heavy family responsibilities, with their children. As you climb up the hierarchy, it becomes more time consuming. And when women also have to manage the family, it's a very heavy responsibility. So many hesitate to take on the extra workload. That's one theory. The second is, they don't have the same desire for promotion. That could also be a possibility. I'll stop there so as not to leave Anne Besnier short of time. Thank you very much.

Valérie Masson Delmotte tells her story

Valérie Masson-Delmotte, co-Chair of the IPCC's Working Group 1 and Research Director at the CEA's Climate and Environmental Sciences Laboratory, shares her experience in this video, which focuses on women's access to positions of responsibility.

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Women and Geosciences

October 14, 2019

ROUND TABLE

Women in Managerial Positions: Barriers and Opportunities

VALÉRIE MASSON-DELMOTTE

Co-chair of IPCC Working Group I and Research Director at the Climate and Environment Sciences Laboratory (LSCE)

What is your professional background?

I'm 47 and from Nancy. As a child, I was keen on archaeology. A neighbour took me on archaeological digs. My parents said: "That's not a job for women. You have to travel." So I decided to be an engineer, maybe because I admired my sporty cousin who studied engineering. I was interested in science, physics, in particular, because it helps you understand the world we live in. I was a good pupil. I did preparatory classes and took entrance exams. In high school, I became interested in climate science. Climate change models, observation of the Earth from space... I read about that in science reviews. I studied at Ecole Centrale. Only 15 to 20% of the students were women. There were male chauvinists. When we went to the blackboard, boys whispered, "Thighs!" It was stupid. I didn't care much for them. Later on, I was encouraged. Kind encouragement, sometimes paternalistic. We were encouraged to be ambitious, to dare. I remember that. I decided to do a PhD. I chose to work in a host laboratory. I was always warmly welcomed. "Come and see what research is." "We can help you." The doors were wide open. I loved it and I became a research scientist. Just after my PhD, Jean Jouzel put me in charge of a team of 20 people. I was 27 years old. Then I became the head of four teams of about 50 people and I asked myself a lot of questions. What was ideal? How do you ensure people enjoy their work? That they deliver their best? I hadn't studied scientific methods on how to manage others. I am now Co-chair of the IPCC Working Group I, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I supervise scientific reports for representatives of every country, providing them with the latest findings. A lot of men encouraged me to apply for the position. The different countries elect us. They said I had the competences. I didn't think so, but they really encouraged me. I've no regrets, it's a challenge. Imagine chairing an IPCC session on the urgent need for action before oil-producing countries. It isn't always easy. That's part of the challenge. It isn't easy. What I remember from my school days is that I studied few works by women, be it books, paintings or poems. Few female scientists were mentioned. I looked at my daughters' textbooks. They're 18 and 21 now. When they were at school, very few women were cited. We are lagging behind as regards the ideas we transmit to young people. I also wanted to say... As for the IPCC, in 1990, for the first report, 2% of those involved were women. Among the heads of the IPCC, over 6 assessment cycles, three have been women. We're two now. There is a slight progression.

Out of how many?

About a third of the members of the IPCC Bureau are women, and a third of writers are women. We can't recruit more. We need more women at the highest levels of scientific expertise to recruit. So we need young girls. We need you to work with us, to produce new knowledge, to be recognized, to assert your expertise, to apply for positions of international expertise to improve the situation. Family-wise, it's not easy. How do you tell your mother-in-law that you'll continue to work when you have children because you consider that important? What do you say to a 5-year-old girl when she says, "Other mothers come to school, "to pick up their children for lunch, "and they're always at home," when you often work away from home? Then the same girl, when she is 21 says, "Thank you for helping me to become strong, "by showing me it was possible "if not always simple, to balance family and work life." That's important. I'll tell you about three amusing experiences. In a meeting with medicine professors, I was the only woman, I was younger, and I was asked to serve coffee. I asked them to clean my shoes in exchange. Once at a scientific council meeting, when I arrived I found an email that someone had forgotten. It was a list of participants, and next to my name: "She's here because she's a woman." I read it aloud so that everyone was informed. That is something we mustn't overlook. When you are invited to join a scientific council, it is because you are competent. Saying it is because you are a woman is really despicable. You must assert yourself, assert your expert knowledge and seize these opportunities. What means do you use to improve equal access for men and women to all positions? I won't answer that, I'll talk about inclusive policies. Why do we need more women in managerial positions? During my lifetime, I'd like to see a woman president or prime minister. If a group of people is diverse, with different experiences, different life paths, be they men or women, there is more collective intelligence. That's what you said earlier. What really struck me were two core sampling campaigns in Greenland, in 1997 and 2008, coordinated by Danish colleagues. Denmark and Scandinavia are ahead of us as regards inclusive policies that are good for all. Men get longer paternity leave. It makes it easier to share tasks when you have children. Fathers are more committed. It

