February 22, 2017

Let me introduce to you one of our first WICE members, Jill.

Jill Bourdais | WICE Board Member | © Meredith Mullins
Jill Bourdais has been a leading member of WICE since its founding in 1978.  Decades on, she is still bringing her ample energy and initiative to the  WICE Board where she has served in many top positions.  Jill has seen this cultural association in the heart of Paris blossom from a small group of American women wanting to get back to work to a diverse expat community of both genders meeting up for high quality continuing education opportunities and new friendships.

WICE was founded by three American women, inspired by the feminist movement in the United States, to help expat women transition to the workplace after their experience as global nomads, homemakers and mothers. “These women had experience organizing community groups as volunteers, hosting events to support their 
husbands’ careers or assisting at their children’s schools. WICE helped them realize that the skills they had acquired could be useful in a professional context and taught them how to tailor them to produce a functional resume rather than the traditional chronological one.

Jill herself is American with a successful career.  Her Bachelor’s degree in French came in handy when she later married a Frenchman, and  after several years working for various magazines, she trained as a psychologist and has been practicing as a psychotherapist since settling in Paris. 

Her own career secure, Jill worked with WICE to help other women find work.   In 1981, WICE started its Teaching English as a Second Language certificate (TEFL) in partnership with Rutgers University. “WICE-trained teachers of English were soon very sought after by companies,” she explains.  “providing one of the best opportunities for women seeking employment in France.

Courses in visual and applied arts, personal development and creative writing also helped women develop professionally, as did certificates in business and art history developed in conjunction with the American University of Paris.

Jill laughs as she recalls another evolution in the courses offered by WICE.  “In the early days, WICE turned its nose up at cooking or fashion courses; that was what women wanted to get away from. Now that most expat women have careers, we’re seeing people very interested in cuisine and wine – staples of the French cultural experience!

Over the past six years Jill, has found another project into which to pour her prodigious energy: the combat against domestic violence for English speaking women in France.  In 2011, inspired by Paula Lucas, who started the American Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center after escaping with three young children from a violent husband in Dubai, Jill took up the cudgel, creating an informational website and launching an English speaking women’s support group for victims.  To date she has offered her expertise to some 100 women of at least 25 different nationalities .  As in her decades of work with WICE, Jill remains a dedicated leader for women’s causes, and doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.

Posted by Elizabeth Bouché

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