International Woman’s Day Special: Mollie Jean De Dieu, Longchamp GM of Southeast Asia and Ei Founder
Multi-hyphenate Mollie Jean De Dieu is more than just a woman of substance, she’s on a mission to make the work landscape more empathetic.
As the General Manager of Longchamp and juggling work as a mother of two, Mollie Jean De Dieu still has time to launch Emotional Inclusion — an NGO advocating for mental health in today’s workplace. While managing a luxury fashion brand with grit and guts, her humanistic side looks at how employees struggle with emotional wellness. She wants organisations to start grappling with the bigger picture and view mental health through a medical lens. Human capital is key in today’s workforce and companies can lose good talent through the lack of emotional wellness if they don’t spot the signs early.
Despite her busy schedule, she took time to chat with Luxuo.com to share her insights of being a woman in the modern workforce. She explained what she thinks are important traits to survive in today’s business world.
Jean De Dieu says, “To survive in the business world, the modern woman of today needs to be comfortable in her own skin, unapologetically stand by her values, be authentic to herself, be courageous in sharing her vulnerability as it is what makes her approachable and real. She must always be curious as it is the twin sister of humility. Undeniably, she must also be a good communicator and not fall into the trap of comparison as it is really the thief of joy.”
Observing that many women are still afraid to speak up in a male-dominated society, Jean De Dieu would like to see that change. She feels women should assert some bravery in the workforce. “There is also nothing more beautiful or powerful than women supporting other women—we all play a part in creating this sisterhood support network of women cheering-on other women,” she shares of what would be an ideal working environment.
Additionally, Jean De Dieu also feels that men differ from women because the latter is more in touch with their intuition. She relates that this is the “magical sixth sense” — that instinctive gut feeling to know if something you are doing is right or wrong. She affirms that this is perhaps women’s greatest superpower, which also serves as an amazing internal compass that guides them in making swift decisions.
Working women do stand out in today’s society. Their duplicitous role — one being a mother, another as a working woman — is all about juggling career and family. Gone are the days of women choosing between their careers or children. Jean De Dieu believes today’s working women should be role models for the younger generation. These women are breaking traditions, championing inclusivity, and should be applauded for striking a good work-life balance. As we enter a more digital age, societies and governments are also becoming more progressive and compassionate in this humanistic era and she’s excited to see how it will unfold.
Her tenure at Longchamp has been 15 years working in Asia, and she’s proud and humbled to work for this company. The self-effacing General Manager of Longchamp is honoured to work with the third and fourth generations of the family-run business. She adds that the company’s values are genuine, optimistic, humanistic, sincere and dynamic. Most importantly, Longchamp practices sustainable values and together with the company’s values, these are qualities that align deeply with Jean De Dieu.
Jean De Dieu’s best advice for the new generation of women entering the workforce: “Be who you are even if that means being different; your sensitivity is your biggest strength and ally. You can’t wait for life not to be hard anymore before you decide to be happy. What is delayed is not denied. Also, never let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. You are stronger and more capable than you think you are.”
On how she would think Longchamp would be in the next five years? Jean De Dieu enthuses, “As a powerhouse of a family-owned Maison that they already are! Longchamp recognises what it means to make an ally of time and ‘longevity’ in business has always been a front and centre priority. Continuity and renewal from generation to generation will continue to make la Maison Longchamp a force to be reckoned amidst a business landscape, where brands are being snatched up by huge conglomerates.”
In addition, Jean De Dieu is also gratified with her Emotional Inclusion initiative, which advocates mental health in the workplace. She’s championing an inclusive workforce. “I like to say that Emotional Intelligence (EI) is all about the knowing (i.e the knowing of how “to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others”) whereas Emotional inclusion (Ei) is all about the doing and having companies walk-their-talk in their caring for the humanity of the individuals they lead by investing in a clinical psychologist in their organisations to oversee sustainable organisational growth. We have a whole Program and App in the making dedicated to that and the best part of it is: it works.”
Her determination has led her to create these dedicated digital initiatives to tackle these facets. Part of her meaningful advocacy work includes conducting a series of interview podcasts with global business leaders, ‘movers and shakers’ to discuss emotional inclusion and mental health in the workforce.
Aside from the Ei programme, Jean De Dieu would like organisations to get on the bandwagon of prioritising mental health in their companies. Furthermore, she explains that 90 per cent of employees still feel uncomfortable sharing how they truly fear being labelled as ‘unprofessional’ or worse, ‘weak’ in today’s business landscape. While leaders are not licensed psychologists, they can take time and truly listen to their employees.
For productivity and innovation to thrive, we need to create environments where employees can prosper too. Jean De Dieu believes it is important to keep such conversations going in today’s workplace context. She quotes from a recent Bupa survey: 58 per cent of senior business leaders say that it is still hard for them to talk about mental health in their position. With the current pandemic, it is crucial for companies to normalise and accept human emotions in the workplace, which can benefit the business at large and the employees holistically.
On who she admires today as a role model woman? She looks up to those who speak the truth and dare to take the paths less travelled. To name a few, these include Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, Brené Brown, Katherine Hepburn, and Coco Chanel. She admires their conviction, strength, unwavering dedication, and faith in their work and beliefs. Such independent women are bold and brave, and their contribution to the world is one that Jean De Dieu admires and hopes to follow suit in their footsteps.
For more reads on Leaders, click here.