changes things. When you employ a young man, you know he'll have paternity leave, and that offsets the impact of maternity leave. Meeting times are important too. A 5pm meeting will end at 8pm and you'll get home late. Meetings at 11am are more productive because people are hungry! And the fact is, often, women manage their time more efficiently. I've often noticed that. Childcare fees are funded by universities, companies or the state, so there is not an impact on women's salaries. That was the Danish experience. In the field that I work in, a lot of women give younger women advice on how to take risks, dare or try. It doesn't matter if it doesn't work. There are no regrets. There is a women's network, Earth Science Women's Network, which is international. Sometimes women face a lot of barriers, like in Switzerland, if they have an academic career and a family life, and sometimes fewer barriers, as in Scandinavia or Canada, where there are schemes to help women. As regards the climate and climate commitment, the Paris Agreement was the work of many women. The Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention, Christiana Figueres, and Laurence Tubiana were both kingpins. Let's not forget that. And C40, the network of the world's megacities, has set up a network of women tackling climate change, engineers, urban planners, politicians, and members of associations, to bring them to the forefront. What we can do, I sometimes teach... At Paris-Saclay University, we looked at women's salaries two years after graduation. And we were ashamed. For identical positions, they earned 25% less than men over the same time span. What can we do? Transparency on salaries, negotiate better, help them to negotiate better, help them to ask for better-paid positions. The difference begins very early. That really shocks me. The last thing is unconscious bias. We consider ourselves intelligent and willing but we must make the problem visible. So at meetings of the researchers who compile the IPCC reports, there is a questionnaire. Everyone thinks they have an equal chance of being appointed or selected, but when people get together to review scientific knowledge and write a report, they tell us, "In our meetings, men talk the most." And these are men who think they are doing the best. I've attended such meetings and it's amazing. If people are around a table and a woman with a soft or high-pitched voice comes up with a good idea, the group ignores her. They continue talking. But when someone says the same thing with a deeper voice, everyone listens. This is a bias. Who is an authority, who do we listen to? It's more than that. How can we change this? We invite consultants on inclusive participative practices to teach people how to chair meetings, so that everyone has a chance to speak. They teach those who are shy, men or women, people from other nations, people who speak English with a heavy accent, to be more confident and make their argument heard, and others to chair meetings so that good ideas are heard, regardless of whose they are. There is much work to do. I regret that during my engineering and scientific studies, I was never taught about such methods, inclusive or participative, or how to implement them. They are effective though. They make us all more vigilant: "There's a problem, I'm not doing this right. "I'll find another way." These small things work. They change group dynamics. And we measure this thanks to perception surveys. People say, "There's a real change. "We're more respectful and attentive." The group works. There's more cohesion, better work distribution, good ideas advance and everyone is prouder.

Elisabeth Vergès tells her story

Elisabeth Vergès, Head of the Department for Research and Innovation Strategy at the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, shares her experience in this video, which focuses on women's access to positions of responsibility.

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Women and Geosciences

14 October 2019

ROUND TABLE

Women's Access to Senior Positions: Brakes and Levers

ELISABETH VERGÈS

Head of Research and Innovation Strategy at the Ministry for Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI)

WHAT IS YOUR CAREER PATH?

