Young, female and heading a €250m project

Business life for women in France changed this month as a new gender equality law is smashing the ‘glass ceiling’ and forcing large businesses to have at least 40% of women on the board. Samantha David speaks to two women who are leading the way in changing French attitudes

At just 31, Roxanne Varza has possibly one of the most exciting jobs in France: she is leading the team working to open Station F, a brand new multi-million euro start-up incubator in Paris.

The brainchild of Xavier Niel, the founder of telecoms giant Free, Station F will be home to around 1,000 start-ups. Construction began in October 2014 and Ms Varza joined as director in 2015.

Being both young and a woman would have stopped her from the vast bulk of senior positions in French business but Mr Niel spotted her potential and hired her to lead the team on the €250million project to transform the former Halle Freyssinet freight depot into a ‘campus’ for business start-ups – which are themselves transforming business life in the capital.

As the gender equality law comes into force in boardrooms, she has already seen first-hand the ‘old’ business culture and, having been born in Palo Alto, California, knows the differences between the countries.

She is former editor-in-chief of TechCrunch France and set up a business blog on global start-up and investment news, before founding European technology newsletter tech.eu and then the StartHer association which encourages and supports women in tech.

An associate producer at the FailCon conferences teaching entrepreneurs how to learn from failure, she was also the director of Microsoft Ventures ...

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