Two leading examples

Today marks the 112th consecutive International Women’s Day. To put an extra spotlight on female leadership in the Pernod Ricard group, we had a conversation with Stéphanie Durroux, CEO of The Absolut Company, and Mauve Croizat, CEO of Pernod Ricard Sweden and Northern Europe, on their experiences as leaders in an international context.

First of all, how do you feel about the International Women’s Day? Do we need one?

Stéphanie Durroux: My first reaction would be to say, in France and a few other countries, it’s not the International Women’s Day but the International Women’s Rights Day. Which I think makes a big difference. Regardless of the name, I do think it’s a good way to acknowledge the fact that fighting for the rights of women still remains necessary in many parts of the world.

Mauve Croizat: Agreed. I wish we wouldn’t need a Woman’s Day but if we take on a more a global outlook, unfortunately women’s rights are still an issue that needs to be addressed.

I do think it’s a good way to acknowledge the fact that fighting for the rights of women still remains necessary in many parts of the world

Stéphanie Durroux

Did you have any female role models growing up?

Mauve: I would say you, Stéphanie.
Stéphanie: Ha, ha, – wow, thank you Mauve.

Mauve: I wasn’t sure if you knew that. I’m usually not that much into role models. I think I rather have a selection of people that I get inspired by. People who have strong values and the courage of going through things and learn from their experiences. I’m not sure that I would necessarily name someone specific that I see as a role model, but a strong personality is always inspiring, and I think I would put you Stéphanie in this bracket.

Stéphanie: I’m the same. I don’t think I have specific role models or people that I systematically refer to. I was brought up in a family where all women worked. We are three sisters in the family, of which I’m the youngest, and we’ve all continued to pursue individual careers. My mother was a doctor and my two grandmothers used to work as well: one as a schoolteacher and one as a farmer. The latter one became a widow before she turned 50 but it didn’t stop her from running the farm by herself. I don’t know if they are to be called traditional role models but to me, just the fact that all women around me growing up worked, were independent and made their own choices in life has been important.

Mauve: I’m not looking for any type of any type of pattern here, but I’m also the youngest of three sisters. Maybe that has a greater impact on your personality than you think.

Stéphanie: You’re maybe on to something here Mauve.  

Mauve: I’d say that it has two sides to it – being the youngest, you are sometimes somewhat of a third wheel, and you have to make your presence known a bit more at times. Does that mean that we, being the youngsters in our families, have had to fight for ourselves more? I personally don’t think so, but I’m sure the way we were raised has had some impact.

What would you consider your greatest asset as a leader?

Mauve: I tend to believe that there are no specific gender dependent leadership traits. In my view, leadership is more about evolving the culture, the environment and everything else that’s universal and not attributed to male or female inherent qualities or prejudice. When it comes down to my own personal assets as a leader, I’d say it’s probably better to ask the teams I’m part of. But if I must take a swing at it, I’d go with humor. That and empathy and the fact that I am very approachable as a leader.

Stéphanie: I totally agree with you Mauve – both on your sense of humor and the fact that it’s always a bit difficult to reflect on yourself. I don’t know if it’s an asset, but I believe that somehow being a female in my type of role can be advantageous. It brings on a sort of freedom and a sense that you don’t necessarily have to be compared and benchmarked with many others. Besides that, I too hope that I’m perceived as approachable and straightforward. 

I wish we wouldn’t need a Woman’s Day but if we take on a more a global outlook, unfortunately women’s rights are still an issue that needs to be addressed

Mauve Croizat

Do you have any specific leadership philosophies that you try to follow?

Stéphanie: To me, it’s as important to be a team player as a leader. Or, at least, you cannot be a leader without working with others. I don’t care too much for hands-off leaders. I believe in people who know how to play the game and do it well by making sure they are included in the team. You exist with your teams – meaning you share the wins and endure the punches together. Meryl Streep once said that “you can’t do your job and be afraid” and to me that’s absolutely true and accurate.

Mauve: I second what Stéphanie just said. I was going to say that for me, the motor would be to lead by example, and I think that’s really in line with everything Stéphanie just described.

What advice would you give to young women who wants to peruse a career as a leader?

Mauve: To start trust yourself. It’s natural for everyone to doubts their own abilities from time to time. Lack of confidence is universal and not a specific female trait and it’s important to always be aware of that and to actively work with changing your mindsets. The sky is your limit, you just need to stretch yourself to reach it.

Stéphanie: I fully agree with Mauve. Awareness is key. I also believe that sometimes it’s good to just forget that you are a woman. You’re an individual leader and not just a female leader. Trust yourself to make the right decisions.

Pernod Ricard has an outspoken goal to be gender balanced by 2030. Why is that important?

Mauve: Statistics and facts show the importance of having a more diverse organization, not necessarily limited to gender. Facts show it is driving better results and reflect better our marketplace but ultimately for me, it is also about females being 50% of the population with no reason for Pernod Ricard’s employees to be any different.

Stéphanie: Same answer for me. There are variations and differences between the Pernod Ricard markets, but I think it’s a very clear message that we’re sending that gender balance – as well as other backgrounds, nationality and so on – is something we’re constantly focusing on. 

What do you love most about your job?

Stéphanie: Probably the fact that I so strongly feel that it’s more than a job. I never consider it to be a mere nine-to-five duty. It’s something that makes me feel happy and gives me meaning. 

Mauve: I think this might come off as a bit cheesy, but I will say it anyway. I’ll sum it up in one word – conviviality, as we call it. I love this industry we’re working in, and I love the fact that we are all about bringing people together. To me, it’s far more than a job.