Dare for success.
Optimistic, Veracious, Compassionate
First Female French Consul General in the USA San Francisco, CA | 42 years old | Mother of 3
Pauline was born in Paris in 1973, the youngest of four, her childhood days were full of the rich artistic culture that Paris is known for. My parents would take us to the museums regularly.” She tells me, “I have been to the Louvre so often that it feels like home.” Her favorite is the Marie de’ Medici Cycle, a series of 24 huge paintings by Peter Paul Rubens. “My father is a historian. He writes history books, and he wrote a biography on Queen Marie de’ Medici.” They would spend hours gazing at the paintings. Pauline was captivated by her father’s storytelling; not a dry lecture, but an elaborate tapestry of the Queen’s notorious behavior and uncustomary antics unfolding as they wound their way through the exhibit. They would frequent the Egyptian Collection as well, peppered with tales of her parents past in Cairo. But it wasn’t all antiquities there was contemporary too, and when Musée d'Orsay opened in 1986 her mother took her right away, as well as to the Palais de Tokyo and the contemporary arts museum, which was also nearby.,
“I love these exhibits, they are very exciting for kids, often interactive with something you can touch and bright beautiful colors.” And of course, there was an introduction to the Ballet and the Opera. “I was so lucky to be raised in a diverse cultural family, we weren’t wealthy, but we were rich in terms of art and culture.”
A peek into Pauline’s intriguing family history reveals a very international and multicultural background that led to her interest and success in political studies. Both of her parents were born in Cairo. Her mother is from a French family of engineers that settled in Egypt on the wake of the building of the Suez Canal in 1867. For three generations they operated a thriving family business of building bridges, some of which are still in use today. All of that changed in 1956 during the Suez Crisis and bombing of the canal, forcing her grandparents to flee to Paris. “My grandfather lost his company, he lost everything, when the Egyptian president ruled that all British and French had to leave Egypt.”
A family of jewish educators and intellectuals, her father’s forebears, moved to Egypt at the end of the 19th century from the Ottoman Empire. During World War II, her grandfather couldn’t watch the atrocities from the sidelines and joined forces with the French Resistance, successfully aiding in the defeat of the Nazi German army on D-Day in Provence in 1944. For their valor, “My father, his siblings, and his parents were awarded French citizenship after the war in 1945 by French General de Gaulle.” And subsequently her parents moved to France in 1948.
“Egypt was a very multicultural place, with people speaking many different languages. My parents speak English, French, Italian and Arabic. When they arrived in France they kept this very international environment alive.” Pauline grew up surrounded by her family's many friends from all over the world, traveling often to Italy, Spain, and many other countries, all the while her family sharing tales of Egypt. “I always wanted to travel, and to have a job which included travel and international issues. I love meeting people from different countries and different cultures.” There is a genuine excitement when Pauline speaks of her inspiration to dive into political studies. She is eager to reach out, learn, listen and lend a helping hand. “I have always been attracted to the histories of places and people, and how that interplays with current events and struggles.”
Entering the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA) with her hair in braids, Pauline looked much younger than her 21 years. Her previous education hadn’t prepared her for taking the oral exams required on entry and they are very intimidating by design. Their purpose is to test your mettle under pressure. The entry and exit exams are what would eventually decide her rank and thus her fate in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “I was very shy and feeling overwhelmed. Everyone seemed way more qualified than I.” It was a very challenging time that proved only to hone Pauline’s resolve. She has a natural optimism when it comes to challenges, believing that even in the worst of circumstances something good can be salvaged. This, along with an aptitude for being adroit, makes her a very strong ally, and it is these talents that would eventually bring her to San Francisco as the first female Consul General of France.
Pauline is beautiful, with an easy grace that puts one at ease. One of the benefits of being a woman in a man’s world is her innate ability for networking. Women have a tendency for less formal and a more open communication track, and this is a powerful asset as an ambassador between countries, helping to balance power struggles and enabling positive outcomes. Pauline is confronted with difficult situations that severely impact people's lives. She feels her biggest success is whenever she is able to come up with a solution that eases the suffering of someone else. However she doesn’t attempt to do this all on her own.“I think it is dangerous to decide anything alone.” Instead Pauline employs the wise approach of seeking counsel before enacting a plan. “I love my work, each problem is unique, and when I can really help someone, change their life for the better… that is all that matters.”
Responsible for ten states, Pauline is always on the go, whether it is popping up to Seattle, down to Silicon Valley, or meeting with delegations from France, or a state foreign minister. Her days are full of intriguing social issues, the economy, and how to help people benefit from the system rather than being rejected by it. Very frequently her days end with a networking event at her home, the French Residence. On average she has three a week, ranging from cultural, scientific, fashion, or business; it is always about networking and putting the focus on French companies and entrepreneurs from the bay area. “We have a very large and beautiful French community here in the Bay area, over 60,000 people. They are always very helpful and happy to speak with the delegation about current events.”
What advice to women in business and politics? “You have to be daring. Do not be impressed with the ‘trappings’. In politics and civil service, like many businesses, the higher you get up the ladder the less women you have. It is because women don’t dare to ask for the job they want because it seems too prestigious, and maybe they only fulfill 99% of the criteria needed for the job, while a man will only be 25% competent and not give a second thought about asking for the job. A lot of young women have a tendency to censor themselves, which is something I never see in men. We have to dare, to take chances, to ask for the raise, or the better position… and know that senior women will be there to mentor them, encourage them, and cheer them on their way.” It is very important as women to network and to mentor. And of course everyone makes mistakes and has failures, the men are no different, except that they brush these failures off much more rapidly and move forward. Women need to do the same. “We don’t have to be 100% successful, we have the right to fail sometimes.” And this is why Pauline is the first female Consul General of France: she dares to be.
Every full life requires moments of inspiration and renewal, it is essential to a productive and successful career. Pauline is a voracious reader, always excited to discover something new. She devours everything from French, American, Russian, Portuguese, contemporary and classic literature. And, when more contemplative moments arise she heads out to Baker Beach with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. “...I renew my inspiration with views of the city, a reminder of the people that I am working with. I love the mix between urban landscapes, nature, and beautiful architecture.”
Pauline was introduced to Les Lunes when she met CEO, Anya Lecat. “I am very impressed by the concept of having something I can wear the whole day, to the office, and to the beach, and out on the town. Something that is very high quality, with fabulous bamboo material that respects the environment and a part of a very powerful movement and philosophy.”