People 16 January 2018
Marie de Foucaud and her husband moved their family of six from France to the US for a job opportunity that de Foucaud simply could not resist. It’s a monumental move, and it turned out to be a brilliant one. The story of what brought her to that truly life-changing event begins with an upbringing that reads much like a fantasy. She spent the first three years of her life in Paris and then moved to the countryside of France, in the Chateau de la Loire area, where her family had property. From ten-years-old on, she went to a boarding school in a city called Saumur.
After graduating, she went to business school in Angers. Then, she says, “Thanks to an exchange program, I moved to the States for the last year of school in Missouri at Truman State University. It was an amazing year in the middle of nowhere, where I benefited from the wonderful American pedagogy and way of life."
Studying hard majors she was passionate about - PR and International Communications while enjoying the stunning sports infrastructures of the campus, riding horses and swimming almost every night, de Foucaud became ingrained in the American dream.
"Since I did not want to leave the US with only a student experience, I strained myself to find a job in the country," says de Foucaud. "I ended up getting my first position in New York, at Nike Communications, a public relations firm specialized in luxury, where I was offered to assist the PR Director for champagnes and Art de la tables brands. An exciting first job, discovering the world of PR within Luxury industry in the greatest city of the world.”
After two years in the US, de Foucaud returned to her native France and it wasn’t until many years, one husband, and four children later that she was presented with an opportunity to move back. She was the Global Communications Director for high-end jewelry brand Boucheron when an exciting prospect presented itself. It was a huge proposition, moving a family of six to a new country, which, in some ways, ended up feeling like a whole new world. “Coming back sixteen years later, just a bit older and with a family, is offering me quite a different experience.”
Despite the magnitude of such a move, the de Foucaud family decided to take the leap. Now, she and her husband live in Brooklyn in the Carroll Garden’s area with their four children, Mayeul (10), Eloi (8), and twins Alma and Louis (5). She is the Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Richard Attias & Associates and her husband works in high-end real estate at Barnes International.
When de Foucaud first got the offer, she was excited. “I was determined immediately to rise to this passionate challenge.” As for her husband, well, she says, “I had been telling him for years that I was willing to move back abroad at some point - for me, for the two of us, and for our kids. I wanted to offer my kids the possibility of becoming bi-lingual and multi-cultural. This is a minimum in the world nowadays."
"I wanted to offer my kids the possibility of becoming bi-lingual and multi-cultural. This is a minimum in the world nowadays."
-Marie de Foucaud
De Foucaud hopes the family will have the occasion to have them become tri or quadri-lingual. And the plan is to travel with them on a regular basis for vacation so they see the world and get some flavors from all continents beyond Europe and the States.
"Renaud, my husband, was very pleased with his life in Paris," says de Foucaud. "But, luckily, he is quite accommodating and above all, I think he was aware that he had no choice anyway. I had already decided and it was not an option to not seize the opportunity."
She was looking forward to telling the children about the move but their response was not the one for which a mother would hope. She explains, “We waited for a specific evening once everything was completely confirmed to gather them all and share the news. They all cried. The two older ones were bereft to leave their school and friends. The twins were probably crying because they were seeing the oldest siblings cry…. Inconsolable.”
Of course, de Foucaud wasn’t without at least a few misgivings herself. She didn’t like being dependent on Visas for one. And, she says, “We were afraid of the cost of living. For a family of 6, we wondered if we’d manage to afford it while still having a nice life.” But their experiences following the move have now far over-shadowed any of those trepidations.
“New York is such an exciting city,” she comments. “We were all excited to discover the new places surrounding this new chapter of our lives.” For such a grand move, the transition was an impressively positive one, especially for de Foucaud’s children. “And America is so kid friendly. Every place is welcoming to kids, everything is good to celebrate and have fun."
Marie de Foucaud. Photo credit: David Jacobs
"We are much more serious in France and the kids are annoying to many," she admits. "Arriving here, we have discovered what it is to go to a restaurant with our children and feel like we are not disturbing everyone and observe nice vibes all around. At school, my kids have an occasion every week to dress with costumes or to bring treats. This is a major change of culture which definitely helped the kids to enjoy their new lives."
Marie de Foucaud. Photo credit: David Jacobs
"Arriving here, we have discovered what it is to go to a restaurant with our children and feel like we are not disturbing everyone and observe nice vibes all around. At school, my kids have an occasion every week to dress with costumes or to bring treats. This is a major change of culture which definitely helped the kids to enjoy their new lives."
For her part, de Foucaud became very concentrated on work. A new country, a new industry, a job created for her with no team yet, meant immediate major challenging projects to jump into. "I wanted to succeed and knew I had to find the keys and be immediately operational," she recalls. "The only option was to work-work-work and catch up as quickly as possible, and build a team and a department.”
What de Foucaud and her family have gained from the experience has been nothing short of remarkable. De Foucaud explains, “After three months here, the kids were speaking fluent English. After two years, they are completely bilingual, switching from one language to the other with such ease. For all of us, diving into a new culture is tremendously rich. Again, I believe to best navigate into today’s complex world, you need the international perspective. And this is only something you can catch living in different countries – or travelling intensively.
From a professional stand point, Richard Attias & Associates, de Foucaud's firm has begotten her incredible experience, both in International Public Affairs and a precious knowledge in geopolitics. She has also had the opportunity to contribute to major initiatives worldwide. With a particular focus on digital and technologies especially in the Communications and Marketing industries.
And de Foucaud has a simple piece of advice for others considering a similar move. She refers to her favorite quote, which is from Xavier Dolan, “Everything is possible to who dreams, dares, works and never gives up.” De Foucaud adds, “Take the lead in your life. Do not wait for the opportunities to fall from the sky. Create your opportunities and go for it. This is what makes life interesting. Also, for those who want to grow in their professional life, if there’s a risk, take it”
After all is said and done, says she doesn’t have one single regret about the move. In fact, she feels quite the opposite she says, "I just feel lucky and excited about what’s coming next.”
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.