8 March 2021
International Women's Rights Day, 8 March 2021 4 questions to Karine Forien Vice President Brand and Communications at Renault Trucks
Tell us about your career path.
My name is Karine Forien, I’m 48 years old, have two children aged 17 and 19, and have spent most of my career at Renault Trucks.
During these 21 years at Renault Trucks, I have had the opportunity to work in a wide range of fields and professions, first in Finance as a project manager, then in Marketing as head of a team focused on price management, before launching a new Business Intelligence activity in the Strategy Department.
I came from a large consulting firm, so I was used to constantly changing environments. In this rather non-gendered environment, I quickly learned how to be adaptable and to always consider women and men as equal: in the consulting world, we don’t talk about “men” or “women” but rather about “consultants”. I therefore always behave this way in a professional setting.
The first big step was for me when I took over as Alternative Energy and Energy Efficiency lead for the brand. This position made me visible and certainly helped my career a lot: being a woman, an engineer from the Ecole Centrale with a Master's degree in fluid mechanics representing the future solutions of the automotive industry, gave me a real advantage with forward-thinking customers, technological partners, and institutions.
But the most formative experience of my career is probably when I took up my position on the Renault Trucks Management Team five years ago. I had to take three steps at the same time: I went from overseeing a cross-functional project to managing a team of 40 people, from a director's position to that of Vice President with all the codes that go along with it, and from a product- and technical-oriented job to communication where everything is a message, even silence. In the beginning, I was the only woman on the management team. Today, there are three of us.
The company is evolving, and I am very aware of my responsibilities towards the generations of women that will follow. I am keen to set an example: I now manage a team of 37 people, 48% of whom are women, so we have almost perfect parity.
What advice would you give women trying to climb the career ladder?
Dare to take on new challenges because nothing is insurmountable... and even when we do not meet all the requirements of a job, even if we lack a certain skill or experience, we must dare to apply and take the leap, as men do, as they are probably asking themselves fewer questions than we are.
The choice of the company for which you work is also important, more important than the job itself because it is the company, its culture, and its values that create the conditions for your career path. Choose a company that advocates equal opportunities, that values difference, that is open to innovation, including managerial innovation, seize the development opportunities that the company can offer and the connections to the external environment, and above all consider the men and women who make up the company.
At Renault Trucks, I have had the opportunity to meet managers with great open-mindedness who trusted me and gave me the chance to do a new job. They trusted in my ability to adapt and learn.
And remember that you are the one designing your own path – don't let anyone else do it for you, be an actor in your own career, especially as a woman.
Can you give an example of sexist behaviour that you have encountered?
Since my mechanical studies at university and then in engineering school, where only 10% of us were female, I have always lived in a predominantly male world. So I had to learn the right codes and attitudes, and on the rare occasions when I was faced with sexist behaviour, particularly at the beginning of my career, I was able to deal with it by not giving the person who was acting in that way or making that type of remark any leverage. I believe in having zero tolerance for this type of thing.
Is there a woman who inspires you, a reference?
I have always had great admiration for women who have been able to pursue their careers to high positions of responsibility, while maintaining a good work-life balance and always being there for their children and spouses, without giving anything up. This is the balance I try to always maintain. You must constantly pay attention to avoid getting caught up in things.