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With Companieros, Schneider Electric and SFR, women engineering students talk about what it takes to break the glass ceiling


As the second annual Choose Your Life program comes to a close, 32 participating women engineering students have invited their classmates to meet with their Schneider Electric and SFR Big Sisters to talk about what it takes to break the glass ceiling. During the event, they will present a number of artistic creations expressing their hidden talents, their personal growth paths and their career aspirations.

The event caps the three-month Choose Your Life program, which ran from December 2007 to March 2008. Designed to help participants determine their personal career plans, the program is based on self-questioning, with a schedule alternating classroom teamwork, company visits, one-on-one coaching, personal work and insight building.

“From the time they first met their Big Sister, the students have pursued their paths to self-knowledge, impelled by a strong growth dynamic,” said Christine Puechbroussou-Moulin, Choose Your Life director and facilitator. “An inter-school team meeting offered an opportunity for them to share their thoughts about making it in the corporate world and reconciling career aspirations with the way they want to live their lives. They also had a one-on-one coaching interview to review and clarify their career plan, which helped them to express their personal vision during the final group session.”

“These young women built insightful, personal relationships with their Big Sisters,” adds Catherine Baruch, Schneider Electric Director of Recruitment and Mobility France, “and openly shared their concerns about the corporate world, which they want to join but don’t know much about. For Schneider Electric, this second edition has confirmed the need to demonstrate, in real world terms, that women can have a successful career with us.”

“In partnering the Choose Your Life program,” explained Marie-Pierre Alérini, SFR School Outreach Manager, we wanted to encourage more women to become engineers, to choose engineering professions, where they are still under-represented, and enable them to discover industries that they wouldn’t necessarily have thought about. This has been a very rewarding experience, both for the students and the 17 SFR Big Sisters, and one that has helped support gender equality in the workplace.”

Participant testimonials
At the start of the program, the students were asked what they expected from it. Some of the answers were: “to give me a clearer vision of my future; to help me make the right choices; to improve my self-knowledge; to give me a better picture of my career aspirations; to provide tools to help me define my career plan; to enable me to meet more experienced people willing to share their experiences and career paths; and to explain to me how to achieve an effective work/life balance.”

After the first company visit, an ESSEC student was very enthusiastic. “I want to thank Companieros and Schneider Electric for this experience,” she said. “I personally had a great time and I met very interesting people in a very friendly setting. I’m delighted to have met my Big Sister and want to develop a close relationship with her. I also discovered a very appealing company, whose values are like mine. I’d like to thank everyone for offering us the unforgettable opportunity to participate in this program.”

After the one-on-one coaching sessions, participants understood how the useful the sessions are. “I came out smiling,” said one. “My personal and career choices were clear; I felt sure of myself.” Others added: “Thanks for everything, for listening, for your advice; you supported me without judging me.” “You held out your hand; we felt like opening up to you, trusting you.”

During the end-of-program appraisals, more than 95% of the participants said that the program exceeded their expectations and all of them would recommend it to other students without hesitation. “It’s a complete program,” said one, “because it focuses on the person, not the job. It’s enriching and surprising, because in a relatively short time, I learned a lot and it gave me some effective tools for defining my career aspirations. Other comments included: “It was fun. You don’t get bored during the sessions; it’s exciting!” “Life changing, instructive, fun.” “Shakes you up, helps you change direction.” “Great, very well thought out, too short—we want more!”

In conclusion, an INT student said “I would like to thank you for Choose Your Life, a fabulous experience. I have a Big Sister that I met several times at SFR to ‘live my life as Véronique.’ Thanks to the ‘treasure chest’ exercise, I started working on my resume and spent several weeks improving it. Thanks to my Big Sister, I know exactly what position I would like for my internship next year and I even got an interview thanks to her. I’ve attached my journal and all its notes to complete this personal journey that began more than three months ago. Thank you for this program that gave me so much.”


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