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Great interview Sophie Brochu | “Cracks in the glass ceiling”



Sophie Brochu topped the list of the most inspiring women in Quebec, according to an in-house survey of readers of The Press, a month ago. We caught up with the CEO of Hydro-Québec to discuss the responsibilities and challenges that this female role model entails.

If Sophie Brochu says she is moved by the mark of appreciation shown to her in large numbers by the readers of The Press, she wishes to put into perspective the concert of praise of which she is the subject. “I am an ordinary woman who leads an extraordinary organization”, she pleads, before insisting on sharing her vision of the significant transformations that the current context can offer to women so that they assume more of their power of influence. .

“There is currently an unexpected opportunity for advancement for women in their position of power, even if I prefer to use the word “influence”, and which will not present itself in a year. This is where it’s happening now.

“For two years, the crisis has forced many companies and organizations to set up crisis cells whose management has been entrusted to women. The pandemic is a human crisis, and our world had to be taken care of quickly. If it had lasted three months, the crisis would not have had the same effect.

“The duration of the pandemic has dislocated yesterday’s benchmarks, and we are coming to a time when we are thinking about what to do next. Women who have invested a lot in caring for human beings must now be part of the strategic planning of organizations”, explains Sophie Brochu.

According to the CEO, women should not self-exclude themselves from management positions during the return to normal because they will want to continue teleworking, which is more practical for family management, but companies must also contribute.

“If you have a meeting where there are four people around the table and six Teams, the meeting will continue with the people who remain on the spot. Rather than having this meeting at 8 a.m., it will have to be done at 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. to allow as many people as possible to attend, ”submits the CEO of Hydro.

The new business reality, which is much more respectful of the issues of social, environmental and governance responsibility, also opens the door wide to women’s more “rounded” management skills and sensitivity, believes Sophie Brochu.

“When women advance in business, men advance with them. They are more comfortable today discussing topics they did not discuss in the past. The monolithic and inbred model of the leader that everyone follows, it no longer works. »

The cracked glass ceiling

Sophie Brochu also notes that we often refer to the famous glass ceiling that women must shatter to rise in the hierarchy of organizations, but the CEO points out that for years, many people – men and women – have cracked this ceiling to make it easier to break.


Sophie Brochu, CEO of Hydro-Quebec

When I was at Gaz Métro, Robert Tessier [l’ex-PDG] let his network know that talking to me was like talking to him. He cracked the glass floor that was my ceiling, and that allowed me to impose myself much more easily.

Sophie Brochu, CEO of Hydro-Quebec

Sophie Brochu also specifies that she never had the impression, throughout her professional career, that she was waging a struggle. She never sought power, but always wanted to wield more influence.

She was a feminist without knowing it, she says. It was at the age of 50, when she joined the L’effet A initiative, a movement created to propel female ambition with the aim of achieving greater equality in management positions, that she has grasped the importance of going beyond parity alone.

“For eight years, I have met every week with cohorts of women aged 30 to 40. We accompany them, we remain available to support them, and I have seen some who started by joining a team before reaching a management position to become vice-presidents.

“We have all the skills. We are able to produce EBITDA [bénéfices avant impôts, intérêts, dépréciation et amortissement], but I’m all for striking a balance. I have never sought to maximize profits, but I have always sought to optimize profits. We are there, ”says Sophie Brochu.

Readers’ words

When I summarize to Sophie Brochu the content of the reactions of certain readers who explain the reasons why she is their most inspiring female personality, the CEO does not hide a certain embarrassment, but agrees to comment on them.

When we admire her humanism, she replies that she is an ordinary woman who leads an extraordinary organization.

When her frankness is underlined, she replies that it is because she does not practice the language of wood.

I have always been able to say what I think, whether at Énergir or at Hydro-Québec. I spoke out on several social issues, be it poverty or prostitution. People appreciate that commitment, I think.

Sophie Brochu, CEO of Hydro-Quebec

When a reader says she admires her for the compassion she is capable of, Sophie Brochu agrees that she can be tough on certain issues, but always benevolent towards people.

Her communication skills that are described as outstanding? “I like to talk about what I like, I want to share and understand the issues that I know well, otherwise I prefer to keep quiet. »

His simplicity and humility. There, the CEO takes a moment before responding. “I’m super moved by what I’m hearing. I can only answer that if I’m seen that way, it’s because that’s how I was brought up. »

His quick-wittedness and his intelligence? “I never wanted power, I always wanted to have influence, to be able to have an impact where I see it can get things done. A boss once told me, “If you want to be successful in business, surround yourself with people stronger than you.” That’s what I do. »

Did she herself have female role models who inspired her?

“When I was a young beginner as an economist at SOQUIP [Société québécoise d’initiatives pétrolières], I had to make a presentation to Lise Bacon, who was Minister of Energy and Deputy Premier of Quebec. She had impressed me a lot, she was the strong man of the government, able to stand up to all his male colleagues. »

How does one live when one is elevated to the rank of female role model in business management? Is it a role that is comfortable to live with?

“So much the better if I’m a role model. We got there, with a woman at the head of Hydro-Québec, we really got there. At 58, I’m finishing my ride, but I say to women aged 22, 25, 30: go ahead, it’s time like never before. Take this momentum and work with the men and women around you, this is your place. »

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