2021 International Women's Day - Podcast (part1)

2021 International Women's Day - Podcast (part1)

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Hello everybody, my name is Isabelle  Pavelic and I am the Human Resources   Director of Veolia Water Technologies I am very pleased to launch this first podcast   of VWT dedicated to the 2021  International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to  evaluate the current situation of women in the   world and more specifically in the workplace. For  this special occasion, I am pleased to welcome in   visioconference 4 representatives of VWT, women  and men, from different geographical areas. In this first part, we will discuss their general   feelings about this day and the  place of women in the workplace. I am therefore very pleased to welcome : Rana Aoun, CFO of VWT Middle East  Brandy Nussbaum, Sales Manager  at AnoxKaldnes, VWT Sweden  Fabiano Guittis, Project Execution  Director in VWT LATAM, Brasil  And Benoit Gagné, CEO of VWT Canada.

Hello everybody and welcome  to this first podcast of VWT. My first question is very simple:  what does this day mean to you ?  Has it become part of everyday life ? Does  it generate a particular reaction ? Do you   think it is still necessary to  have a day dedicated to women ? Perhaps we will give the floor first to a  man. Benoit, could you tell us your opinion ? Yes for sure. So good morning, good afternoon  or good night. I hope you are doing well. I would say, absolutely yes, I mean. And  it’s not just one day. We can see that  

it’s a day to allow us to raise awareness  about the fight for gender parity. There’s also other dates like June 23rd  which is the International Day of Women   in Engineering in Canada. December 6th which  unfortunately remind us the violence against   women and a tragedy, really a tragedy of  the polytechnique school in Montreal which   I would see several of my colleagues of VWT  Canada and I personally have experienced   and it’s probably the one that it  is the most deeply rooted in me.

Thank you Benoît, it is very  linked with the Canada context.  Fabiano, perhaps a point for Latin America ? Yes for sure. Thank you  Isabelle, so hello everyone.  Well, in Latin America the  rate of violence against women,   including domestic violence, is very, very  high. When it comes to job opportunities, pay,   labor policies and so on, Latin America is  still far behind many other developed regions. So I think that there is still a lot to  be done around here in order to lower the   violence rates and to reach gender equality. And I think that Women's day is a very key date   and I think it will continue to play a crucial  role in this fight around here in Latin America Thank you so much Fabiano for this point.

If I come back to Brandy and Rana, do you have  another point of view on this subject ? Have   you observed a change in the feeling of this  day over time ? I should outline that this   day has been officially in existence  for 44 years for United Nation   eyes. Did you see some change on  the ways this day is received ? Brandy perhaps ? Yes sure, thanks Isabelle and thank  you for having me join this podcast. To be honest, I was also surprised by the 44  years. I actually had no idea it had been so long.   I’ve personally been working in this industry  for more than 20 years, 18 of those with Veolia. 

To be honest, I don’t even really  remember being aware of the fact   that there was this International Women’s  Day, until maybe the last 10 years or so. For me I’m not sure if Women’s Day  was the cause but I have definitely   observed a change in our industry from  how it was when I first entered it. I believe that there is much much more awareness  now and I believe this is a result produced by   strong and confident women mentors and leaders  as much as it is by having a day of recognition. We need our women leaders and the generations they  represent to be present, visible and heard every   day but we also need the strong support and voices  of our male counterparts across our organization.

So this day is still very useful. Rana, in the Middle East ?   So, I just want to add that the Middle East is  slightly slower than the other regions. This day   is only celebrated in multinational companies.  It is not yet popular on a larger scale.

So, for me, I think it’s important to   have this day dedicated to women, just to  have the opportunity to acknowledge that   there is still a lot to be done in  terms of gender equality in the region. Thank you, thank you. So this  podcast makes sense still today.  Has this day brought concrete changes in your  life, professional or personal ? And if not,   what caused changes in your life ? Brandy ? Sure thanks, I’m happy to  take this again Isabelle. It feels like a long time ago that I  started in this industry, I was quite young.  Being young and a woman in a technical position  definitely brought about some challenges.  

