Women’s Forum2011 : Innovation with a feminine touch!

During the 2011 Women's Forum in Deauville, Safran, a partner in this event, delved into the subject of women's role in innovation through a workshop entitled, "And if half of all technology innovators were women?", moderated by Lydia Guerville, Vice President, Transport Aircraft Programs in Snecma's Military Engine division (Safran).

What role can women play in innovation?
L.G.: Our market environment is increasingly complex, and so are the problems we have to tackle to meet our customers' needs. On the other hand, we can call on an increasingly broad range of competencies, knowledge and technology building blocks. To come up with innovative solutions in this environment you have to bring together diverse experiences, cultures and educations, so that each person enriches the group and stimulates colleagues to rise to the challenge of new ideas. This diversity also has to be expressed in gender equality. I am firmly convinced that certain qualities recognized as more feminine actually facilitate innovation: the ability to listen, participative innovation, and a certain type of flexibility and pragmatism that allows us to open new paths, or seize opportunities. But to be able to take advantage of this wealth of capabilities, you have to foster greater diversity right from the recruitment process, or even earlier, so that you can awaken an interest in technology among young girls, and maintain it at all levels of management.

What did you think of that Women's Forum?
L. G. : This is my second time at the Women's Forum, and I think it's a wonderful opportunity to compare our visions of the world from a more feminine angle, to share our experiences, whether successes or failures, and to analyze women's role in business. For example, I participated in some very enriching discussions on whether to use quotas as a way of encouraging diversity. It's also interesting to measure the progress of certain initiatives, such as "CEO Champions" that kicked off in 2010, bringing together chief executives who make a commitment to equality. Furthermore, the Women's Forum provided an opportunity to meet several dozen women from our Group, from different countries, to talk with them and get to know each other better. Once again this year, I was delighted to both meet and listen to a large number of women with such a wide range of exciting career and life paths – and also very frustrated that so few men participate in this event. Because if we want to convert words and ideas into action, we must absolutely involve and convince men, who still hold most of the top positions in companies today.

The point of view of…
Jean-Luc Bérard, Vice President, Corporate Human Resources, Safran
"Gender equality in the workplace is one of the major challenges facing Safran in terms of diversity, because it contributes to both social inclusion and the development of our Group. First of all, Safran wants to favor diversity in its recruitment: we have set a goal of hiring 30% women among the 2,000 engineers and management staff we plan to add in 2012. Furthermore, we are counting on our partnership with the Elles Bougent* association to inspire young women to consider careers as engineers in our core sectors, namely aerospace, defense and security. Another fundamental objective in the coming years is to promote women's access to management positions. And that's why we renewed our partnership this year with the Women's Forum, where we invited about 30 women employees from the Safran group."

*Since 2006 Safran is a partner in Elles Bougent ("Women on the Move"), an industry association created to encourage young women to study scientific and technical subjects, by providing information on career opportunities in these fields, especially as engineers and technicians for the auto, aerospace, rail, maritime and energy industries.

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