At the ministry I'm in charge of research strategy for all areas. When I started this job... I'll soon be 64, water has gone under the bridge. I got this far. I started off as a researcher. A researcher at the CNRS. I was a researcher at the CNRS in the field of geoscience. That's also why I'm here today. And my career, from the CNRS up until today, I owe to men. Apart from the scientific competitive exams, which were down to me, all the other management posts, from running the lab up to head of strategy at the ministry, every step of my career, is down to men who sought me out. Sometimes I resisted. I said: "No, no, no." I owe it to the faith of certain men who helped... It's astonishing. Here's an anecdote. How did I join the CNRS? I joined the CNRS very young. I did everything very early. I started school when I was 4. I graduated high school at 16. No retakes. So I started at the CNRS when I was 24. Which is quite young. How did I do it? I went to see my thesis supervisor and said, "I'm interested in geoscience research, "continuing with the work I've done on my thesis, etc." And he said, "No. "I would rather support your fellow student - I won't say his name - "because we'll have a better chance if we put him forward." So that annoyed me, and I searched in all the texts that I could find and I applied as an external candidate to the CNRS. So I started that year - the other guy didn't - in a competing laboratory. That's how I started my career. I joined because I was so annoyed. I was really annoyed. I wanted to show him I could do it. So I did. It was important to say that. That was the first step. When I was studying, I had a university education, as you did. At the start, in the 1970s, the first two years were common to biology and geology. So for two years, the numbers in lectures were equal. A lot of women did biology. When I started the 3rd year, and it was just geology, I thought I was in the wrong lecture room. Geology was about 80% boys. It was such a change between year 2 and 3. It didn't bother me. I've always been surrounded by relatively intelligent men. In an educated environment. And you avoid those who aren't. Which helps. In an environment such as ours, it's much easier to handle. I even married a BRGM engineer. So you see... Anything is possible.

He isn't bitter!

That being said, I would like to make a point. In my professional life, the issues I had were not linked to my being a woman, not that I saw, but to being a mother. That's the whole difference. I had three children and a BRGM husband. So he was never home. Three children, that's hard. How did I do it? I made sure people didn't notice. It was the only way. I had an army of nannies and au pairs. I had my CNRS salary. They managed the children so that it wasn't visible, and I could have meetings until 7pm and so on. I made sure it wasn't visible. There was a price to pay. Today, society has to take into account the fact that it's women who have children. There you are. And so... There was no difference, because I made sure there wasn't. My children, like many of yours, were in childcare before and after school, waiting with their backpacks, the last to be collected, etc. There's a price to pay as a mother, more so than as a woman, I think, in a professional context. What Measures Are Being Taken To Improve Equality of Access for Men and Women To All Levels of Responsibility? The matter of equality at the ministry is a subject in itself. The civil service, equal pay, careers, etc. It's not an issue that concerns me directly, as I am not a member of the ministry in my own right. There are 60 people in my department. They are exclusively researchers, engineers and lecturers who come from research organisations and universities for three to six years to work in the department. It's a very specific department with only scientists, and a lab atmosphere, unlike the rest of the ministry. With senior posts, I make sure I aim for parity or to at least have women, because I find that meetings, when there is gender parity, are more conclusive. And I think that women have the ability to question things and discuss things without prejudice, and without questioning themselves, which often advances the debate, whereas men sometimes are a bit cautious about saying what they think. So there are quite a few women. Our job at the ministry is to pester everyone about parity. We check research organisations, the BRGM, universities, etc., to see if there is parity. We add indicators to all performance contracts, to university contracts, to try to work on parity, promotion problems, and the representation of women managers. We set targets for these research establishments. And for ourselves, since we appoint members to the national board and the CNU, or national university committee. When doing so, we must respect gender parity. We also appoint members of the Institut Universitaire de France. There is a generation of women who find themselves in the hot seat, with an overload of work. I see the same women's names again and again. As soon as there is parity, they have an overload of work. I hope it will be different for the next generation. That it will be normalised. But there is a generation which is taking on a lot with all these committees: recruitment committees, ad-hoc committees, scientific boards, of which there are many in our world, As a result, these women are overstretched. As for quotas or no

quotas... The fact is... we have access to a pool of competent women and men. It's about skills not gender. We have a pool of competent people. But with gender parity, women are overstretched.

Corinne Leyval tells her story

Corinne Leyval, Research Director at CNRS and Director of OTELo (Observatoire Terre et Environnement de Lorraine [Lorraine Earth and Environment Observatory]), shares her experience in this video, which focuses on women's access to positions of responsibility.

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Women and Geosciences

October 14, 2019

Access for Women to Managerial Positions: Barriers and Opportunities

CORINNE LEYVAL

CNRS Research Director, Head of OTELo, Observatory of Earth and Environment at Lorraine

What is your professional background?

