Male allyship is only effective if it’s visible. That’s the attitude Vincent Sourdaine takes. As Vice President of Neuromodulation EMEA at Boston Scientific, Sourdaine is intent on modeling a leadership style that encourages employees, of all genders, to bring their full identities to work. And that includes the identity of being a working parent.
“I am trying to show that I am a working father, too, and there is nothing wrong with letting that be a visible part of my life,” he said. “Picking up your child from kindergarten or taking a day off to care for your kids or for a special family occasion shouldn’t create discomfort. This attitude starts with you as a leader of an organization.”
While it’s inarguably important for allyship to be seen, especially from senior leaders, it’s also crucial for allyship to be heard. Sourdaine says that while he’s fortunate to work for a company that already believes in doing right by its female talent — Boston Scientific is currently rated by employees as a Best Company for Women on Fairygodboss, and it’s also rated as having one of the most gender diversity-supporting CEOs — that doesn’t mean gendered obstacles in the workforce no longer exist. That’s why he’s dedicated to using his voice to advocate for female colleagues at every opportunity.
“We are supportive (of diversity), but we are also not yet where we would like to be,” he said. “There are progresses to be made, and we openly speak about this topic with the senior leadership team on a regular basis. It isn’t seen as taboo here to discuss how to better manage time away for new mothers, ensure compensation remains fair, or promote women’s career progression.”
This belief in transparency is part of what’s made Boston Scientific an even better workplace for women, and not just at the top-executive level. Sourdaine, for instance, says his division has reached gender pay equality both for new hires and when existing hires are promoted. But effective allyship isn’t about resting on the laurels of what’s already been accomplished.
For that reason, Sourdaine recently shared with Fairygodboss the two areas where men who wish to be better allies should start, as well as his most memorable piece of career advice.
How long have you been with your company? What about it made you first want to join?
I started to work for Boston Scientific in 1996 as a sales rep in the western part of France pretty shortly after graduating and completing my one-year military obligations. When you’re starting to search for your first job, you don’t really know what to expect. But I was looking for a company with international exposure and a range of products that could make sense for me and that I’d be proud to promote. I was fortunate to join a Medtech company that was at the beginning of a fantastic innovation journey, where the need for open surgery procedures was positively challenged by the emergence of a minimally invasive technique. Less invasive, less traumatic, less costly, shorter procedure — a ton of benefits for the patient community!
I didn’t fully realize just how much innovation was in store when I first joined Boston Scientific, though; my choice was more so dictated by the great feeling I had during the interview, and the sense that managers here value employees’ merit the most.
What are your main job responsibilities, and what about your role most excites you?
I’m in charge of leading one of the six divisions of the company in EMEA and managing all aspects of commercializing a large range of medical devices in the field of neuromodulation. It is a true adventure, as the field has evolved so fast over the last 10 years due to the evolution of microelectronics and a better understanding of how brain machinery works. This exploration is obviously very exciting, as we can see almost instantaneously how a device can change the life of a patient and their family. You feel what you make every day has an impact. But what excites me most is getting to build a team — hunting for talent, shaping a team, infusing the right culture, developing people and connecting all the dots to have one team working toward a shared goal in a positive atmosphere.
While we’ve made progress toward achieving a more gender-balanced workforce, there remains a lot of work to be done. What kinds of actions do you incorporate into your day-to-day routine at work (or beyond) to serve as a male ally?
First of all, I don’t approach people any differently based on their gender or age group. It’s probably why my group is balanced right now, and I hope they all feel they have equal chances and equal treatment.
Additionally, I am trying to show that I am a working father, too, and there is nothing wrong with letting that be a visible part of my life. Picking up your child from kindergarten or taking a day off to care for your kids or for a special family occasion shouldn’t create discomfort. This attitude starts with you as a leader of an organization.
What kinds of longer-term initiatives are you participating in to advance gender equality at your workplace (whether an employee resource group, mentorship, etc.)?
Resistance to change of course still exists, and we would be naïve to believe we can dissipate some cultural components in one day. This is why advancing gender equality starts with younger professionals. We need to ensure they build the right leadership style and adopt the right behavior, as they are the one guarantee that decisions made today will be sustainable. Boston Scientific has created a Younger Professional Network to support that generation of talent, accelerate their development and work on the “management of tomorrow.” I am proud to be the sponsor of this group, and I cannot wait to learn from them as well.
Why do you believe your company is a particularly supportive place for female talent?
We are supportive, but we are also not yet where we would like to be. There are progresses to be made, and we openly speak about this topic with the senior leadership team on a regular basis. It isn’t seen as taboo here to discuss how to better manage time away for new mothers, ensure compensation remains fair, or promote women’s career progression. I can guarantee today that there is no salary difference between men and women in my division for new hires or when promoting existing employees.
What’s your No. 1 tip for men who want to be allies to women at work but aren’t sure of what to do or where to start?
Societally, the world has been through a turbulent time regarding men and women’s interactions at work recently, and it is not necessarily helping to build trust. To me, it is critical to create such an environment of trust, and trust goes with actions. First, men should be expressing as little sexism in their own behavior as possible. There is also a social privilege conferred by your gender as a man, and you need to recognize that and then demonstrate efforts to address gender inequities at work.
What was the best quality of the best boss you’ve ever had?
His trust in me from day one! He made me believe I could go after big goals if I was working hard. I felt confident enough to take risks, since he was accepting of me making some mistakes as part of my learning process. I felt I could call him anytime for advice without being judged. His stance was: “Take risks and make mistakes, but make them be fast and small so that you can learn and move on.”
What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve received?
I have two. “It is not the finish line that is important, it is the journey” — so, build your success piece by piece and don’t take shortcuts to reach short-term goals. “Success does not come from the comfort zone” — you don’t achieve anything big without hard work and challenging yourself. When you feel things are becoming too comfortable, it means you are starting to be less vigilant and less disciplined. You need to have the humility to recreate the conditions of discomfort sometimes in order to keep learning and moving up.
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