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Elle (Canada) - - #Storyboard -

Ear­lier this year, I had the good for­tune to meet Anne Hi­dalgo, the mayor of Paris. I was there to par­tic­i­pate in an awards pro­gram or­ga­nized by La Fon­da­tion d’en­treprise ELLE and Le Comp­toir de L’In­no­va­tion (CDI), a global so­cial-in­vest­ment firm. Nine edi­tions of ELLE were asked to se­lect a woman from their coun­try who is en­gaged in a so­cial en­tre­pre­neur­ial busi­ness, and then the edi­tor-in-chief of each edi­tion would travel with them to Paris for the con­fer­ence. #toughgig Each fi­nal­ist had three min­utes to present her busi­ness to an es­teemed panel, chaired by Hi­dalgo, who would de­ter­mine the win­ner. Later that evening, the fi­nal­ists had 30 sec­onds to present their cases be­fore 1,000+ po­ten­tial in­vestors. Their projects are im­pres­sive—from de­sign­ing fuel-ef­fi­cient stoves in India and so­lar-powered back­packs in Africa to build­ing best-in­class early-child­care cen­tres in Kenya. What is even more in­spir­ing is their pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm to change the world. Win­ner Thato Kgatl­hanye, who de­signed the back­packs for un­der­priv­i­leged school­child­ren, says that she is al­ways telling other young women that if they want a rich ca­reer and life they should “start a busi­ness that is mean­ing­ful and the work that they do will mat­ter.” In her ac­cep­tance speech, the 23-year-old South African said that she and oth­ers “stand on the shoul­ders of strong, beau­ti­ful women who teach other women to go out into the world to make a dif­fer­ence.” One of these strong women is Hi­dalgo. After the lunch with the fi­nal­ists, she met with the nine ed­i­tors-in-chief to chat about her time in of­fice, how she dealt with the ter­ror­ist at­tacks on her city and what she wants us to do to help bring about change. “One of the most dif­fi­cult things I had to do dur­ing the cam­paign was win cred­i­bil­ity,” she said. “It was the first time a woman was the mayor of Paris. Like all women, I had to present with a cer­tain au­thor­ity, which isn’t con­sid­ered fem­i­nine. Dur­ing the cam­paign, there were many ques­tions about whether I was up to the task, which are rarely asked about men. Au­thor­ity can also be a fem­i­nine char­ac­ter­is­tic.” In fact, her gen­der may have uniquely in­flu­enced her re­sponse to the ter­ror­ist at­tacks on her city. Hi­dalgo said that peo­ple wanted her to be firm yet ma­ter­nal. “They were ex­pect­ing very strong, very firm yet re­as­sur­ing words,” she re­called. “I felt like a sponge soak­ing in all this suf­fer­ing around me. I was very im­pressed with the dig­nity of Parisians dur­ing this tragic time. They want to go on liv­ing. Ter­ror­ists want to keep us from be­ing free. They want to si­lence us. They want to si­lence women and chil­dren. We mustn’t give in to this threat. We mustn’t fall in­side of our­selves.” When Béa­trice Er­col­ini, edi­tor-inchief of ELLE Bel­gium, asked what the me­dia could do, Hi­dalgo smiled and said: “Women don’t func­tion in net­works the way men do. We are vic­tims of the good-stu­dent syn­drome. We al­ways want to work very hard, even when we are ex­hausted. We also want to be­lieve that we can do ev­ery­thing on our own. Help es­tab­lish these net­works and high­light what women are do­ing. Women can of­ten be in­vis­i­ble. Make them vis­i­ble.” On that note, please read about the re­mark­able women fi­nal­ists in “Change Mak­ers” (page 94). And then start to think about how you can make a dif­fer­ence.

Noreen and her fel­low ELLE EICs chat with Anne Hi­dalgo, the mayor of Paris.

Noreen Flana­gan Edi­tor-in-Chief

Fol­low me on Twit­ter and In­sta­gram @noreen_flana­gan We love hear­ing from you! Please write to us at ed­i­tors@ ELLECanada. com.

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