I am not a geologist, but I come from Nancy. Quite a few of us are from there. I studied soil science and my model was Philippe Duchaufour, one of the first soil scientists to consider the contribution of biology to soil formation and that really interested me and inspired me to become a research scientist. I studied at university, and while studying for my PhD, I was never conscious of the fact that being a woman could be a problem. I worked my way up. I joined the CNRS. I began to feel the difference in how men and women were treated when I was promoted. I was in charge of a team and then a laboratory. I found myself in meetings with few other women and some meetings began at 5 pm, so... I have children and I thought, "This will be complicated." But we talked about this, and because I was a woman, I was able to ask, "Can we plan the meeting for earlier?" It was accepted. In light of previous comments, this is important. Such changes must be encouraged and I think that a lot of young people, including men, are prepared to do so, because they also want to have time for their family. Things can change. I've an anecdote. I had my children later on in life. I passed an exam to become research director. I was pregnant when I passed the oral exam. That wasn't good, as that year I was made to believe that I had better things to do! I was so annoyed! The following year I returned, raring to go, and I succeeded. So I succeeded later and that was the only time I felt that I wasn't in the right place. You can't hide being heavily pregnant! Then I helped with the recruitment of young research scientists at the CNRS. That's when it became clear, not just to me, to my female and male colleagues too, that for recruitments and promotions, there were few female candidates. And at first we tried... - how can I put it? - to promote a percentage of the applicants and we said, "No, that's a problem." Nowadays, the percentage of promotions is calculated according to the number of employees and not the number of applicants. A recurrent problem is that women self-censor and don't apply because you have to say to yourself, "I feel qualified to apply for promotion." I've experienced that myself. I waited a long time before applying for promotion. I think that needs to be addressed. We must instil confidence, saying, "It's an opportunity. "Go ahead. You have the skills required." That's important. One last point is that I've participated in many meetings like this and I always regret there are no men present. There are high-school girls, but where are the boys? The problem remains if only 50% of the population feels concerned. What are the different measures used to improve equal access for men and women at each level of responsibility? I am head of OTELo, Observatory of Earth and Environment at Lorraine. It's a science observatory of the CNRS and of Lorraine University's scientific pole. I think things are evolving a lot in terms of what may be pejoratively called quotas, because in committees, in recruitment committees, we are obliged to have gender parity. This may sometimes be a constraint because we have to find enough women. It's often more difficult than finding men. But it is necessary in order to debate and discuss these subjects and to ask how to achieve more equality. And I think it's an obligation in order to progress, even if it's complicated. At the university, we must have gender parity on the thesis jury. It's very complicated. It also happens that there are too many women. And it's a good thing when we're told, "There are not enough men." The ideal situation will be when we say, "We need both, "without wondering what's right or not." I think the situation's evolving and I would like to talk about the structure we call OTELo. There are four unit directors, and a female director of the geology school. There are almost 50% of women. It happened naturally, which is great. And I think that things will change gradually.

When you look for them, you find them. With encouragement, they come.

We must be at their sides. We try. It's important for these women and for men too. But it's different for women.

Cécile Robin tells her story

Cécile Robin, Lecturer and Joint-Head of "Earth Sciences Courses" at the University of Rennes 1, shares her experience in this video, which focuses on women's access to positions of responsibility.

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Women and Geosciences

October 14, 2019

ROUND TABLE

Women in Managerial Positions: Barriers and Opportunities

CECILE ROBIN

Lecturer and Cohead of School of Geosciences, Rennes University

What is your professional background?

