Delphine Remy-Boutang spoke to Jenny Darmody about her career journey and why she co-founded an event dedicated to women’s entrepreneurship.
Delphine Remy-Boutang started her career in a large advertising company in Paris before joining IBM in London. There, she rose through the ranks and became the head of social media communications worldwide.
In 2012, she founded The Bureau, a strategic consultancy firm in social media based in London and Paris. The following year, she co-founded Digital Women’s Day, an event dedicated to women’s entrepreneurship to inspire women to dare, innovate, create businesses using new technologies, and build a fairer and more creative world.
She spoke to Careers editor Jenny Darmody about her career journey and her advice for other women in tech.
What first stirred your interest in technology?
I started at IBM as an assistant and I fell in love with technology. I identified right away the opportunities this industry could bring. When I became head of social media communications in 2006, Facebook was only two years old, Twitter had just been born.
What has your experience been as a woman working in tech?
The constant underrepresentation of women in my sector motivated me to create an event dedicated to women entrepreneurship in the digital sector. I was often the only woman to speak at roundtables to discuss digital transformation. It was no longer possible for us to be so invisible in this sector that represents the future.
Do you think things are changing for women in tech?
There are no jobs made exclusively for men and others for women. Who was programming during the Second World War until the 1970s? Women!
Ignoring women in this sector is damaging the entire economy. The European GDP would earn an extra €9bn a year if women shared equal position with men in the digital economy, for example.
Last year the French government announced a three-year deadline for companies with 50 or more employees to balance pay between women and men in the same positions. I would go further by reducing the deadline and including all companies regardless of the number of employees, and adding heavy financial penalties for non-compliance. Inequality should be illegal in order to accelerate and no longer waste time to create this more balanced and therefore better world.
Tell me about the JFD Club and The Margaret Foundation.
On the crest of its popularity, the Digital Women’s Day has also become a club to accelerate and promote female innovation: the JFD Club, an exclusive networking club with 400 influential businesses and executive women in the tech industry. Networking is a real opportunity to change and to evolve one’s career. We organise afterwork events, special breakfasts and monthly events for our members.
During the 2018 Digital Women’s Day, I announced the launch of The Margaret Foundation. The mission of The Margaret Foundation is to increase the number of women in the digital world and to support their projects, especially by offering scholarships and training programmes for women interested in the tech industry, to promote tech jobs and female leadership.
Is there anything you wish you knew earlier on in your career?
No need to have mathematician or engineering skills to work in tech. Everyone can contribute to improve new technologies. You would be surprised to find writers, poets, translators at Microsoft or Google working on AI. They improve the interaction between humans and machine, helping them understand emotions through tone, hesitation, language tics or cultural references.
What advice would you give to women coming up the tech career ladder?
Only 27pc of the digital sector is women, and only 10pc at the head of start-ups in France. In America, 25pc of IT jobs go to women, compared to 36pc in 1991. This place has to be reclaimed. Digital represents the future, which can’t be unequal! This is especially worrying as women were at the forefront of the tech industry in the 1970s.
Let’s promote women’s solidarity by helping each other to improve the representation of women. I like the quote: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Female solidarity and mentoring can be the first step to generate vocations in digital sectors.
Do you have any productivity tips that get you through your working day?
I spend a lot of time on my smartphone, which is a bit of an extension of my business. I answer my emails between meetings, manage my schedule, take media interviews through it and keep a close eye on what is said on social media. I work effectively with my team thanks to collaborative tools like Slack or Trello to act fast when needed.
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