“Having to reach out to a man so you can buy yourself some deodorant, not in a million years!” my mother used to tell me when I was a teenager. That simple phrase was the trigger to my commitment to help women achieve financial independence.

My initial job – I was a lawyer – reinforced my belief that women should never yield to the temptation to give up their professional life to take care of their children. And working as a journalist for the ELLE magazine for the past twenty years has made that conviction stronger than ever.

I have unfortunately seen far too many women confronted with very complicated financial situations after they got divorced or when their husbands died. I have seen far too many university graduates who had become housewives and who, at age 45, had no other choice but to work as sales clerks or assistants to make ends meet once they were on their own…

More anecdotal but equally dramatic: it sometimes happens that elderly women become so deprived that they sue their grown-up children to obtain a maintenance allowance! The conclusion is simple: unless you have tons of money, the only way to avoid such situations is to have a job. And working won’t just make you autonomous; it can also make you happy. As far as I’m concerned, my job is a major component of my personal well-being.

When I was a lawyer in the early 90’s, I was not fully happy. Although my activity was intellectually stimulating, to me, it lacked meaning. I was specialised in business law, and as such, I helped rich companies get richer … In addition, I found that the legal world wasn’t sufficiently women-friendly. For example, I’d hear a sarcastic “You’re taking your afternoon off?” whenever I left the office at 7.00 PM…

When I was 27, immediately after my second son was born, I decided to turn my life around and become a journalist – the job I had always dreamed of doing, but which I hadn’t dared choose when I began my studies. So I started from scratch, at the very bottom, first as a trainee, then as a freelance journalist. It wasn’t easy, I sometimes got discouraged. But I was so eager to succeed that I clenched my teeth and held on.

I was finally hired by ELLE – a kind of grail. I built my career step by step, from reporter to Editor-in-Chief and Editorial Director of Events. My husband and my three boys (adults aged 26, 23 and 18) are proud of my career path. So am I.

I love my magazine, it’s serious and fun, committed and ironical. It has defended women ever since it was created. It has given me strong ground to develop a programme focused on helping women in a very pragmatic way. The labour world and society haven’t always sufficiently adapted to the fact that today, the vast majority of women are working.

Most companies still follow obsolete rules made by and for men. In France, there is still no public service in charge of childhood care, which would allocate a place in a day-nursery to every pre-school child. Women still deal with 80% of the parental and household chores. The famous “mental stress” overloads their minds with zillions of things to do, for the house, for the family, for everybody else …

The most revolting part is that society considers dealing with all that as a woman’s duty! And yet, there is long-standing evidence that the excessive burden of private life constraints plays a major role in gender inequality at the workplace.

In 2011, one year after the Women’s National Conference launched by our magazine, I created the ELLE ACTIVE Forum, which aims to promote women at work and provides pragmatic solutions to the issues they face.

It is also a tool to influence business and political decision-makers, in order to enable all women to have access to the same jobs and the same pay as men.

But although we must continue to fight so that public authorities and companies provide a less hostile environment for women at work, I am also deeply convinced that, although some women may not always be aware of it, we all have the necessary resources to move ahead.

That’s why our forums propose master classes and workshops, led by outstanding experts in women’s careers, who address such down-to-earth topics as “how to build your own network”, “practice your recruitment interview”, “master your personal branding on the net”…

We help women break away from self-censorship and we boost them to move on. Our greatest reward? When they tell us that ELLE ACTIVE was instrumental in helping them step up, achieve a better balance between their work and their private life, change jobs or create their own company. Such testimonials are extremely gratifying of course; but when these women succeed, they owe their success to themselves alone.