As a founding partner of the EVE Program, L’Oréal has already seen 200 of its male and female employees trained in women’s leadership through this intercompany seminar which is unique in its social innovation. In a group with over 77,000 employees (63% of which are women) in 130 countries, equality is a strategic challenge which affects every aspect of the company, and participants of the EVE Program form part of this voluntarist policy.
L’Oréal means to make its female employees who follow the EVE Program into real “players for change”, committed to the objectives of transmitting balanced leadership and sharing best practices to foster equality. In order to do this, on their return from Evian, each L’Oréal participant can become a mentor for women within the group.
Noëlle Herpeux, L’Oréal Training Director and member of the EVE Wise Committee and Stéphanie Oueda, International Diversity Manager for L’Oréal and member of the EVE blog editorial committee, talk to us about this original idea of women’s mentoring.
EVE le blog: In the EVE Program’s partner companies, the program continues after the seminar at Evian and goes on throughout the year. At L’Oréal, this is especially evident through women’s mentoring. Why did you choose this path?
Noëlle Herpeux: Generally speaking, mentoring is part of the L’Oréal integration path. It is deeply rooted in the group’s culture. We know that what is learned through a special relationship with an experienced professional, the company codes such as confidence in your potential or the capable handing of your close contacts, plays a key role in success.
Stéphanie Oueda: In mentoring, there is also a “network” aspect. This is also an essential asset in professional development. We see that women spend less time building and maintaining their network, particularly because it involves the more informal aspects of professional life. So it is important to formalize what is also a legitimate aspect of working, we give it a framework…
EVE le blog: Why have you organized this women’s mentoring program for the EVE Program by only assigning EVE Program participants as mentors?
Noëlle Herpeux: Firstly because there is high demand for it. L’Oréal sends 45 people to EVE every year. It’s a lot, considering how many participants there are at the seminar (the seminar hosts 300 participants from various companies – Ed) but it’s not very many when you consider how many employees there are in our group, which is mostly populated by women. Among the EVE alumni, we have people trained to very high levels on women’s leadership issues. They need to be impactful, so that as many other people as possible can benefit indirectly from the contribution that EVE makes. We have decided to make EVE alumni into real players for change at L’Oréal.
Stéphanie Oueda: In addition, demand is also coming from them! People who attend EVE come back to us delighted by this experience and they really want to share it.
Noëlle Herpeux: That’s true. Right from the first year, EVE participants came to see us after the seminar and said “Right, now, what can I do to take action?” We designed a mentoring program to meet this demand and the demand of those who want to benefit from what EVE has to offer. Since September 2013, we have been offering the EVE alumni 2012 the chance to join this mentoring program, then since April 2014 we have included the 2013 participants. A third wave was launched this autumn…
EVE le blog: How does it work in concrete terms?
Noëlle Herpeux: With each edition of the EVE program, around half of the L’Oréal EVE alumni volunteers for a wave of mentoring for a woman from the group.
Stéphanie Oueda: In order to create the mentor/mentee couples, we have put together different departments and professions, which avoids any sort of hierarchical confusion and situations which may potentially disrupt the relationship.
Noëlle Herpeux: Other than that, it is fairly standard mentoring. The mentor and the mentee are free to organize the content for their discussions, depending on what suits them. Twice a year, all participants in the women’s mentoring program meet with the coach for a day split into three parts: feedback from the mentors, feedback from the mentees and a shared feedback session. This day really benefits the program: discussions are lively and the mentor/mentee couple leave with greater motivation and an even clearer vision of what they can expect.
EVE le blog: After a year and half, what initial feedback have you had for this women’s mentoring program?
Noëlle Herpeux: We currently have 70 people involved in the women’s mentoring program. They all consider themselves lucky. The feedback we are getting is that discussions are very rewarding, there is a high level of shared rigor, a feeling of both taking a step back to observe and moving forward more quickly…
Stéphanie Oueda: And not only for the mentees. The mentors have also told us that they benefit greatly from this relationship. They felt like better managers immediately, because they become aware of certain things that mentees expressed honestly, in the context of a relationship with absolutely no hierarchical link. Later, mentors also told us that this experience helped them to continue working on themselves, to go on doing what EVE had begun. It’s a “two-way street”, a “win-win” situation, in which each person has a lot to gain.
Interview by Marie Donzel for the EVE blog
Translation : Ruth Simpson