European Leading Women
Name: Marie-Francoise Damesin
Title: Executive vice president human resources; member of the executive committee
Company: Renault
Location: Boulogne-Billancourt, France
Age: 59
Family: Husband; two sons ages 27 and 25; daughter, 23
Born:Chambery, France
Nationality: French
Languages: French, English, Spanish
Education: Post-graduate degree in management methods, Paris-Dauphine University, Paris, France; diploma from ESSEC Business School, Paris

Marie-Francoise Damesin

 What attracted you to the auto industry?

The chance to work on products that are used by millions of people every day and are an important part of their lives. It’s a dynamic environment, constantly changing, with new innovation that positively impact society.

First automotive job:

I joined Renault in March 1984 as an internal consultant. My first job was in the marketing and sales division where I worked on sales organization and aftersales parts delivery.

What was your big break?

When I was offered the human resources vice president position at Nissan Europe in Amsterdam in 2001. That showed me the company trusted me to take on a big challenge. I was the first female human resources executive from Renault to work at Nissan.

What major challenge have you faced in your career?

To balance work and family life. It’s very important for me that young women are aware that family life is compatible with a good career. At Renault and Nissan we believe that diversity is an asset for the company and that we must seriously work on it both internally and externally with partners to get tangible results. It is about changing culture, changing the way societies work. There’s a lot to do.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

My family has always given me incredible support. Within Renault, Carlos Ghosn’s support was essential for me to carry out changes. He is convinced that gender diversity is essential for competitiveness and performance in the auto industry. In 10 years, the number of women working within the company has doubled. Diversity will continue to be a priority at both Renault and Nissan. We give the same advancement opportunities to everyone at both companies regardless of gender, age or nationality. We try to enable people to give their best.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry?

First of all, we need to communicate that the automotive world is not just for men. I would tell young women that we have high-tech products with attractive designs. We are also committed to sustainability and we are constantly innovating to change people’s lives for the better. There are rich career opportunities for women within Renault and Nissan. We track women’s potential and we are careful to check that we don’t miss any opportunity. So, young ladies, get on board.

What’s your favorite weekend activity?

I love spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy reading books from all over the world and walking through Paris and its surrounding areas. I also love to explore Tokyo when I’m there for Nissan.

What keeps you awake at night?

Nothing. I travel a lot, and I sleep very well.

Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.

After my first work experience I backpacked around the world to visit places such as Afghanistan and China. My time in China coincided with the first year the Chinese borders were open to individual travelers. I got to live in Cameroon and travel in Africa when I was a child. It was a great experience that influenced my passion for people and diversity.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

Marie Curie, who was a great scientist who received two Nobel prizes in two different areas. She was truly ahead of her time.

If I had it to do all over again, I would ...

Create a startup company. I am impressed with young people creating new businesses, working hard and having fun. That’s the future.

When and where was your last vacation?

It was this year in Japan, where I travel a lot for work. I discovered Kyushu Island and got to understand the history of the island. It was the entry point for foreigners for many years in order to see the volcanoes and enjoy the Japanese way of life.

Name one talent you wish you had.

To be a talented painter, like my sister.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

It’s not really advice, but the education I received.

What advice would you give your child?

Do what you want but do it well. Never give up, life is full of opportunities.

If you were a car, what car would you be?

I would be a Renault Espace. It’s an elegant car that is a pleasure to drive and features ingenious, high-tech features. At the same time, it offers comfort and a warm interior to travel in with my family. It’s the perfect mix for me. 

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