Mentoring for Gender Equity
In conversation with Emmanuelle Valentin, General Manager France for Specialty Care
In 2022, Emmanuelle Valentin was one of 50 Sanofians who dedicated a year to mentoring young girls with Capital Filles. Driven by her commitment to equity, Emmanuelle has been helping to build an inclusive society both in and beyond the workplace. She has brought something special to each of the many positions she has held at Sanofi, serving as a role model for her colleagues and always acting for patients. Here is her story.
When did you first embrace equity as a cause, and why?
When I was a young girl in France, I could see discrimination and unfairness all around me. Some of my friends whose parents are African experienced discrimination at a very young age. I also saw young girls not having the same equal opportunities just because they were female and because they were from vulnerable communities.
Then, something happened to me. When I was 18, I took the exam to become a doctor in the French army. I failed because they only took 10% of women versus 90% of men. Some of my male friends succeeded even though their results were worse than mine. I was revolted.
Since then, I’ve been determined to change things. I know that I have an important part to play in building an inclusive society that makes the most of our differences.
We Volunteer, Sanofi’s company-wide employee volunteering program, was the perfect opportunity for me to do more.
How has mentoring girls helped you champion gender equity?
Mentoring is all about helping girls make their dreams become a reality.
I started mentoring girls from vulnerable communities more than ten years ago. I volunteered for several different local associations. More recently, I’ve been mentoring through Capital Filles, a French NGO.
Mentoring starts with sharing my experience, helping them explore and make their career choices, discover the business world and, more importantly, dare to believe in their full potential and understand that nothing is impossible.
The young women I’ve mentored are brilliant, but they don’t always know or understand the different steps to follow. Their parents often do not understand, either. Some of them raised their girls to become mothers, not to study. It can even be scary for them to think of their girls embracing a brilliant career.
I’ve had the opportunity to be invited by some parents to explain and discuss what it is to be a woman with an accomplished career. I simply shared my own experience and showed them that in addition to my professional life, I’m an engaged mother of three kids.
What are you most proud of?
Let me tell you the story of Ines. Ines was raised in the North suburbs of Paris, in a vulnerable community. I met her when she was 17. She was dreaming of a brilliant career, but her family didn’t see any interest for her to study–instead, they wanted her to leave school.
Ines successfully pushed her parents to wait a bit, until she was 18. At that point, she decided to leave her family and live on her own. This was not an easy decision for a young girl, but it was the only choice for her to live her dream.
Now graduated from a French Business Management School, she is working in a bank, and she never stops dreaming big.
I #EmbraceEquity through mentorship by helping young girls from vulnerable communities make their dreams happen.
General Manager France for Specialty Care
I’ve learned so much from Ines and the other five girls I had the honor of mentoring. It opened my eyes to what the word “tolerance” means. By deciding to live another kind of life at only 18 and moving away from her family, Ines followed her dream while remaining extremely respectful of her family, her culture, and her origins. For me, it has been a lesson in courage, tolerance, and kindness.
All those girls made me think of women who inspire me every day. Marie Curie, who dared and proved that women can be brilliant scientists; Michelle Obama, who said that nothing is impossible, and everything is possible; Simone Veil, who changed women’ lives in France; and Rosa Parks, who put herself on the line to fight for equality.
I see a little bit of all those inspiring role models in all the girls I’ve had the privilege of mentoring.
Any advice for others who want to promote gender equity?
Don’t hesitate. Decide where you want to make a difference for society and for you. It always starts with a single day: whatever time you give to others will make a bigger impact on society than you might think.
I’m proud of all the women and men of Sanofi who are helping build the brightest, most inclusive future for all. Let’s build an inclusive world together!
Emmanuelle Valentin is still in touch with Ines and her other mentees, always there to answer any questions they may have as they continue to pursue their dreams. Explore more stories of Sanofians who are championing gender equity in and beyond the workplace.
About Capital Filles
Created in 2012 in partnership with the French Ministry of Education, Higher Education, Research and Innovation, Capital Filles supports girls from working-class neighborhoods and rural areas in France. Their activities are based on the joint commitment of mentors, volunteer employees of partner companies, and teachers who promote the career path of young women and their discovery of the business world. As part of We Volunteer, 50 women from Sanofi committed to participating in Capital Filles throughout 2022.