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Cécile Bernheim, Advisory Board member and Past President of PWN Paris

Cécile Bernheim, Advisory Board member and Past President of PWN Paris

I have enjoyed many diverse and rich experiences during my professional life. Currently an entrepreneur, I created my own strategy-consulting firm after more than 30 years in international corporate environments.

Beyond my professional skills (strategy and operations), what characterizes me is my appetite to positively contribute, to make things happen and have an impact.

I happened to know PWN through a friend of mine that praised the friendly and kind environment offered by the network.

Joining PWN 15 years ago was a natural step for me. At start I only participated in a few networking events as I was traveling extensively for The Coca-Cola Company, I appreciated the warm atmosphere and the ease with which I could meet and exchange with others.

My engagement started progressively when I stopped travelling so much. I first became a mentor, then joined the Women on Board committee. That was the right committee for me to join and contribute to as, from a personal standpoint, I had the goal of joining companies’ Board of Directors; so, there was convergence between my objectives of giving-back and preparing myself for a next step.

This engagement gave me the opportunity to participate in some PWN Board meetings and discover the dynamic and richness of discussions.

I found it exciting to be at the heart of the reactor and having the possibility of driving change and impacting the life of the network for the better. So naturally, at the next election cycle, I decided to run for a seat in the board, VP Membership, and had the pleasure to be elected.

During this tenure, I got to know a great woman, Françoise Derolez, who was at the time also in the Board as General Secretary, and discovered we shared the same passion for impulsing change and acting in favor of a gender-balanced economic world.

Together we decided then to run for Presidency. We had the honor to be elected; it was the start of a tremendous 4,5 years leadership and change experience.

It is more and more accepted by the society, business leaders and companies that gender balance and inclusion are drivers of performance, innovation and well-being. Multiple studies (OECD, Mc Kinsey’s…) are documenting it bringing on the table undeniable facts and figures.

Françoise and I being deeply convinced that PWN had a role to play, we decided to orchestrate the transformation towards a men-friendly network. We could not advocate for inclusion while maintaining PWN as an “entre-soi” women only network. So with the board we gave a new spin to programs to foster women’s integration in their business ecosystems.

Our first move was to invite men to join us in the Advisory Board: today 4 of them are sitting on this board. It was important for us to be true to our convictions. Guess what, as for companies Board of Directors and Executive committees, bringing diversity in the assembly changed the tone and atmosphere of the discussion and brought up new ideas.

In 2016, PWN published its manifesto urging business, government and institution leaders to act for a more inclusive economic world. It has been signed by a thousand of business, and government leaders. Laurence Rossignol, then Minister of Families, Youth and Women’s rights, was the first signatory.

In parallel, with the PWN Board, we orchestrated a smooth opening of our activities to men: inviting men to join panels (Congress), speaker’s events (such as our famous dinners at the Senate) and networking events (eg last year’s Christmas party).

Finally, the acme was last June at the 2019 PWN Congress: the announcement that PWN Paris was becoming the first international women’s network to welcome men. Objective of this great move is to leverage the support and engagement of men championing gender balance in their friend and business circles.

This is the start of a new era for PWN.

I am happy that the new presidents’ duo, Francoise Derolez and Marie-Laetitia Gourdin, share the same vision as I, and will do their outmost to drive this transformation.

I have over the last 6-7 years dedicated (with pleasure and passion) a tremendous amount of time to the network. Now that I leave the presidency (and let it in good hands), I will remain active for the network in different capacities.

Francoise and Marie-Laetitia have asked me to stay on their side to orchestrate the move. I accepted with great pleasure and am happy to continue accompanying this important transformation.

They also offered me to accompany them as Advisory Board member; I am happy as the Advisory Board is a sounding board and a chamber for creative ideas without operational barriers.

Finally PWN Global, the international federation, has asked me to accompany them on 2 important dossiers: the evolution of the business model and the governance of the shift towards a more effective web platform.

I am happy to contribute to these different roles with my passion, my energy and my leadership skills and experience.

What’s after such a rich and absorbing experience?

On the business side, I will pursue my consulting and governance activities.

On a personal side, I will dedicate more time to other causes such as helping Entrepreneurs to bounce back after a company liquidation, as part of the association “60 000 rebonds”.

And of course, I will use my new free time for personal activities with my husband, Patrick: we love travelling to unusual countries (next one is Uganda for gorilla watching), reading, opéra…

I am sad to leave a great team and community behind even though I have many exciting projects ahead of me. It has been such a great and enriching experience from a personal and professional standpoint

To conclude, I have only one thing to say:


to all of you Members, Board Members in Paris and at the federation, Staff and Friends for what you offered me during these years

Cécile Bernheim

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