Hello dear readers!
Today, the first issue of a series of articles on entrepreneurs! And to start, let's discover the profile of Harriet Wadjinny-Green, founder of the Bonsaï brand: from her background to her personality, including the advice she would have to give you to embark on the great adventure of entrepreneurship!
It was with warmth and enthusiasm that Harriet answered questions from our blogger, Annabelle Ploix. It's hard to believe that Harriet is not of French origin as she masters the French language to perfection! If you would like to see her speak orally, don't hesitate to watch the presentation video of the team members on our Instagram page, bonsainaturel !
From the UK to ESSEC
Of Welsh and Scottish descent, Harriet grew up in England. At 18, she left to study French and English literature in London, at King's College, and then chose Paris as her destination to do her Erasmus... and never left this city again! Continuing her studies in literature at the Sorbonne, she then branched off to a license and a master's degree in European affairs at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University.
The young graduate worked for a time in the international department of GDF Suez. This allows him to have an overview of the functioning of large companies and to become familiar with the subject of renewable energies and environmental issues. But a feeling of frustration quickly wins over her, linked to the fact that she sees a lot of improvements to be made but that she has neither the authority nor the hierarchical position to suggest them or put them in place. Thus germinates its attraction for smaller structures.
In addition, she notices in the context of her professional experiences that her colleagues are paid more than her while they perform the same tasks – and this only because of their diploma! Before embarking on a new career path, Harriet decided to add a string to her bow by joining ESSEC.
The oral admission nevertheless left him with a bitter taste. Faced with a motivated candidate, the jury tries to push her to her limits and questions her in particular about her age and her young son, chaining sexist remarks and reflections that he would surely never have made to a man. With hindsight, Harriet now considers that the best thing to do in the face of such inappropriate questions is to keep your cool, not let yourself be destabilized, and answer in an educational way.
Management based on experience
She fights today against reflections based on these clichés. She considers that having children can allow employees to be more productive: it can help them learn to organize themselves and put stress at work into perspective.
In her daily work as a manager, Harriet therefore likes to apply methods that make her stand out. She thus regrets that companies consider that those who stay later work more than the others. This presentist pressure, she herself experienced it when she was reproached for leaving her workplace too early, one day when she was going to pick up her children from school. Still, she'd organized herself around it and started working earlier in the day to compensate.
To avoid this social pressure, Harriet wants her employees to be able to set their own schedules, and has imposed strict respect for the 35-hour week within her company. She does not want to penalize women who have children, and wants to give them the opportunity to pick up their children from school if they wish. The main thing is that the work gets done, no matter how many hours are spent in the office if they bring nothing.
Fight against discrimination against women
Harriet actively fights against discrimination against women in the workplace. She thus regrets the fact that society assumes that women take care of the children the most. For all the women who aren't lucky enough to have a nanny, mothers often have to give up their jobs – or put their careers on hold.
Even if it is illegal for a recruiter to ask a candidate if she has children or if she intends to have any, many do not hesitate, placing their interlocutors in a dilemma: lying (at the risk of being blamed afterwards) or tell the truth (and potentially be denied the job).
Although Harriet hasn't always had the courage to stand up to her employers, she still believes it's the best thing to do, and won't hesitate in the future. With age, the fear of wasting one's network and one's professional opportunities fades little by little, and freedom of speech appears to be more important.
Openly challenge behaviors
Like many women, Harriet has faced many sexist remarks during her career, such as: “Lucky you already have two children, that means you are not going to give us another one as soon as you are hired. ". Faced with this, she thinks that if the father had compulsory paternity leave and could take care of the child from the start, there would be less inequality.
Another cliché: "The more beautiful the women, the more boring they are... and you are really very beautiful". It is heartbreaking to see how men generally distrust women in the workplace, and reduce them to their physical appearance.
According to Harriet, "you have to challenge this kind of behavior openly, even if you seem like a pain in the ass". Indeed, if everyone is silent, mentalities will never change. She takes it to heart to educate her sons on these issues. His eldest sometimes comes home from school with sexist comments that he has heard from his classmates, so it is important to rectify them and ensure that he does not integrate them into his way of thinking.
Find the rest of this interview in a few days on our blog…