I went to engineering school in 1989. I graduated in 1992. It wasn't an issue. I had studied sciences at school. Our teachers encouraged everyone who was good at maths, to do preparatory classes to study sciences. I chose BCPST, I wanted to study geology. At the time, Nancy had an entrance exam. When I was at Nancy, 25% of students were girls and 75% were boys. It wasn't 50-50. It wasn't a problem. We were all encouraged. The young female students were all nicknamed Emmanuelle. We were told, "You can work on an oil rig." Anything was possible. What troubles me is that when I studied things were starting to change. Yet, 30 years later, little has changed. There have been few advances over the past 30 years. We were at a turning point, doors were opening. It's such a shame nothing has really changed in recent years. What did I do next? After Nancy, I decided to do a PhD. I didn't feel obliged to. I did the pre-recruitment tests for Total and Elf. I'll tell you about that. During the tests at Elf, I was interviewed by quite an old man. One of the first things he said was, "Miss, there's a big problem." At the time, you could study only German, for example, not English. I hadn't studied English. I thought, "He'll realize." It was better to learn English than German. I was ready to prove him wrong, to say a few words in English. He said, "Miss, you are a woman." I felt so relieved. Language wasn't a problem, and I didn't consider being a woman a problem. I think we should refuse to discuss this. We mustn't even think about it. We mustn't think in terms of men or women in the workplace. Elsewhere, yes. We must refuse this distinction. He really boosted me that day. And I passed the test. But I decided to do a PhD. And I felt... Some colleagues block you, make you understand that a male lecturer is better than a female one. But there are also a lot of people... You must choose who to work with. Choosing people who aren't hung up on such considerations, means promoting a way of working that is rich. It's balanced. You need to choose your colleagues well. The same goes for your personal life. When you have a baby... There are biological constraints. I had my son at the age of 40. Later than usual. Family life is a partnership. Make sure you're well accompanied, promote the men who accompany you well and you'll see that works.

That's the first piece of advice.

Yes, choose well.

I was a lecturer at Paris 6 and then at Rennes. Maybe we can talk about the glass ceiling... I made a choice that wasn't easy. My partner and I were both academics. We lived apart for 8 years. Rennes-Paris, it was complicated. It's difficult, choosing to live apart. But it's up to us to find a balance, where we can. Then we decided to live together. I made a choice for personal and professional reasons. Maybe I put up a barrier. Going to Rennes, I knew that promotion was less likely for various reasons. You must take responsibility for your choices. You may not be promoted but you can still grab opportunities. Make your mark every day. What means do you use to improve equal access for men and women to all positions? There are some things that happen naturally. Naturally, it's out of the question to make a selection when recruiting university students. That's the principle of universities. There is no selection based on criteria, including gender. As regards Earth sciences, having been to two universities, there is no specific choice based on gender, men or women. We sometimes have a different vision of the job, but we must move forward. I'm a field geologist. I love my thick socks and hammer. You must show people what you love doing, and that it's of value... You must be supportive in all ways because diversity will change the way people view things. I'm in charge of preparing students for teaching exams, future high school teachers. So I prepare future teachers. They love geology, which is not a given. Some of my students are young men. Teaching courses are very often full of young women. There are many women because... Their life sciences teacher was often a woman, whereas it was a man for maths or physics. It's amazing to have to do this. We must encourage boys on courses with a majority of girls. Not encourage them more than the girls, but show that everyone must work in the same way, everyone is welcome and must be treated equally, even if there is a difference in gender ratio. That's important. Universities and the CNRS have paid attention to this. I said I thought little had changed since the 90s. I exaggerated, but the problem is that we need to recruit new people. Recruitment standards have been implemented. At first, it was a percentage of the applicants, but this has changed. At the CNRS now, in higher education, we aim for a percentage that is proportional to the parity of the employees rather than the applicants. So we now have a few more women. I'll say something that is debatable, but I'll say it even so. I'm wary of parity. Someone said this earlier. I refuse that our position be justified by our gender. When I say that, everyone says, "Yes, but..." We must be careful, but scientific quality, in our profession, must be the main criterion. If the woman is better, then she'll be chosen. We must remain vigilant while realizing that it's difficult to increase the percentage. The committees are all male, so we must warn them, make them see. These ratios are important, but let's not demand parity for the sake of doing so, because it could turn against us.

Intelligent parity is required.

Exactly. I think it's important. Gradually, we will advance. At present, 30% is the threshold that we can't seem to cross. It's a vicious circle. On thesis juries, we try to impose a female member. That's not a lot, one woman on a jury of six. It isn't always possible. Few are qualified to be jury members. So it's always the same women and it's tiring taking part in all these juries. We try to. It's often a pleasure. The subjects are interesting. But there is a threshold that we need to cross.

Parity is important. When young women defend their thesis, there should be women on the jury. We must avoid situations, as can be the case, where all-male juries consider them in a certain manner or make sexist remarks Time for...

