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Where were all the men? I arrived at the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year event on Tuesday, a day before the event was really supposed to get started, according to the public relations people. But while armies of people were evidently busy with final preparations — putting promotional stickers on pavements and making sure Monaco was festooned in banners promoting the event — it had actually already quietly got under way. Weirdly, though, there seemed to be a huge gender imbalance.
Nearly everyone in the vast ballroom listening to the first speakers at the Women in Leadership Summit was a woman. Interesting to note that sharing the stage with some of those formidable female role models was a lone man, Daniele Fiandaca, representing Token Man, an organisation set up to give men a better understanding of how women feel when they are constantly in the minority in business. Shame there were so few men to witness it.
Those who did not attend the session at WEOY in Monaco missed some good stuff. My favourite was a personal anecdote from Jacqueline de Rojas, president of techUK and a vice-president at Citrix, because it demonstrates why all companies should immediately try to increase the number of women on their boards. Ms de Rojas recounted how a chairman at a company she worked for wanted to insist that the chief executive took a 10 per cent pay cut due to shareholder discontent with his remuneration and performance. Ms de Rojas asked if she could try another way. The chairman apparently agreed, but rather grudgingly. Ms de Rojas says she talked to the chief executive about how shareholders in the current climate were upset about undeserved executive pay and wondered if he had thought about “doing the right thing”. The chief executive immediately replied that he had been thinking about it and thought he should take a 50 per cent pay cut. Ms de Rojas says she did not feel the need to crow about her achievements to the chairman.
By Wednesday morning the gender balance was back to normal and it was the start of the family business summit. Marc Puig, who has been chief executive of Puig since 2004, kicked off the proceedings. As Peter Englisch, global family business leader at EY, made clear in his introductions, Mr Puig is part of only a tiny fraction of people who become the third generation in the family to take on the business. Puig, which owns brands such as Nina Ricci,
Paco Rabanne and Jean Paul Gaultier, has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1914 in Spain, but the progress from small company selling beauty products to a global fashion and perfume brand house has required some careful and well-timed decisions. Mr Puig’s message might surprise some family members who are trying to work out how to run a successful business while at the same time maintaining friendly family relations: learn when to stop talking and listen to the experts. We caught him afterwards so that he could give a distilled version of his wisdom in front of the camera.
Meanwhile, what appears to be the real business at the World Entrepreneur of the Year event was in full swing: networking. Squadrons of representatives from EY were circulating with clients in tow making sure that they talked to the right people so that plans to expand into new markets or new sectors can get lift off. We were doing some networking of our own. Early news on Wednesday morning was that Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, one of our planned video interviewees, would not be coming to Monaco after all — there was even talk of there having been a death in the family, which he later assured me was untrue. After an hour running around making alternative plans we were told he had decided to come after all. He was worth the wait. Famous for buying back his Champagne family business 10 years ago, he turned out to be charming and down-to-earth and very proud of his business.
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