Towards a fearless future for women in the workplace

How many “dangerous women” do you know? Inspired by watching Pat Mitchell’s TED talk: “Dangerous times call for dangerous women,” I began to reflect upon the many “dangerous women” in my life, who have raised, educated, mentored, influenced and befriended me over the years – not because they are fearsome, but because (as observed by Pat Mitchell) they are fearless.

This week, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, I’ve been thinking about the role that each one of us has to play to encourage women to build the confidence to speak up, achieve their ambitions and make a difference in the world around them.

Let’s start with leaders. I’m proud to be part of an Executive Team at Orange Business Services in which one-third of the members are women. This is a clear indication that there are exciting career opportunities for both men and women at Orange Business Services.

In February, Orange was named a Top Employer Global 2020 by the Top Employers Institute, which recognizes outstanding best practice in our business strategy, social responsibility, the role of human resources and our professional development, diversity, competency and talent management.

However, I’m conscious that in 2020 – the concept of “token” female representation on Executive boards is still prevalent within many companies – and it’s hurting business!

A study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group revealed that companies with more diverse leadership teams generate 19% more revenue from innovation.

Executives (both men and women) who have already earned their seats in the boardroom have a key role to play in developing opportunities for the next generation of leaders. They must do this by tapping into a diverse talent pool that considers the skills, expertise and voices of both men and women on an equal footing. While we rely upon individual efforts, I’m also pleased that Orange Group is leading by example when making new additions to our talent networks – we always ensure equal nomination of males and females.

We need to bring more diversity to the boardroom.

A recent UNESCO global study confirmed that women currently represent around 36% of STEM graduates but hold only 25% of roles in the digital sector (Source: BCG). Leaders, especially those in the technology sector, must reach out to these “invisible” STEM graduates before they enter the workplace. They must share their experiences, as mentors, to develop a new generation of “dangerous” women with the courage to stand center-stage in a workplace that has traditionally been dominated by men.

This is why, at Orange Business Services, members of our Executive Team are sponsors of our DoubleYou network: an informal community of women and men, which promotes opportunities for diversity throughout our operations. We also take time to share our career journeys and offer advice on how to build your own personal brand, become more visible and cultivate a strong professional network online, in the workplace and with your industry peers.

Over 200 women in France have joined our En Avant Toutes program, which encourages women to achieve their full potential in their professional and personal lives.

We can certainly be proud that, in 2019, Orange signed the Global Agreement on Gender Equality, which defines a common framework that can be adapted to the specific context of each country in which we operate. This year, our focus for International Women’s Day will center on the following five themes:

  • Gender balance in all business lines
  • Access for women to management positions
  • Gender pay equality
  • Work-life balance (parental support, remote working, flexible working hours, etc.)
  • Combating harassment and violence

It is only by addressing these issues, through open debate and led by “dangerous” women in partnership with their male colleagues, equally fearless in their passion to drive these changes for gender equality, that we will build a more diverse, innovative and high-performance workplace.

Happy International Women’s Day 2020!

Mechtild Walser Ertel
Mechtild Walser-Ertel

Mechtild Walser-Ertel is the Global Head of Human Resources and Corporate Social Responsibility at Orange Business Services. She is passionate about building an outstanding employee value proposition that embraces innovation while driving sustainable and responsible growth. Mechtild is keen to promote diversity as central to an organization’s success and volunteers her support as an expert advisor to the company’s DoubleYou Women’s network.