One last remark. In higher education, there is a threshold between teacher-researchers, lecturers and professors. That's the truth. This is less the case at the CNRS. Promotion there doesn't entail a transfer. It is based on scientific merit. Luckily, nature knows best, everyone is equal, and promotion is for all. In higher education, it sometimes entails a transfer. And it must be said that women tend to favour their personal life over their career.

Or their partner's career.

We must make demands concerning transfers, to ensure that promotions... do not involve transfers, in order to cross the threshold of 30% of women.

Judith Sausse tells her story

Judith Sausse, Director of the Ecole Supérieure Nationale de Géologie (Higher National School of Geology), shares her experience in this video, which focuses on women's access to positions of responsibility.

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Women and Geosciences

14 October 2019

ROUND TABLE

Women's Access to Senior Positions: Brakes and Levers

JUDITH SAUSSE

Director, ENSG Nancy

WHAT IS YOUR CAREER PATH?

Hello everyone. Mine's a little simpler than yours. I've had a university-based career. I graduated high school in 1989. I gravitated towards geosciences and entered the science faculty. Why geosciences? I had a biology teacher who was a world expert on plum grafting, but I wasn't really into that. So I went towards geosciences because we had people returning from Africa with incredible stories to tell. So I opted for geosciences. I did a DEUG in geology, a two-year diploma. Then I gravitated towards physical chemistry, minerals and materials. I wanted that physical-chemistry dimension that exists in geosciences. So I did a further diploma in geophysics then a thesis on high-temperature geothermal systems with a few colleagues, such as Sylvie and Christelle who are here, in particular on fractured reservoirs and the pilot site at Soultz-sous-Forêts, in Alsace. After that I was offered the job of lecturer. I accepted it for family reasons: it had taken my partner seven years to find a job in the same place as me. So I was in a good place to pursue my career. I was a lecturer and researcher. I did research and I got a taste for management. The students were what interested me. I took on training responsibilities: the geosciences degree at Nancy. One thing led to another, and I realised I wanted to be in charge of both students and lecturers. In 2011, I joined the Ecole des Mines in Nancy as head of studies, where I spent six years. That gave me even more of a taste for management. And then I got the chance, when Jean-Marc Montel's term ended, to apply to the Ecole de Géologie, and I was appointed its director on 1 October 2018. So that's almost a year...

Were there any brakes or obstacles?

Oddly enough, no. The only thing was that my thirties, as we said earlier, were years I devoted to my family. Once I reached 40, I had the opportunity to apply for those jobs. I was "freer" in my head, and that was important. But no brakes, really. The one thing I will say is that when I applied to the Ecole de Géologie, I was the first woman in 111 years. There were some remarks such as "You have an advantage because you're a woman." That was disturbing, because I had worked hard on my application, and we weren't evenly matched.

So after 111 years someone had an advantage, but redressing the balance...

But it didn't hold me back. I wasn't fazed by it. I thought: "That's how it is." So there were no real brakes. Regarding what Pierre said about the Ecole de Géologie, I was born in 1971, and that was the first year a girl graduated. That was Joëlle Riss, whom Sylvie knows well. I think she got in by modifying her first name. She removed the "le" from Joëlle so as to appear more masculine, as it were. But that's no longer the case. Right? Sylvie, you can tell us...

It's an urban myth.

Many women in history have impersonated men to get certain jobs. Lots in the army, for example, in previous centuries.

I saw Joëlle when she came to the school as part of a celebration for the class of 1971, and that subject came up. But the Ecole de Géologie has had 50% girls for 10 years. So it started in 1971, and there's been a gradual increase, and we're proud to have 50% girls. Why is that? Quite simply because, as we said before, the school recruits from various courses. We recruit from BCPST courses, where the proportion of girls is higher than on other courses such as the MP, PC and PSI. But I also have girls from those. So that 50% is relatively constant, and there is no discrimination in terms of job prospects. We have girls exploring in Guiana. They go all over the world. We have geek girls who do computer simulations, so it's not a problem. What Measures Are Being Taken To Improve Equality of Access for Men and Women To All Levels of Responsibility? As far as training goes, we're pleased with the 50% girls in our intakes. That's 200 students a year. However I think it's important... To improve gender parity, we must explain what we do, what our profession is. When we visit junior schools, we try to target young people, for whom a geologist is still a bearded guy who breaks rocks! In all seriousness, although the Ecole de Géologie is prestigious, historic and so on, we must explain what we do, make it clear there's room for all, and that the big bearded guy can be a woman.

