When I founded ESC Le Havre in 1871 with my brother Jacques, we had a clear objective. It goes without saying that we wanted to train brilliant traders, who are responsible citizens and committed to overcoming life’s challenges. But for us, a key aspect of our plans was to include people from different backgrounds, women as well as men. I married Julie, a committed feminist and Chair of the National Council of French Women (Conseil National des Femmes Françaises), and her battles became mine. I campaigned alongside her for votes for women. In 1917, I helped to set up a women's rights group in Parliament. And of course, I also worked hard to make ESC Le Havre a place in which everyone could realise their potential.
Our work finally came to fruition in 1920, when three female candidates signed up to take the competitive entrance exam. Their numbers were small, but they were there, daring to be different. And they set the scene for a revolution in the world of higher education. Then came the Roaring Twenties. Women demanded equal access to education. The Second World War followed by the May 68 uprising in France accelerated the women’s liberation movement. Female student numbers increased at breakneck speed, leaping up by 110% between 1973 and 1978.
Step by step, the School welcomed more women and we were gradually moving towards full parity. I am proud to note that over the decades, our successive teams have continued the campaign for women’s rights, in a world where gender equality is still not always a reality. Some of our academics have taken on gender equality as a research topic, and we have appointed a Gender Equality Officer. In 2018, the School even launched a robust system to combat sexual and gender-based violence, which covers the entire EM Normandie community. The School’s Wellbeing and Inclusion department oversees the system, which focuses on raising awareness, protecting victims and punishing perpetrators. We have also adopted further equality measures include signing dedicated conventions and charters and partnering with regional initiatives.
Our student associations are also committed to equality. All association chairs sign our “10 EM student pledges against harassment and discrimination”. There are also a number of new projects in the pipeline with gender equality as their main priority. Our students and graduates association - EM Normandie Alumni - has launched initiatives to support the journey towards equality.
There have been a number of success stories, both in France and abroad, of female EM Normandie graduates taking on careers which were previous dominated by men. Women from EM Normandie have realised their dreams in a range of areas including setting up their own businesses, managing teams, and even becoming DJs or airline pilots!
2006: EM Normandie’s Master in Management is launched!