Inspiring Women: daring to take the first step
Published on August 01, 2022
What does it mean to dare? At its simplest, it is having the courage to try. To be willing to go beyond the limits imposed upon you and to set your own course. In light of its 120th anniversary, Air Liquide is presenting the stories of 120 Inspiring Women across the Group who have dared to do just that.
Representing female role models
"Someone always has to take the first step," says Edith Lemieux, Head of Air Liquide University & HR Transformation Projects. "They have to dare to speak up, to be different, to be the first. That’s how role models are established." Role models, of course, cannot become role models without an audience. Which is why, in the lead-up to Air Liquide’s 120th year of existence, seven women have come together to find and share the stories of inspiring women across the Group – one for every year Air Liquide’s history. The aim is to highlight and celebrate the many women across the Group who have not been afraid to dare – and to inspire others to do the same.
The seed of the idea for the series came from Nesrine Djebali, Managing Director at VitalAire Benelux, who is herself mother to two daughters. "That’s partly why I proposed this amazing project to the company. I measure the journey they still have to do – I think we all need examples sometimes, just to help us dare to try."
As one of them has noted: "It’s so easy to talk about “diversity” in general terms, but harder to do justice to the wealth of individual experiences behind it." Here, women in every territory and department across the Group are represented. Storytelling ensured it remains intimate and personal to each one.
"Women are not very vocal about their accomplishments and the value they bring to the table. Talk about your work and your strengths. You are the expert on you."
"Growing up, my mother had a saying: It’s always difficult to make a road, but once it’s completed it makes the way easy for others."
"For the many things in life that we’re unable to control there is the need to trust and to believe."
Eva Maria Bauer
The power of storytelling
Stories are emotional; they present the person as well as the facts. They offer a bridge, a way not just to connect with but cross into others’ lives – and to see our hopes and ambitions, mirrored within theirs. While some women have been happy to put themselves forward, “not everyone sees the importance of their own story.” explains Edith Lemieux. In such instances they’re nominated by colleagues, which adds to the dynamic of the project overall which is and remains a grassroots initiative.
Common themes emerged. The challenges of juggling career and family. Finding your way as a woman in traditionally male-dominated fields such as engineering; how to own your achievements and advocate for advancement; work-life balance; leading with compassion and grace. But they also tell deeply personal stories: of overcoming shyness or a difficult childhood; the unexpected joys of fostering and adoption; the fallout – and unexpected upsides – of ill health, to name just a few.
It is this combination of inspiration and relatability that is the series’ great success. These women, whatever level of the organisation they’re at, are honest about their challenges and struggles, as well as their achievements. It serves as an invitation and encouragement for other women to dare to do the same. Inspiring Women is a vehicle to celebrate the many female successes, large and small, within the Group – and to show those who are still finding their way that with the right support and encouragement the impossible is, in fact, perfectly possible.
All you need to do… is dare.