But definitely in the last 20 years, the  workforce in this industry has changed a lot.   Where I once felt maybe odd or unique or  different it’s really no longer the case. Of course it’s different from  region to region. I appreciate that.   But I can see that the industry is  filled with strong women leaders   but even more so there is definitely  an insurgence of young technical women. But for me personally, I grew up in a  way that didn’t discriminate on gender.   I was raised on a farm with no brothers so  there was definitely no gender assigned to tasks   whether it was baking bread, helping to  fix machinery, the work had to be done.

So I realize that not all young women  have this type of childhood so we need   to find other ways to encourage  the breakdown of stereotypes. Everyone should feel supported and encouraged  to enter whatever area of interest they have,   regardless of these historical biases. Ok, thank you so much Brandy. It shows  that education and the way we are taking  

care of our children also has an impact. Rana, does this day change something  in your professional life ? In my professional life, no, I don’t think  that this day brought changes. It’s more   the chance to work in a multinational  company where I got proper training.... If you want, it’s like the result of continuous   managerial support but of course  a lot of hard work from my side. Ok thank you If you want however on the personal level if  you want both, only the professional one ? Yes both, let’s go Ok, so, for the personal side,  yes it caused a lot of changes. Because when I listen to  interviews done by working women,   it motivates me and it reduces the guilt  feeling that I have towards my family.

In fact there is a lot of pressure coming from  society on us and we end up feeling as if we have   to choose between our family and our career. In  my case, I don’t want to choose, I want them both. Yes, I think you’re right. I  just notice that feeling guilty   is not specifically for women. It is a  feeling which could be shared by men also. Choosing both, that means  professional and personal life   is not a question of men or women no ? Benoit ? Well, I think we have, which is  good, we have different vision. 

I mean what Rana said,   and Brandy. For me, personally, I was lucky in  a way, in a sense that all through my career,   I started at university, I was surrounded by a  good balance where women and men were balanced and   as an example, the chemical engineering at  polytechnic school, there was only one class:   30 students but 50% of women. My partner, my  study partner was a woman too. That was great and   when I moved on to VWT years after, I was still  surrounded by women. Because when I took the lead   of the technical services and I was in charge  of fill service, let’s start up and piloting.

The amazing thing is that I have  more women to recruit than men.   And it was supposed to be more a men  job, apparently. But it was not the   case at all. And they were great, they were  excellent. It was very surprising, I think.  

And personally my own family, I’m also lucky  because I have two nice children, a boy and a girl So balanced! Well-balanced too! Ok, thank you Benoît. If we come back  to connect with the professional sphere,   can you tell us if you felt that being  a man or a woman has affected you   in either position you have  had or have today? Rana? Yes, sure being a woman in an extremely  dominated male environment made me face   a lot of difficulties in fact, such as being  accepted by the team members, by colleagues,   by customers, by the suppliers. Even some times,  it was very difficult to make my opinion credible   during meetings led by a majority of men. I had  sometimes to repeat my questions many times,   just to be listened to. But these challenges  can be overcome just by working hard, by having   propre attitude, and by experience. For me I  think women should choose a job that they like  

and be ready to fight, of course,  in a smart way to reach their goals. But don’t you think that one day  the aim is not to be able to fight? Exactly, this is what I’m trying to reach,   but we’re still far. At least,  in Lebanon and the region. Thank you Rana. Brandy, does it have an  effect on your position today or in the past? Yes, absolutely. I remember so distinctly those  early years when I would work on a presentation.   I was still very young, and I was going to present  Actiflo, and I was working on a presentation,   and the table was more surrounded by middle-aged  white men and that was scary, intimidating.   You can’t help but for sure feel self doubt  in those situations. But I guess many young  

men in similar positions would probably feel the  same way. It’s not unique to just being a woman.   Being young is also a challenge starting up  a career and working in a different industry.  But when you have a job to do, of course, you find  a way to persevere and there’s no better way to   level the playing whether it is gender related or  language related or cultural related or whatever   led you by being very good at what you do. I don’t  believe that I have ever used my gender as an  

excuse or a cratch, and I prefer to see myself  as what I was saying, my strength, my talent.   And I’m sure some of what your talent is unique I can just end with one sort of a funny anecdote.   I would say that one funny thing about  being a woman in a man’s industry,   which is quite different from many other  places, is that you don’t find long lines   at the women's bathroom. At least, not used  to. Now I find many more women at the toilet   today than when I started out but the first  years many more lines at the men’s bathroom   in a male dominated industry. So it is a  little bit funny anecdote, I would say. Thank you Brandy. I think there is one point which  is key in your testimony. Ok having doubt is quite   normal when you are young as a man or as a woman  when you are beginning your professional life.  