Change role models.

Lose the beard! So communication is key. We target preparatory classes and high schools a little less. I think we need to target the youngest pupils and explain what a geologist is. It isn't just palaeontologists and volcanologists, but those stereotypes remain. We need to work on that. That's the first point. As regards the school, everything is going very well. We've no specific initiatives. There is a good mix of students with a healthy interest, so we hope that continues. We're ramping up efforts to recruit from courses other than BCPST. It requires communication to attract girls from those courses and to continue to do so, as well as from others. So it's all about communication.

And teachers?

As for teachers, Manoelle can talk about that. But I have changed the school's management team, with female heads of studies and international relations. And our female head of sciences is here, next to me. I did what men did for me at a certain point in my career. I went looking for them saying, "Come on, we'll work well together." That's a mentoring role I have experimented with at school level. Once we're in place, we can fulfil that role.

Manoelle Lepoutre tells her story

Manoelle Lepoutre, Senior Vice President Civil and Society Engagement at Total and Managing Director of the TOTAL Foundation, shares her experience in this video, which focuses on women's access to positions of responsibility.

© BRGM

Women and Geosciences

14 October 2019

Women's Access to Senior Positions: Brakes and Levers

MANOELLE LEPOUTRE

Head of Civil Society Engagement and MD of the Total Foundation

WHAT IS YOUR CAREER PATH?

