Company: Dassault Systemes
Location: Suresnes, near Paris
Education: Bachelorís degree in industrial design, Olivier de Serres, Paris; bachelorís degree in transport design, Center for Creative Studies, Detroit
Family: Husband, Gerard; children: Sebastien, 29; Antoine, 18
Three internships with Renault from 1984 to 1986. After that, I stayed with Renault for 13 years.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
It is a difficult question -- managing design production teams, designing show cars, absolute experiences like the Cadillac Sixteen concept with GM or the Scenic show car at Renault, my first intense project building a design team or revamping a design process also helped me develop my skills and provided great personal rewards. But I am not focused on great experiences from the past. I would much rather think about whatís coming next.
What is your proudest personal achievement?
My family. The car industry is a time-consuming industry and design never stops, and many women have to give up family life, so my achievement is to have a career and also a wonderful family life.
What is your current challenge at work?
Everything is becoming standardized and globalized and I have the impression that we are losing sight of innovation. The car industry must be enabled to find new ways to do things.
In shifting to Dassault Systemes I wanted to leave the crowd and take a step back. DS has a background and a leadership in developing tools, but they did not have design-dedicated approach.
My challenge is to develop tools and processes with the best science and sustainable strategy to make sure that the client will be in the best position to innovate. Design can address these challenges. Few best practices from other industries are being used. By liking your own industry you forget to look around. The car industry is still car-like, and I want to cross boundaries and take best processes and new layouts and techniques from, for example, planes and yachts.What are the biggest obstacles facing women in the auto industry?
The industry is like society in general. Male values drive it and it is very difficult to change the mindset. Basically women cannot express their own values, and their way of doing and saying things has to be translated into a ďmale language.Ē In an argument, you should carry your convictions and at the same time translate them into the codes in place or you run the risk of not being understood. It could affect your career. Female values are starting to be accepted, which is good for society, but not fast enough. In the car industry, menís values are still dominant and in some way disconnect with the consumersí expectations. Womenís voices are needed, but only if they can express themselves with their own language. Itís a fine balance. Only a cultural change could develop the right environment to make the auto industry attractive enough to have more women make a career investment in it.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry?
Women are succeeding in branches of the business that are more woman-friendly. It would be better if more women were in key positions. Women donít believe they can win in the car industry, so there are too few of them.
Are you doing anything to get more women interested in automotive careers?
I would encourage all young people who are critical of the current car [to go into design], especially women who want to change cars in the way male designers sometimes do not.
If male aggressiveness continues to drive car design -- which is why you have muscle and sports cars -- you will have a hard time attracting not only women but also the younger generation. It is women who are better placed to design in female values that meet new societal issues.
What examples of sexism have you encountered during your years in the work force?
None. In my entire career I have felt respected and liked, and maybe protected. I was the first and only woman in the Renault design team at the beginning. I felt comforted and amused within this little revolution for the men, quite certainly on the shop floor. Male conversation would shift fast when I came in because everyone was trying hard [not to offend me].