WCA’s IWD2020 Mini-Series: Q&A with Senior Managers at Cem’in’Eu

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, held on Sunday 8th March, WCA are creating a blog mini-series highlighting the achievements of women across the global cement industry and showcasing where our members are working hard to achieve gender equality and diversity in their companies.

This blog is in the format of a Q&A, where we hear the perspectives of four senior members of staff at Cem’in’Eu, an innovative cement producer headquartered in Nantes, France.

Thanks to Laurence Lamy – Director of Marketing and Digital Communications; Audrey Bonnet – Plant Manager at Alienor Ciments; Magali Laurenço – Plant Manager at Rhône Ciments; and Yasmina Pilet - Director of Safety, Quality & Environment.

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Q: What is your role at Cem’In’Eu, and what does that entail? What is your favourite part of your job?

LL: I am in charge of marketing for Cem'In'Eu. This means that I am in charge of the promotion of our products on the market. I support the top management to run our strategy and the sales team in their day-to-day activities. Being a non-technical person, I like to be involved in technical topics, such as specifications & performances of cements, or concretes. I am always very keen to learn new things with my colleagues from production, laboratory or technical support. That's why I like B-to-B marketing, it is because it is based on technical features.

AB: I deeply believe in a business with human values, where each individual has a place and must be considered. Every person has an indispensable role to play, from the most junior to most senior employee. I have the opportunity to put this mindset into action on site at Alienor Ciments (subsidiary of Cem’In’Eu), where I am the Plant Manager. In this role, I optimise the organisation and recruit future talent, helping them to progress and give them direction in their day-to-day work. I am able to adhere to my core values of kindness, transparency and professionalism: helping my colleagues to progress in their careers and giving them meaning in their work gives me great satisfaction.

ML: I am the Plant Manager for Rhone Ciments, a subsidiary of Cem’In’Eu, and have been in this position since early 2020. As the site is not due to open until July, my current role consists of recruiting new employees, researching our suppliers, preparing our product certification… I am not bored!

YP: I am the director for Quality, Security and Environment. I oversee projects, and analyse, manage and monitor products.

 

Q: What is your academic and/or professional background?

LL: I started as a student in political science, and then I continued my studies in a business school, so clearly I was far away from the building & construction world!

AB: Before I started my role as Plant Manager at Cem’In’Eu, I hadn’t previously worked in the cement industry. I had experience in precision mechanics in the oil and gas and aerospace industries, and built my career around opportunities and connections.

ML: Despite being from a family of engineers, I didn’t always want to follow in their footsteps. However, after an internship at the end of my studies which confined me indoors and was extremely repetitive, when I was offered a job in the cement industry in the great outdoors, I went for it. I now have thirteen years of experience working with cement companies.

YP: I have an academic background in biochemistry. However, after several internships, I realised that it seemed difficult to have a dynamic career in this field, and therefore I decided to study engineering, specialising in safety, industrial risk and the environment.

 

Q: What has changed with regards to gender diversity in the industry, and more broadly, over the course of your career?  

LL: I have been working in the industrial field for more than 12 years, and I think the place of women is growing, so things are going in the right direction. In my previous job, I was managing a team of 5 salesmen: it was not an issue at all for them and for me, I am not sure things would have been so easy 10 years before. One of the last big challenges for women is attaning the top management of big international companies, I think these big groups are slow movers, as a consequence few women are part of executive committee of these Global Companies.

ML: When I obtained my first managerial position at age 25, there was a feeling amongst my colleagues that being both young and a woman would be a double handicap in this industry. But I didn’t see things that way.

YP: At the beginning of my career, in my appraisals and in professional interviews with my seniors, a large proportion of the questions were about my private life. It seemed important, if not vital that I be able to show, that as a woman, I could commit myself sufficiently to my work. This became even more prevalent when I became a mother. Gone were my years of experience, my professional successes – I became a risk. With regards to my male colleagues, at first there was a kind of jealousy; as a women, I was going to be privileged above them, I wouldn’t be obliged to stay later than necessary, I would be excused for personal reasons… and I would be paid the same as them! This kind of mindset maintains the war between genders, and builds stereotypes within companies, that are hard to move away from for both men and women. You, a man, must be career driven, or you’re not normal. Society allows you to have positions of responsibility with a large salary, on the condition that your private life never influences your work. You, a woman, must not aspire to position of responsibility, because I allow you the comfort of certain privileges related to your private life. We’ll speak of your career another time…and that pay raise too.

