We asked Anne Thevenet-Abitbol, Prospective and New Concepts VP at Danone and Editorial and Artistic Director of the EVE Program.
EVE Program: Hello Anne. Where does EVE get its name?
Anne Thevenet-Abitbol: EVE is the name of the first woman, Eve, obviously! You could say that she was the first actress of change… bringing knowledge to man ;-)
But also, because the international edition happens every year in Evian, and that it deals with EVolution, changing our established positions. Plus, there are some great EVEnts!
And finally, EVE, is a palindrome, it can be read from right to left and from left to right. The image is that of an E for men and an E for women, both oscillating in perfect balance around the V.
EVE Program: V for victory?
Anne Thevenet-Abitbol: No that all. The V represents a link and an opening towards a higher level. EVE is not about putting people in competition with each other. It all began when we realized that we needed to take responsibility, as women and men, for the existence of the glass ceiling. It is not about attacking men or making women feel guilty, it’s about offering an opportunity for awareness and trust, to work together in a more balanced and efficient way.
We set out to make EVE a leadership program and not a political agenda. EVE focuses on the business world and is driven by the firm belief that the balance between women and men and the balance within each individual is a source of sustainable economic and social performance. The program is driven by the ambition to change people’s ways of seeing and acting in order to bring about change within our companies.
EVE Program: Whose idea was it to create the EVE program?
Anne Thévenet-Abitbol: The EVE program is a Danone initiative, and it has been supported since its inception in 2010 by its main partners L’Oréal, Orange, Crédit Agricole, KPMG, SNCF and Caisse des Dépôts.
Franck Riboud, then CEO of Danone, requested that we create an event that would encourage women to rise through the company’s ranks, and one that would work in partnership with other companies.
We realized that when a position is advertised, a man will usually apply for it, but a woman will wait until someone comes to find her. And women believe that they need 80% of the skills listed before they apply, whereas men feel less constrained.
From this very simple observation, we decided to create a soft skills program that would enable women to gain confidence, and men to become aware of the difficulties and differences in how they operate.
EVE Program: The decision to call this a leadership program gives it an extra dimension. Could that also be a factor in changing people’s mindsets?
Anne Thévenet-Abitbol: There is a strong symbolic significance in seeing change not as a process but as an incarnation, because being an “EVE” means being part of an identity, playing out the role in your daily life, in how you work, living out the spirit of transformation and the culture of balance.
To use our motto, that means “be yourself, and unleash your potential”.
Whether the seminar is held in Evian, Shanghai, Singapore and soon Dakar, it is an unforgettable experience. Those who have participated report back not only on their immediate enthusiasm, but also on the fact that it has allowed them to make permanent changes.
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