Men as Allies: Interview with Erwin Bruder (S20)

An Interview with Erwin Bruder, September 2020, HEC Paris MBA by Kritika Taneja and Suri Yang

Hello Erwin! Thank you for accepting our WIL magazine interview! To begin with, could you tell us about yourself and about your wife? My wife is an investment banker, I am an officer in the French Army. It seemed like it was an unobvious match but we both shared a love for an active lifestyle. We both have very demanding work schedule and professional career, and it wasn't easy to combine our lives together, but we made it last for 13 years already! I really value the fact that we committed early in life and hence with the typical mindset of younger people, that is pure feelings, no hidden agenda and faith in the future. We support each other in each step of our lives and we try to make our pledge as a fundamental root of our lives together. Do you think being married changes the way you develop as a leader? Definitely. I owe her a lot in this matter. She really made a difference each time I had a leadership role. Her presence alone makes me feel confident in my everyday life. She is my closest advisor. I value the level of understanding she has about my personality. She gives me feedback that no colleagues or even leadership coaches can or dare provide. She also gives me much more than that: purpose. What we have built together as long-term partners is one of the biggest drivers that makes me humane and balanced. When I am away and dealing with critical situations on the battlefield, I never forget it and it is good to know that there is a haven of peace somewhere. Like Ulysses, I think we all need an Ithaca to take wise decisions.

Have you ever felt gender bias towards you? Or indirectly experienced it hearing from your partner? If for you, how did you handle it? Or for your partner how did you handle it? I believe in a way we already experience gender inequality when discussing that topic of women and men in leadership. If you look at history, you mostly hear about men supported by women: Michelle and Barack Obama, Yvonne and Charles de Gaulle. But we rarely talk about Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II! That’s gender inequality that is deep-rooted in our society.

At my personal level, I’ve witnessed it happening to my wife. When she was going through a recruiting process some years ago, she was asked whether she will have a child soon. Since then, we made it a point to prepare for these types of questions during an interview so they do not catch her off guard. I support her as much as possible and I hope this MBA program will make me understand her working environment in finance better than before. In fact, wanting to know more about my wife's world was also one of my motivations to join the HEC Paris MBA program. Based on your experience, what are the main barriers to achieving gender equality? In my opinion, part of the problem can be tackled at a very young age. Speaking from a man’s point of view, developing a constructive mindset about gender inequality has a lot to do with the relationships within the family. I like the idea of the Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary. In it, he explains that you experience an absolute form of love from your mother when you are a child and that you will never find it again in your life. This represents a level of respect for human dignity and especially for women. Unfortunately, a lot of people never have the chance to experience that from their mother.

An excerpt from the December 2020 WIL Magazine, don't forget to check out the full issue!