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Women ‘s Forum 2012 Feedback

Feedback from the Women’s Forum

After three days of debates and discussions between women of all walks of life (business women, politicians, artists or activists), with a special focus on Africa, the eighth edition of the Women’s Forum in Deauville came to an end of October 12th. “Wanted: 360° growth” was the theme of the global meeting, in reference to both women’s causes around the world and the new models of growth that are emerging in response to the change in economic paradigm. As an advocate for corporate governance and a recruiter of women directors for tomorrow’s boards, Aliath attended the meeting in Deauville to listen to, meet with and present its approach to women in the boardroom. On this occasion, Aliath disclosed its declaration of principles (Download the document in English).

                       

Two workshops were of particular interest to Aliath: “Women in the boardroom inFrance” and “Growth strategies in periods of crisis”.

Women in the boardroom in France: change is under way

The 2011 Copé-Zimmerman law requires that listed companies include a minimum quota of women on their boards with two thresholds –20% in 2014, and 40% in 2017. Halfway through the first deadline and with the hindsight of several months, the result is rather encouraging as the boards of CAC 40 companies currently include 26.9% of women against 21.9% in SBF 120 companies.

Beyond these figures, the law has had a positive effect of healthy competition on unlisted companies. For instance, the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations took the initiative to apply the law one year ahead of time to the whole of its 200 holdings. Its CEO has therefore implemented a process allowing management to identify women with high potential and support them through training to take up their first board position.

This example should inspire others, since the law concerns nearly 1,700 companies inFrance. With an average of 10 directors per board, 6,800 women will be sought to become board directors by 2017.

Growth strategies in periods of crisis: dare to change, the testimony of Denis Terrien, CEO of 3SI (3 Suisses International)

In periods of crisis, growth requires change. It is the only way to get through a difficult economic environment, and resisting change is somewhat akin to refusing growth, initially a source of new jobs and subsequently a source of new profit.

Beyond growth drivers, two concepts stand out today: innovation and cooperation. Innovation, to develop new market opportunities. Cooperation with partners, to develop new value chains that are more efficient and robust in times of crisis –without necessarily hampering competition. Today’s new economic paradigm requires that market players change and change quickly; by changing together, they multiply their means of action and their capacity to grow driven by innovation.

Underlying this capacity for change is the boldness of leaders who are prepared to rethink their economic models when the situation so requires. And so it was for 3SI. Being a latecomer to e-commerce, the company decided to change its strategy radically. It became within a few years a full service company, moving from a BtoC model to a combined BtoC and BtoB model.

What is the secret of this successful reconversion? The bold strategy of a leader, Denis Terrien, who decided to capitalise on the strong assets of the company –catalogue conception, call management, logistics –to convert them into offers aimed at its own competitors. By becoming the chain-link of a new industry, rather than a minor player in a very competitive market, 3SI has given itself the means to achieve sustainably profitable growth. A good example to follow in these difficult times.

Dominique Druon, 15 th october 2012

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