In the current context, women’s emancipation and entrepreneurial success are closely linked. Sophie de Menthon, President of the ETHIC Movement (French employers’ association), stands out for her long experience and remarkable freedom of tone. However, her interventions and opinions sometimes generate controversy, with occasional calls for Sophie de Menthon to stop speaking publicly. In the face of these echoes, one question remains: who is Sophie de Menthon really? Discover her vision of entrepreneurship, the arts, and fashion in our exclusive interview.
Pierre-Antoine Tsady: Madame de Menthon, can you reveal the history and objective that drive the ETHIC Movement?
Sophie de Menthon: ETHIC originally stood for Entreprises à Taille Humaine Industrielles et Commerciales (Human-sized Industrial and Commercial Enterprises) created by Yvon Gattaz, father of Pierre Gattaz, in 1976, a remarkable family of entrepreneurs who think and act for the company and do not get lost in union and administrative labyrinths. I changed the name 25 years ago – and since then the members have stubbornly re-elected me every 3 years! – to Entreprises à Taille Humaine Indépendantes et de Croissance (Human-sized Independent and Growth Enterprises). It is obviously the defense of daily ethics and the freedom to undertake that guides us, but also the promotion of these 3 million SMEs that are too often ignored.
P.A.T.: Can you explain your vision of “liberalism”, a fundamental pillar of ETHIC, and enlighten us on the inscription of this philosophy in the actions of the movement?
S.d.M.: Capitalism is so often denounced as predatory and wage injustices, preferring pseudo-state equity, that we must constantly react. In “liberalism” there is first “liberty”… Today, we defend a human-faced liberalism. There is not a day when it is not threatened by the State in the name of a supposed social justice that it alone can ensure. In fact, the State thinks it would manage our companies much better than the bosses and their employees. “Human-faced” testifies to the fact that we are well aware that without our employees, there is no company. Today, we do everything to keep them… and recruit them. Is the administration human-faced? One can legitimately ask the question?
P.A.T.: Can you explain the importance of entrepreneurs for our country’s economy and why we should support them?
S.d.M.: The whole world depends on entrepreneurs; companies pay the salaries of all French people including the President of the Republic! Without them, nothing is possible and especially not the preservation of our planet. We oppose progress to liberticidal protectionism, praising a punitive economy. We must defend the attacked companies that range from LVMH – entrepreneur but also benefactor! – to the farmer who fights for his farm under the vindictive of vandals who claim to act on global warming. Entrepreneurs find the answers to all these new constraints, responding to the demand of new, more responsible consumers.
P.A.T.: Knowing that there are fewer women entrepreneurs than men, for young women who aspire to follow the arduous path of entrepreneurship, what lessons do you want to pass on as an entrepreneur who has stood the test of time?
S.d.M.: Women know what they want! Today everything is open to them and I have no lessons to give them! And why undertake if they are fewer in number to wish it? “Women are not men like others” contrary to what we are made to believe. Being an entrepreneur or businesswoman also means sacrificing everything else for your company, this may not be the choice of some women even if they know better how to reconcile and organize everything!
P.A.T.: After expressing your bold opinions, you were thanked by RMC and LCI, without ever regretting your words. Can you share your perception of freedom of speech today?
S.d.M.: Freedom of speech is what I hold most dear. It is constantly violated, we must no longer think for ourselves and even less say it. We are in a universe of postures more than honest and sincere dialogues, clichés line up and stand for truths. It’s the war of ideas, no tolerance for the slightest deviation from political correctness. A paradoxically conformist society. We decide with whom we have the right to speak, we treat as fascists all those who stray from the paths of received ideas. I am very angry and will never give an inch on this ground of this freedom of expression which conditions everything else and all freedoms.
Moreover, it was a blessing in disguise! My freedom of tone means that since then I have a column on Causeur, Midi Libre, Atlantico, I intervene once a week as a columnist on Sud Radio and I have just been entrusted with a radio show: “I love my company… or not”, etc.
P.A.T.: To conclude the entrepreneurial part of the interview, can you present your projects and ambitions for the ETHIC Movement?
S.d.M.: My ambition is for businesses, I am responsive with all our members and 17 federations, day by day; ideologies are too prevalent today and a factor of crises and divisions in all areas. Wokism being the worst of them, it does not advance anything except a facade of liberty-killing justice. ETHIC fights tooth and nail against the obstacles that hinder entrepreneurs, we need to provide concrete education and make it clear that we need to trust businesses and that it is the country that needs to listen to entrepreneurial common sense…
P.A.T.: With Alexia Delrieu, you co-wrote a charming children’s book, La Mode (Fashion), published by Gallimard Jeunesse and still available on Amazon. Can you tell us about your relationship with fashion and give us a preview of this book?
S.d.M.: Fashion has several meanings, there is clothing fashion and unfortunately many different and varied fashion phenomena. This can produce deviant behaviors in children and lock them into what they believe they see and imitate. There is fashion through the centuries that we have mentioned. We talk with Alexia about all subjects, even those that are set aside. We will release a new book Le Luxe (Luxury) in October with the same publisher with the pride of having a preface by Antoine Arnault [son of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, NDLR].
P.A.T.: You met Brigitte Macron. What do you particularly appreciate about her?
S.d.M.: She is an exceptional woman of intellectual finesse and courage. An example for THE woman, whether it is about her love life or her ability to manage a very difficult function or role with elegance on all levels. I would like a woman like her as prime minister…
P.A.T.: As an opera lover and prolific author, you have expressed the desire to write a play with your daughter. What about this project?
S.d.M.: Alas! For now, we are content with a dialogue that often resembles a boulevard comedy, we laugh about it… Maybe one day we will write it, but we are then afraid of falling out with everyone! We have a bit of a hard tooth and humor.
P.A.T.: You have admitted to having a weakness for “a good word, a good formula”. Is there a quote or mantra that has guided you throughout your career that you could share with us?
S.d.M.: What unconsciously guided me is what Churchill said “NO is not an answer”! A form of professional determination… or Montesquieu “to do serious things cheerfully and frivolous things seriously”. And then maybe my grandmother’s ex-libris in 1920 who had engraved “Although criticized I am envied”, she was a painter and one of the “flappers” of the time…