That’s a bigger step than it sounds. Publicis has had majority control of the Forum’s parent company since 2009, but I can testify, having met de Thuin and attended the first few annual conferences in Deauville (the FT used to be one of its media partners), that she was the heart of the event.
In a characteristically emotional email to friends of the Forum, the French entrepreneur alludes mysteriously to some of the challenges she’s faced (English version) -
For eight years, entrepreneur that I am, and with the help of my team, I have withstood all types of criticism and sarcasm, always trying to understand the true motivation behind these attacks… I have not always been a good manager, but rather a catalyst for evolution in our society. And that is what I will continue to be.
What is clear is that de Thuin was one of the first to spot an opening for a conference at which a majority of female participants would debate “women’s issues” and that she created a unique atmosphere. Though she disliked the “Davos for women” soubriquet inevitably applied to Deauville, the World Economic Forum’s recent efforts to increase women leaders’ participation at its alpine get-together are an oblique tribute to her success. Indeed, the FT’s own Women at the Top initiative seeks to take forward some of the ideas that she championed at the Women’s Forum.
Véronique Morali has taken over as president of the Forum. De Thuin says she will be spending more time “in the field” and is writing a book, but will be in Deauville next October, as always.