 

Q: Why did you want to work at Cem’in’Eu – what attracted you to the Cement Industry?

LL: Cem'in'Eu is a new company, with a brand-new concept in the cement industry, which is really exciting. I strongly believe in this project, which is a complete break with traditional cement manufacturers, as we have small production units located in the heart of regions, allowing for a reduction of the impact on the environment.

AB: My meeting with Franck Dupont, the co-founder of Cem’In’Eu, as well as with other members of the team were the determining factor in my decision to take the position with the company. At each interview, I wanted to work with each person I spoke to; I had the desire to participate in the construction and growth of the company, to grow with society. My experience with Cem’In’Eu started in May 2017, and so far has been exciting and marvellous, but also at times trying and stressful!

ML: In the world of heavy industry, the Cem’In’Eu start-up seemed like a dynamic and innovative project. The company also attaches great importance to diversity in general, which I really liked.

YP: After ten years of working in very large companies, I made the choice to work in human-scale enterprises, where people know and recognise me. It’s for this reason I joined Cem’In’Eu in 2016. It’s the team that I work with day-to-day that allows me to learn and grow. In a start-up, the idea of a career is different – there is no strategy to climb the hierarchy in an internal structure. The career of a man or a woman depends on their engagement, performance and participation in the obtention of the company’s strategic objectives.

 

Q: Does Cem’in’Eu have any specific programmes designed to promote gender inclusion in the workplace?

LL: Cem'In'Eu does not have a specific program to promote inclusion, it is a natural process. Vincent Lefebvre (CEO), says that he believes only in talent, which is why we have so many women in the team! But is true that we have a lot of women in our managing team. Our first plant in Tonneins is run by a woman, Audrey Bonnet.  Our second plant In Portes -Les-Valence is also run by a woman, Magali Laurenco.  And finally, our EHS director is also a woman, Yasmina Pilet.  So, 4 women in the management team!

 

Q: What do you think the main challenges are for women working in the cement industry?

LL: Honestly, my whole career has been in an industrial environment; I have worked in various fields (oilfields, ceramics, steel, and now cement) which are considered to be ‘male’ industries, and I did not suffer from any discrimination. Moreover, I like football, which helps a lot during business dinners!!

AB: I think I can appear to be an exception in the cement industry, being a senior manager of a clinker grinding station. However, in my team, 38% are women!

ML: Don’t ask me if being a woman has caused me setbacks in my career – this shouldn’t still be a subject we discuss today! I am not here by chance, nor because I am a woman, but because I am competent, like many other women in roles of responsibility.

 

Q: What do you think can be improved with regards to gender diversity moving forwards?

YP: For things to change more, it is also very important to speak to and involve men, about their place both in companies and in society. Change must be organised with them, and not against them. This will leave more freedom of choice to women! Thankfully, personally, I have suffered very little from discrimination.

 

Q: Is there anything you’d like to say to young women considering a career in the cement or construction industry? Do you have any advice you’d like to give women who are already in the industry who wish to progress their careers?

LL: GO for it!  I think that if there are few women in the industry, it is because women are self-censoring. Women do not have to fear entering male-dominating industries; on the contrary it offers plenty of opportunities.

AB: I have never encountered any difficulties related to being a woman in my professional career. Women can do whatever they like; there are no limits to what we as women can achieve. The only limits are the ones that we impose on ourselves. At a certain level on the career ladder, we’re waiting for female leaders. This necessitates charisma, which can be learned, and which must be based on well-defined personal goals and a clear vision of what we want to do or become.

ML: Good performance and good will are the key words that I live and work by.