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Interview with Maud Bailly: "Dare! You are courageous and often much better than you think!"

On International Women's Rights Day, Maud Bailly, Chief Digital Officer member of the executive committee at AccorHotels, takes a look at the social mix and diversity as a lever for group performance.

People often ask about the differences between how men and women work. What do you think?

I think the most successful teams are very diverse: bringing together men and women, juniors and seniors, national and foreign profiles. This diversity is a formidable lever for collective intelligence, because our reasoning processes are different – men, women, and more generally because an organisation needs daily nourishment with different approaches. At AccorHotels, nearly half of collaborators are women. And what we are looking for through our diversity network WAAG Women At AccorHotels Generation – is not just to help women fully realize their potential within the Group, but also to encourage diversity and inclusion within all our teams. That starts at recruitment, and continues in career management, talent promotion; it requires constant vigilance, but we strongly believe in the richness that diversity and equality offer. The international diversity network WAAG now has 35% male members and I am the ambassador alongside a man: John Ozinga.

How would you qualify the progress made until now regarding women as authority figures?

We live in a society that is deeply rooted in patriarchal tradition and where where women in authoritative positions can still inspire mixed feelings. Fortunately, today companies are making a great deal of effort to promote equality and the success of the Copé-Zimmermann law has shown that imposing quotas can be very effective. Although perception of things and the evolution of mentalities cannot be simply dictated by the law, it makes it possible to detect talents in places stereotypes would not have gone looking for them. And while progress is underway, there is still a ways to go. I think we continue to trust women less. And they are not as easily pardoned a posteriori… Moreover the Copé-Zimmerman law has only been in effect since January 1, 2017. It is thus our collective responsibility to encourage accessibility to management positions for women at all levels, Management Committee, Executive Committee… because women also tend to censure themselves and do not allow themselves to aim for such positions of authority: our job is thus to encourage them to dare. This is done through concrete actions such as mentoring, which I believe in strongly. Transmission, the passing on of power, are strong levers for injecting collective intelligence and a desire to surpass oneself. At AccorHotels, the mentoring program WAAG keeps growing and I am pleased to observe that we have increasing numbers of working partners, where men and women learn through contact with another point of view, another experience. They also learn codes. Self confidence. And that creates a formidable network of solidarity, that is often very durable, where it is no longer a matter of being a man or a woman, but to be able to fully become oneself.

Are there challenges you had to face as a woman in your career?

Oh yes! I would say the primary challenge was to be accepted regardless of differences. Temperament. Career choice. It is not completely intuitive, needless to say, manage a train station after working at the Minister of the Economy… and undoubtedly AccorHotels is not so evident after Matignon… But the truth is we only do well when it is something we like, and in all these choices, there are always challenges when it comes to transformation, management, and human adventures. In light of these challenges the key is to be able to rely on people – both men and women – who trust you, accept you, and appreciate you for your difference. Today, I am trying to encourage this otherness as well, as it is also a source of richness.

Please tell us about a man or woman who made an impact on your life.

Simone Weil. She was an incredible woman who fought for women's rights throughout her lifetime, who weathered some turbulent storms, traversed many a war in every sense of the word. For me she incarnates 3 fundamental values: courage, determination, humanism.

What advice would you give women to get ahead in their career?

I have often met women who lacked self-confidence, whereas they have all it takes for success. My first piece of advice would be: don't be afraid. Dare! You are courageous and often much better than you think! Finally, know how to ask for help. We cannot get ahead alone. Find good mentors to accompany you and advise you. Finally, don't ever forget all those who have helped you and be sure to give in return: this cycle of transmission is the most virtuous of all.

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