Women In Leadership: Monica Beau

The Women In Leadership series by Bureau Veritas Certification compiles a variety of interviews from our female managers, providing a platform to speak on the challenges and opportunities they have faced throughout their careers. Join us each month to hear the stories of some of our many #WomenInLeadership.

Thirty years ago last month, Monica Beau walked into a factory in Germany for her first day at work as an agri-food engineer. Today she leads certification in Europe for Bureau Veritas, having helped grow the business over the past two decades. She discusses work, leadership – and why she believes it can be an advantage to be a woman in a man’s world.

Monica Beau Bureau Veritas

Certification & Food Director

There's a preconception that being equal means being the same. Women don't need to act like men to succeed.

What does your typical work day look like?

The scope of my job means that no two days are the same. As Certification & Food Director South & West Europe, I oversee and manage certification in terms of both sales and operations. I manage a team of 10 people as well as interacting with people across Bureau Veritas’ global network of managers and auditors.

Client relations are an essential part of my role. I spend about a third of my time with clients and prospects, dealing with urgent issues or escalations. I also run our Large Contracts business directly, so I work closely with new clients and also handle their contracts.

I also manage my schedule so I can allocate time to focus on strategic projects. It’s important for me to ensure I’m not always reacting to an emergency. Time management is key for me to be able to take a step back from the hustle and bustle, and concentrate on the big picture.

How has your career evolved over time?

My career began in a very different environment - in a poultry factory! As an agri-food engineer, I started out as a production manager, working my way up to factory manager.

When I moved to Bureau Veritas Certification, the goal was to create a network in the agri-food services industry. I was a trainer and auditor in agri-food and expanded the department until 2007, when I was asked to run a new initiative in head office to centralize contracts for large international groups. This is now a large, successful business for Bureau Veritas, whose value is also recognized by our clients.

What challenges have you had to overcome in your career – and what advice would you give?

At the beginning a huge challenge for me was credibility. As a young engineering graduate, you have technical knowledge, but little experience. Not only that, but I was often the only woman in the factory. It was challenging to find the balance between being humble and being able to lead.

I tend not to agree with the idea that women are at a disadvantage, however. If you’re the only woman in a large meeting, people are more likely to remember you. And we have different ways of thinking about things and different ways of dealing with situations than men do. For example, I genuinely believe women tend to multitask more in work than men do, because it’s something we’re used to doing in our personal lives.

One piece of advice I would share is one that was given to me in the beginning of my career: decisiveness is key. Take the time you need to make the decision, take it when you need it, and stick to it. It will give clarity to your team which is really important.

Thinking specifically about women and leadership, how much progress do you think has been made? What barriers do you (still) see today?

A lot of progress has been made in recent years. However, one barrier I notice is the reliance on quotas. Women are just as talented as men: we don’t need quotas. The irony is that it creates discrimination because some people may feel a woman is only here because she got through on a quota. If a woman is there it’s because she’s good. There’s no need to justify her presence. 

Thank you to Monica Beau for taking the time to answer our questions. For more of our #WomenInLeadership series, keep an eye on our website. We have more great interviews coming soon.