City Eye looks across the English Channel for female leadership | Isabelle Kocher, CEO of Engie

“I’m a business leader who is always looking for ways to improve team performance and a scientist guided by empirical evidence,” says Isabelle Kocher.
Portrait d’Isabelle Kocher.

Kocher, the first woman to run one of the top 40 companies in France, has a Masters degree in Quantum Optics and a Postgraduate Certificate in Physics but it was only when she was made CEO of Suez, now ENGIE a renewable energy company, that she found herself the centre of attention.

Kocher is divorced with five children, yet she doesn’t see this as in any way a hindrance. Quite the reverse. When she is with her family, her phone is switched off.

“I never really thought about gender diversity until I was appointed Chief Executive Officer of ENGIE, the only woman to lead one of France’s top 40 companies “

Active in the energy market, she is shares  similarities with another power woman, Fiona Woolf, former Lord Mayor of the city of London, who is know for driving diversity. Literally driving diversity, on three red buses, and she continues her diversity breakfast seminars across the city of London.

Kocher says: “As a scientist I am guided by empirical evidence, but as a business leader, I’m always looking for ways to improve team performance.

“It became clear to me that in spite of all the progress accomplished in terms of gender equality, there was still something disquieting about women in leadership positions.”

“Consistently research shows that gender balance is critical to economic performance.”

She also believes in the future of renewables as a main energy source: “No one can stop the ongoing energy revolution.

“Emerging and developing nations will continue to support their applications. It’s also because renewable energy sources are no longer exclusively in the hands of nation states. Public awareness has prompted local authorities, civil society and businesses to become more involved in the transition to a low carbon economy.”

“Affordable solar for all is our best option to tackle emission issues:

  1. Renewable energies are now competitive with conventional energy sources.
  2. Emerging and developing nations are driving the energy revolution.

This development is bound to change the geopolitical balance of power and accelerate the emergence of developing countries, especially in Africa.

  1. New players are standing up for the energy revolution
  2. The radical mindset shift on climate change has spread through society. It’s not visible just in the demands of civil society or the actions of NGOs and governments.”

She was surprised to find herself the centre of attention, as a woman, in the top CAC 40 French companies:

“People were wondering whether I would reveal a different, feminine style of leadership. Some observers found the essence of the ‘feminine Leader’ as if we would believe in such generalisations regarding the ‘masculine leader!'”

“I personally experience the benefits of working in a diverse team. ENGIE’s executive committee is composed of five nationalities; 25 per cent of its members are women. I feel that the diversity of perspectives is invaluable.  A strong case has to be made to support one’s ideas because no position is taken for granted.

“We are carefully assessing different alternatives to a team that all comes from the same background. Firstly, you are expanding the pool of talent and should focus on hiring the best talent.”

“Next, when you consider that 70 per cent of all consumer decisions are made in accordance with the needs and buying behaviors of women, companies have a competitive edge if they mirror society.”


About the author

City Eye became interested in Overlooked and Overshadowed women, both in contemporary times and through out history. The former would include the women passed over for the Nobel in favour of their male colleagues. The later would be the wives of famous men, such as Mrs. Mandela. Her study of women written out of history, led her to interviews with interesting and inspirational women, (and some men). Extracts will be published in the articles. In no way is this men versus women, as to who is better. Simply that an overly macho, military, testosterone fueled environment, mainly men, needs the balancing attributes, often, though not exclusively, assigned to women: caring, conciliation, communication. Find out more: City Eye Blog ©christina

Related Posts