"1 Woman, 1 Passion" podcasts - Episode#2: Sidonie Mérieux, Co-Founder of HeR Values
Valérie Bokobza: Hello everyone. I am Valérie Bokobza, Head of Development at Societe Generale Private Banking and I am delighted to present a new episode of "1 woman, 1 passion". Our goal is to share the journey of an inspiring woman who is moving the lines. Today I am hosting Sidonie Mérieux. Hello Sidonie.
Sidonie Mérieux: Hello Valérie.
Valérie Bokobza: You are co-founder of HeR Value, a recruitment firm based in Lyon, the main mission of which is to participate in the feminization of boards of directors. After a successful career as a communications consultant to CAC40(1) executives, you learned lessons about board governance and the under-representation of women. In search of change, you decided to make it a fight with the advent of the Copé-Zimmermann law in France, in 2011. You are also committed to helping young people in the suburbs of Lyon, always with the same passion for a more egalitarian world. How do you go from managing a communications group to becoming an entrepreneur in human relations?
Sidonie Mérieux: Hello Valérie, thank you for welcoming me, I am delighted to be here. My background is quite simple: I had the chance to work at Image 7, in corporate communication, and I realized at that time - so it was about twenty years ago - the importance of the boards of directors, because I heard that many decisions were submitted to the vote of the boards of directors… So their composition caught my attention. And at that time, obviously, there were a lot of men, a lot of CEOs, sitting on boards. And actually, in 2011, there was this Copé-Zimmermann law(2) in France, which, as you mentioned, imposed a 40% quota for women, at the beginning for listed companies, and which was extended to non-listed companies that meet criteria of turnover and employees. I saw in this legislative opportunity a market opportunity. So the decision was very quick: I said to myself that there was something to be done, there was something professional to be done about this transformation and this feminization of the boards of directors. And so very quickly, I created HeR Value with an approach based on the expertise, the competence of women, more than on their gender, by trying to accompany the presidents in the audit of their board of directors, to finally tell me what expertise and experience might be missing around the table. And I'm working hard to identify these female talents to complement all these talents.
Valérie Bokobza: So, concretely, with HeR Value, how do you support women executives to position themselves in the board of directors and what does this change for companies?
Sidonie Médieux: In 2011, when I created HeR Value, I quickly had clients asking me to identify female profiles, and of course, I identified women with very high-level profiles in companies who agreed to take on these new roles. And then I came up against a lot of questions from them about what a board of directors was, how it worked, what this collegial body was, what its codes were, what posture one should have in a board of directors... So I quickly turned to EM Lyon(3), which was my former school, and we co-created together a pedagogical support program, both on academic issues, and then of course, on feedback, by bringing in many witnesses for this training. To date, we have trained 390 women, 53% of whom are now independent directors.
Valérie Bokobza: You yourself are a member of the board of several associations that promote the integration of the younger generation in sensitive neighborhoods. What really motivates you in this commitment?
Sidonie Mérieux: I was lucky enough to come across a magnificent association called Sport dans la Ville (“Sport in the City”), which promotes the integration of young people through sport. It was an environment that I did not know, that I discovered, and I met young people who did not necessarily have the codes of the company, who did not necessarily have a very good image of the company either, but who had a lot of energy, a lot of desire. So I wanted to get involved with them. And it's true that, when I discovered this whole ecosystem around professional integration and education for people who didn't necessarily have the opportunity that I had, I wanted to get involved. So I got involved with Sport dans la Ville. I am also on the board of the Olympique Lyonnais (Lyon’s soccer club) foundation, I participated in the Sycomore foundation, and I am also lucky enough to be part of the Societe Generale foundation (Fondation Société Générale C'est Vous l'Avenir(4)).
Valérie Bokobza: What advice would you have liked to have been given earlier in your career?
Sidonie Mérieux: To perhaps trust myself more; because I try to follow my intuitions. And when I had an idea, to dig into it and to tell myself that it is the right one, so to try to be pugnacious in my actions. In other words, to listen to myself, and also to listen to others, because we all have in our entourage people who accompany us with kindness and who are very good mentors. To know how to listen to them, it is very important.
Valérie Bokobza: Very well. Societe Generale Private Banking thanks you, Sidonie, for your participation. And thank you to the listeners. See you soon for the next episode of "1 woman, 1 passion".
Sidonie Mérieux: Thank you Valérie.
(1) Main stock market index of the Paris Stock Exchange, composed of 40 French stocks representing all sectors of activity, selected from the 100 French companies with the highest trading volumes. (Source: https://www.economie.gouv.fr/facileco/cac-40)
(2) French Law: Law no. 2011-103 of January 27, 2011 on the balanced representation of women and men on boards of directors and supervisory boards and on professional equality: Loi de 2011 : votre entreprise est-elle concernée ? – Ministère chargé de l'égalité entre les femmes et les hommes, de la diversité et de l'égalité des chances (egalite-femmes-hommes.gouv.fr)
(3) EM Lyon, now "emlyon business school", a business and management school in Lyon, France.
(4) To find out more about the Société Générale C'est Vous l'Avenir Foundation: LANCEMENT DE LA FONDATION SOCIÉTÉ GÉNÉRALE C’EST VOUS L’AVENIR POUR SOUTENIR LES JEUNES - Société Générale (societegenerale.com)
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