It is rather sane to have some doubts actually.  What is a little bit more questioning is having to   struggle to be seen when you are not the oldest. I would like to know Benoît,   how do you feel about that? Do you think that  being a man has affected your position or not? It is not an easy question  to answer because, I mean,   being a man, you know what I mean, it is kind of  an opportunistic approach, in a way that I was   lucky enough to have that opportunity in VWT and  yes because it was a lot men surrounding me, when   we had the opportunity to grow there were not a  lot a women in the company. I was lucky enough to   grow from step 1, it's like a scale, you know. When I had a chance to hire people,   we wanted to have more women. That’s why we  did when we were able to do it. We did that.   But it’s not cool that women, the pool is  not enough big. That’s maybe a challenge.

Yes, thank you so much Benoît.  Coming back to you Rana, what happened in  your mind when you accepted a certain position   in your past or your current one. What  triggered you to accept a certain position? Many things triggered me to accept: my ambition,  the fact that I like exploring new challenges,   high responsibilities, working with new  colleagues, new teams, building new skills.  

But despite all those positive points, it was not  easy to apply to a new position, to move from my   comfort zone. Always not sure if I will be  apt to the requirements of the new position. Sorry to interrupt, but do  you think these feelings   would have been different if you have been a man? Yes I think so. At least I feel if it was  my team, my colleagues and my husband yes.   I feel, when they want to take the job, they will  not look at how much skill they need to have,   they will say : ok I will take the risk, I will  jump, I will see what would happen later on.   Concerning me, No, I wanted to  be sure 100% that I will be apt   to the requirements of the new job. Yes  it would be different if I were a man. So it is also linked with  self-confidence actually.

Yes, it is. On the other hand, Brandy, do  you think that being a woman   could bring an advantage in your  current position? If yes, why? First of all, I’d like to say that I completely  agree with Rana. I think it’s very natural a woman   has these self-doubts, I think it’s actually  been shown in quite a few studies as well.  But in terms of advantages, we are different,  right? There are some advantages that things   make us different that bring these advantages.  But the answer I might give might be a little   bit surprising to you. It’s not maybe standard  reasons that you might normally think about,  

but it is something that I observed, whether  it’s right or it’s wrong, it’s something that   I observed over my career in this industry  in a way that women have advantage over men.  I think you might be surprised to hear but what I  have observed is that men often get stereotyped in   one type of position in this industry actually.  For example, a man who has always been behind a   desk or a typical white-collar position might find  it difficult to be accepted on construction sites   or maybe his point of view will not be taken  seriously. But my own personal experience as well   as what I’ve seen, I believe, this is easier for  a woman. I don’t really have a good reason why.   I think women are able to sort of fit into  different situations or adopt different personas   to fit this situation. I’m not advocating that  we’re trying to be false, we are acting a bad way.   It’s somehow easier for us to adapt or  maybe men are easier to accept that we   change the way that we are for the situation that  we are working in. I’ve seen women going from a  

construction site to a board room. I’ve seen it  with my own eyes. And I’m not sure that you see   quite as much or maybe with this much acceptance  on the men's side. I could be right or wrong, this   is simply an observation that I had from my own  personal experience and things that I have seen. Perhaps, this is not linked  with the fact to be a man or   a woman but to the skills of being able to  adapt to a new context and to other people. Yeah, actually I guess that is the message,  Isabelle, to be able to adapt and to bring a   solid skill set of talent to your job and being  able to adapt. I think it’s very important.  

And maybe women have a little bit more  capability to adapt in these situations.   I’m not sure if it’s true or not but  just something that I had observed. Thank you so much. And thank you so much  all of you to be so open in your answers.

It was very interesting to have their  impression on whether a dedicated day   to women is still relevant. Next time, you’ll find out which   actions have been put in place within Veolia Water  Technologies and our challenges for the future.

2021-03-10 02:47

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