French women don’t get fat or promoted?
French women seem to be blessed with the natural advantage of not getting fat, no matter how many croissants and wheels of brie cheese they consume.
However much you might love to hate them for their chic figures and stylish savoir faire, you can’t envy their career struggles within a corporate
environment that is much more male-dominated than what we are used to in North America.
Last year, France elected a new government which is now comprised of equal numbers of men and women – a revolutionary step for a country in which power
is almost exclusively concentrated in the hands of men.
Yet, according to a recent article in the Financial Times, French women still face challenges with getting promoted to the senior ranks of the
workplace. Out of the country’s 40 biggest companies, not one is headed a woman.
Advancing your career like a Frenchwoman
Brigitte Lemercier, a Parisienne headhunter, provided seven tips to address the dilemma of how women in France can advance their careers. We thought the advice was wise enough to be useful for all
women to consider - French or otherwise. Below is a summary of Ms. Lemercier’s tips and what you can do to implement them.
1. Excel in your studies – Even if university is far behind you, continuous education is critical. Professional designations and
specialized courses to upgrade your skill set will keep you at the forefront of your industry and give you respected credentials.
2. Go abroad as soon as possible – With more and more companies doing business globally, employees who can provide first-hand foreign
market experience have a definite advantage. Consider work-study programs or a sabbatical in which you do a short-term gig or a volunteer program in
3. Get involved in a network – Networking keeps you connected to new job opportunities as well as industry and competitive gossip. Keep in
touch with school friends and former colleagues; join industry associations and business networking groups.
4. Find a mentor – With more than a little note of realpolitik, Ms. Lemercier points out that if your mentor is a man, “you
should choose someone a good 20 years older who can feel paternalistic.” Furthermore, become a mentor yourself – the world needs more female mentors.
5. Avoid working for the same person for many years – All too often, the person who hired you in a junior role will have trouble seeing
you as anything but junior. Sometimes you need to change jobs to get the recognition for how far you’ve come.
6. Choose difficult jobs – Don’t you dare shy away from that challenge or think you are not up to the task! Too many women loiter in the
same, safe role for too long. The right job (or project) may scare you a little bit – but it will force you to aim higher, stretch your limits – and
7. Think about combining career and family – Unfortunately, stepping off of the career track and onto the ‘ mommy track’ not only leaves you with less earning power, but a big gap in your
networking abilities and up-to-date experience. Fortunately, more companies are embracing flextime and work-from-home plans that give families more
Have your croissant and eat it too
Fortunately for us, the corporate world seems to be changing for the better with each generation. While many women still have a tough time earning the same
respect and pay as men for equal work, in many urban cities, women in their 20s are actually out-earning their male peers. So there is hope for balance in the universe after
all. As for how to avoid getting fat…well, you’ll have to turn to French author Mireille Guiliano for that!