The women who have helped me grow

Last November, we hosted an AEFE (Agency for French Schools Abroad) seminar for 33 heads, deputy heads and coordinators of French schools in the Asia-Pacific region. They came to discuss the organisation of the French Baccalauréat 2018 and to discover the latest school to be presenting candidates for the Bac exams: our TES French Section, the Lycée français de Taipei. Among our visitors, there were only 6 women, a mere 4 of whom were heads of school.

Apparently, there are structural reasons for this disparity, but I’ll leave it to others to argue that point convincingly.  Personally, I think it’s a shame. During my career I have had the chance to work with women from whom I have learnt so much that I can’t help but feel that I would be a better head if I had the chance to work with more women.

For me, working with women is a form of permanent professional development. What I mean is, I know how to work “like a man” – I’ve been surrounded by examples my whole life and well, it’s not that hard; half the job is done by simply putting on a suit and tie.  It helps to (look like you) take yourself seriously, furrow your brows from time to time and most importantly, to end all meetings with a firm handshake.

With women, it’s not the same thing at all. They don’t have a similar long history of role models and therefore have to write their own rules of play. In doing so, they teach us men valuable lessons, which we should be learning from and following.

So, I would like to take a moment to tell about the women that have guided, accompanied, supported, inspired, astounded, destablised and encouraged me: Evelyne, Marion, Chrysta, Stéphanie, Carine and Andria. I owe them everything.  

Evelyne, I tried to imitate by speaking in a low voice that captured the attention of every room. Except that when for her, the audience leaned forward to hear better, hanging on to her every word, with me they simply asked if I could speak up. Even nowadays, when I face a problem, my first reflex is to wonder what Evelyne would do in my place. I am where I am today thanks to her.  

Marion can handle 50,000 issues at once, all the while giving the impression that she is having a quiet day and that she has all the time in the world to talk to you about your little problem, which she tells you is top of her list of priorities. You think it can’t be true, but with Marion, it probably is.

Chrysta is a whirlwind of passion, energy and integrity, with added contagious love for her profession, students, teachers and the respect of her colleagues. I envy her ability to stir up support in everybody around her and to speak with such enthusiasm about the things that really matter to her.  

Stéphanie continues to patiently offer me advice and show me the right path. If I could have her determination, her strength in the face of adversity and her high expectations, I would be a happy man. It may be hard to measure, but I am better at what I do for having worked with her.

Carine, I recruited to work with me (15 excellent applicants, 4 women) because on paper she has all of the skills that I lack. In reality, it is even better. She is my hero. More than anything I admire her approach to problems, which she deals with methodically, efficiently and effectively.

As for Andria, that’s a whole other story and there wouldn’t be the space on the internet for me to include everything I owe her and what she represents for me. Her love and her strength have made me who I am.

Authority, comes from the latin auctoritas, which means to help grow (cultivate). Thank you then to all of you, the women who have helped me grow.


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