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France’s women in marketing rewrite their stories

Lean In Lyon Marketing is a Lean In Circle based in Lyon, France of women in marketing and communications who meet to support each other and reach their goals.

Paris may be the most recognizable location in France, but 300 miles south of the capital is the country’s third-largest—and equally charming—city, Lyon. Lyon is home to a thriving food and art culture, robust research and technology industries, and a group of women who are helping each other ask for more and reach their professional goals.

Vinciane Mouronvalle Chareille (left) and Virginie Granger (right) meet at a cafe.

Lean In Lyon Marketing Circle was started by Vinciane Mouronvalle Chareille. In October 2016, she participated in a roundtable for a social startup whose work focuses on gender and equality in entrepreneurship and the digital industry. During the roundtable, Vinciane talked about her experience as a longtime professional in the communications marketing space and shared her observations about how technology had impacted the industry. Following the event, five women attendees who worked in the same field came up to her to continue the conversation. Vinciane suggested they get together to exchange questions and information. Two years later, the group is now a Circle of over 40 members who support one another to build skills and reach their goals. They call themselves “les filles du marketing” (the marketing girls).

“This group has allowed me to meet people I never would’ve met otherwise.”

In Europe, the communications and marketing fields, which had been dominated by men, became majority women starting in the early 2000s, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The profession has also experienced other changes, most notably a digital transformation which continues to evolve to this day. The impact of technology, compounded by gender bias, age bias, and economic crises, has had a disproportionate effect on the professional class of women in this field—and they’ve had to adapt.

Lean In Lyon Marketing Circle exemplifies the resilience of women and showcases the ways in which they are forging their own paths and leaning on each other for support.

Circle members Marie-Pierre Charpentier (left) and Alex Carmona (right) review materials at a cafe.

While they work in the same industry, their professional journeys are diverse. Some are full-time employees at companies, others are freelancers and consultants, and others are entrepreneurs. The mix allows members to both connect with people who are going through similar challenges and expand their knowledge of their field. “The group has allowed me to meet people I would never have met otherwise,” says Séverine Sauvage. She works in innovation marketing for the agro-food industry and says being part of this diverse group helped her discover gender marketing.

“I am building a new life, at least from a professional point of view...I’m delighted to be part of this group of women.”

Some members are older women with decades of experience who have turned to the Circle for support after confronting ageism or entering new phases of their careers and lives. The European Social Survey, a 2011 study of 55,000 people across 28 countries, found that nearly 70 percent of French workers thought age discrimination was a serious problem. Members who have been sidelined for younger workers are taking up digital skills and some are giving their careers new wind by turning to freelance. Being part of a Circle allows them to learn more about what it takes to strike out on their own, meet people to collaborate on projects with, and source potential clients.

Left: Cécile Eynard, Nancy Ochoa, and Vinciane Mouronvalle Chareille. Right: Vinciane Mouronvalle Chareille, Audrey Julienne, and Cécile Eynard

Cécile Eynard moved to Lyon after living in Paris for 26 years. Joining Lean In Lyon Marketing helped her find community in the new city she calls home. In addition to changing locations, she’s trying to make a change in her professional life. Cécile currently works as a senior community manager but is hoping to transition into multimedia project management. “I am building a new life, at least from a professional point of view...I’m delighted to be part of this group of women,” she says.

“It brought me the self-confidence that I was missing.”

From left to right: Anne-Claire Girard, Marie-Pierre Charpentier, Vinciane Mouronvalle Chareille, Clarisse Gratecap, Sophie Tran, and Virginie Granger

The connections and conversations happening at Lean In Lyon Marketing’s Circle meetings have helped members who are entrepreneurs, too. For Clarisse Gratecap, being part of a Circle helped take her business to the next level. Two years ago, she started an agency that trains companies on how to best leverage Snapchat. She built it up slowly, starting with clients with smaller budgets. While she had considered reaching out to Snapchat itself and exploring a possible partnership, she didn’t feel like her client list and work were strong enough to approach the company.

“I wanted to wait a bit to have enough achievements to prove that I can be an interesting partner for them,” says Clarisse. “But the more we wait, the less we dare to leap.” She was experiencing a common phenomenon called imposter syndrome. People with imposter syndrome undervalue their experiences, skills, and achievements and don’t feel qualified for the positions they’re in and opportunities offered to them. It’s an experience that can affect entry-level and senior-level professional women alike.

Left: Circle members use Lean In's Connections Card to kick off their Circle meeting. Right: Members watch Tiffany Dufu's video on cutting your to-do list to get more done.

Clarisse brought up the doubts she was having during one of the Circle’s monthly lunches. The reaction was warm, encouraging and uplifting. “It brought me the self-confidence that I was missing,” says Clarisse. She asked Snapchat for a meeting, which they immediately granted. Today, she is the leading advisor for Snapchat in France and works closely with the company. The support of her Circle has literally transformed her business.

It’s been an incredible two years of building community, finding confidence, and accomplishing goals for Lean In Lyon Marketing. And the Circle wants to do even more to empower women professionally and provide a support system on a personal level. Their plans for the future include building a robust set of marketing-specific training tools that will help members strengthen their existing skills and develop new ones and hosting a conference for women in marketing and communications. The long-term vision? “In a more absolute future, we want to welcome all women in marketing and communications and allow them to evolve as they wish,” says Vinciane.