You have to make choices. I made my choice very young. I wanted to do geology, be an engineer and work in business. That was quite a lot. Nobody thought I could achieve it. I'm a bit behind you, not much, and likewise, the college director said to me, "You're in the top 10 at Agro, "you've got into Normale Sup', why are you here?" I said, "Sorry, you'll have to put up with me." And he did, and he supported me afterwards in my career, truly. Sometimes you have to break down barriers. I don't know if he carried on making those kind of remarks to women applicants. I hope not. I wanted to do this job. There were a lot of obstacles, comments when I was taken on, or even before that: "I imagine you're going to get married." I looked at him and said, "Why do you say that?" "Do you know that? I don't!" Things like that. You have to take risks. Each time I dared, whilst respecting the other person... At the time it was intuitive, now it's more measured. We know the stereotypes. But you have to do it when you make your choice. The choice isn't always easy. Often I've thought, "Why did I do geology? "I was good at maths, that would've been easier." But I said, "This is what I wanted, so I'm going to do it." That's my message for all the young women here: make your choice, go for it, don't be too influenced if you think it doesn't suit your personality, because it's then, or when you have problems, as there always are in life, that you'll regret it. I had support too. Like men. You get noticed, someone gives you a push. That's corporate life. I worked hard. I have a partner with whom I shared all our decisions. Sometimes he chose to follow me when I moved, as I was working on the rigs. I followed a classic exploration geologist's career path, whilst slowly advancing. Sometimes I was held back. They said, "She gets on really well with her boss, "that's a problem." We'll give her a chauvinist boss, to test her. That happened to me three times. That's how it is. You denounce these things politely and you advance. Then, once you've broken a glass ceiling or two, it's the opposite. In my case, in a male environment, I was managing teams that were 100% men, when I started to have HR responsibilities, very diverse however, multicultural. And that's when I learned the benefits of diversity. I wasn't a feminist until one moment when I realised I was. I was made a manager at Total, we were three out of 300, three women out of 300. It was the early 2000s, 2004 to be exact. And some of my colleagues... I was head of R&D for exploration and production. And some of my colleagues said, "You need to start a women's network." I'll come back to it. At the time I said, "What? "We need to work, to be tactical. "We don't need a women's network." I'll maybe explain later why I did it. But... I wanted to stay in a technical area because I thought I'd make a difference compared to other areas involving negotiation or whatever, until the moment when, having spent 5 years as head of R&D, which was technical, but very strategic, I realised that other people in the company saw other qualities in me, so I changed my career, moved into sustainable development at Total, and had a role which involved reorganising the group, dealing with managers. Then three years ago, I was put in charge of civil society engagement. I could explain, but at Total, it isn't easy. What Measures Are Being Taken To Improve Equality of Access for Men and Women To All Levels of Responsibility? There's a lot to say. Honestly, my view on it... When I was 40-something, a group of women, colleagues at Total, said to me, "Take on this network - it was starting - "and develop it. We really need it." I didn't want to do it. I was busy, I had my children, lots of responsibilities. Then something clicked and I thought, "I need to think about "how to share my experiences "as well as my frustrations." I wasn't unhappy with my career. Certain men had spotted me and offered a hand. But it's like that for everyone, men and women. The difference is that women say it. I'm asked if I've had help from men. Yes, I have, but everyone gets support in their careers. You need to have skills and to get chosen. That's how it works. But don't tell me that women get help and not men. They get more, statistically. Due to stereotypes, models, etc. I started the network against the advice of my bosses, whose opinion I'd asked. They now champion it. But that's good. They said I was risking my career. I thought, "If my career comes down to this..." "Never mind. We'll see. If I do something innovative, - I was known for my creativity and innovation at Total - "it'll be great for Total." I'd already given a lot to them, a great deal of effort and a few sacrifices, for over twenty years. So I thought, "We'll see." And I started the network and structured it with a steering group, and listened to external advice. The steering group was comprised of colleagues, many of whom were senior managers, both women and men. I thought that if I did that... It was to respond to a kind of injustice that I felt intuitively, and which, when we discussed things, was blatantly obvious. For me personally, my management experience was that when I had diverse teams, it worked a lot better and was much easier than when I had teams of Ecole Polytechnique graduates. Even if they are brilliant and adorable. If you only have them in a team, or geologists from Nancy, you solve complex problems less quickly than when you have Chinese, Japanese... I was lucky enough to have Dutch people in my team, but no women. For efficiency alone, I figured it was worth doing. The third thing was perhaps more... philosophical, spiritual, if I can call it that. I thought, "All these men I talk to "are also victims in some way "of stereotypes and society's expectations: "success based on the models of the previous generation, "with meetings, going out for a beer "in order to network..." Some of the men I spoke to privately, - They'd never admit it in front of colleagues - said, "I'm fed up with it." I thought we could maybe help everyone find their place, and that the system would evolve. I had no intention of starting a revolution. I did it for those three reasons. We started by setting yearly actions. Mentoring, where someone more senior would support, mentor a younger woman, was really important. It changed the mentality of the male mentor and the female mentee. The men became aware of the brakes women tend to put on themselves. We do it, maybe some less than others, but we do. Men need to understand that. When I hear, "Women don't want it"... It isn't that they don't want more responsibility, they don't want to be stuck with the model imposed by men. - That's different. - We need a new model. It's not the same thing. That's what we have to change. You can have responsibility as well as a family life, either by getting help, as we had to, or by sharing more. That was my aim with mentoring. Then the business itself... The steering group's goal was to change the mindset of the company's managers and HR department. Total set up an official diversity committee. The network isn't official. We give classes on stereotypes, bias, etc., through the network. I could go on for hours. But the group itself set objectives. You need objectives. We are all scientists or fans of scientists here. You don't see what you don't measure. It's amazing what you see when you measure things. I didn't know that. Quantifiable objectives, category by category, profession by profession. We talked about quotas. I'd hate to think I could be a quota. I understand. The 1st board of directors I was on, I think I was a quota, but they didn't say. We are now 40% women, and I can tell you that it works differently. So too bad if I was a quota. I don't know if we should support quotas, but we do need to have quantifiable objectives. It comes to the same thing, but you monitor the progress. The CEO of Total, the man who had told me, "Don't set up this network," now sponsors the network. He set the objective of having more women on the Exec. There were six people, all men, when he took over. Now there are eight, two of whom are women. As for senior managers, back in 2004, just three of the 300 were women, now 20% are women. It's not enough. In a meeting of ten, if you don't have 30% women, we're not seen. It's not because men are mean. I love them. But they don't see us. We did it throughout the chain. And we help and support women. We have a tendency to say, "I'm not capable, I won't accept." Whereas men say, "I'll accept and we'll see." It's due to education or something. Women need encouragement. I spend my time talking to young women we've spotted and saying, "You can do it. You'll have a mentor. "And if you can't, in a kind, sympathetic way, "we'll look at how your career can evolve." If we just go into Jungle Fight mode, - if you fail, you're dead - it won't work. That's what we've changed at Total. We're not there yet.